We Demand: The Suffrage Road Trip by Anne Glass is a fresh look at another small piece of the suffrage movement. In 1915, three women accepted the task of driving a petition to Washington, D.C. demanding the vote for women. Ingeborg Kindstedt and Maria Kindberg own the vehicle, and Ingeborg handles all the mechanical issues. Sara Bard Field is the speaker for the Congressional Union for Women’s Suffrage, or CU, who sponsors the trip. The point of the petition is to rally support for a federal law allowing women to vote. The rival women’s group, National American Woman Suffrage Association, prefers to work state by state. Although I am familiar with the suffrage movement, and have an ancestor who participated, I didn’t know about this road trip. I was interested in the story, and blown away by the layers the author created.
On the surface, this is a trip by three women, a speaker, a driver, and a mechanic. The trip features stops where they collect more signatures and speak, as well as harrowing detours, delays, and accidents. It becomes apparent that although all three women are suffragettes, their individual motivations differ. Sarah, the wealthy and slightly built speaker, is in love with a married man thirty years her senior. The other two are Swedish immigrants and lovers. Ingeborg, the mechanic, forcefully pushes for equality for all women. Marie, the driver, is a homebody who wants to vote, but also wants to get home. The politics and personal preferences of these three women color their relationship throughout the book.
Politics is a big deal when you are talking about influencing a vote. The two women’s associations have the same goal, but tussle over how to get it done. Along the way, the intrepid travelers meet women who don’t want to vote and fight against allowing any woman to vote. I loved when Ingeborg told them they should stay home, then, and let those who want to vote do so. The three women also encounter male politicians who use the suffrage issue to enhance their campaigns, whether they support it or not. Ingeborg is distressed when she learns that neither women’s organization supports giving the vote to Black women, citing that the added controversy would certainly sink the effort.
Ingeborg goes out of her way to reach out to Black suffrage groups. She can sense how disenfranchised these women feel because she feels increasingly ignored in favor of Sarah as the trip progresses. Ingeborg and Maria are never allowed to speak at the gatherings, and they are ignored in the press coverage. They are immigrants and somehow below the efforts of the association. Ingeborg realizes that at least she and Maria are in the car, while Black women aren’t allowed on the street.
The bravery of these women didn’t mean much to the vote in 1916. It wasn’t until 1920, and lots of efforts by hundreds of women, that the 19th amendment passed. Nevertheless, this glimpse of a piece of the struggle adds to our understanding of the time period. This book is highly recommended for its historical value as well as its entertaining style.
Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC copy of this book. Release date is April 27, 2021