Research by Meredith student Inaya Rivera, ’22, on Militant Woman Suffragists, has recently been published on the Women and Social Movements (WASM) database.
Rivera’s work is part of a crowdsourcing effort to produce biographical sketches of the activists who picketed the White House during World War I. Four current and former Meredith students have produced twelve biosketches for the WASM database to date. These students have made a valuable contribution to the fields of U.S. and women’s history, and their research is available to a broad audience including other researchers, students, educators, and the general public through institutions and libraries.
Rivera wrote the essay below about her research experience, which was supervised by Associate Professor of History Angela Robbins.
Being able to work on this project has been a highlight of my time here at Meredith thus far. Researching militant women suffragists is something I never saw myself doing but, in the process, I gained so much knowledge. While researching Clara Louise Rowe, in particular, I found myself searching through the federal census. While this did not seem attractive to me from the outside, I found that it was something I enjoyed. As you can imagine it took me looking at more than one year’s census, along with other documents, to piece together information. For example, I had to look at three different federal censuses, in addition to newspaper articles, to figure out that Clara used her maiden name for her suffrage work even after she married Donald McGraw, who she met while traveling as a member of the “prison special” in 1919.
Rowe was just one example of a woman who advanced the movement but is not widely known. That is something that attracted me to her during my research. Despite her relative obscurity, she worked alongside many better-known women, such as Margaret Sanger, who are acknowledged for their efforts to win women the vote. She also worked at the national headquarters of the Women’s Political Union. Aside from her work for suffrage, Clara served as the secretary for the American Birth Control League, a line of work that involved a lot of travel, including trips to France.
The time I spent researching gave me a new appreciation for the work that women like Clara Louise Rowe did 100 years ago. I am in awe of the progress we have made as a nation to increase women’s rights, while simultaneously acknowledging that we still have a long way to go before true equality is achieved. Clara was a woman who did not receive the praise I believe she deserved, though I have a strong feeling this is something that would not bother her. She is an example of how all the little things we do to push a movement forward make a big difference. I hope her story serves as an inspiration to all the strong women at Meredith College, to fight for what we believe in, giving that fight everything we are.