What Becomes a Legendary Constitutional Campaign Most? Marking the Nineteenth Amendment at One Hundred

18 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2020

See all articles by Linda C. McClain

Linda C. McClain

Boston University - School of Law

Date Written: October 2020


What most becomes a landmark anniversary in the legendary campaign by women (and some men) for woman suffrage that, in 1920, led to Congress’s ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? This framing of the question alludes to the famous, decades-long Blackglama advertising campaign, “What becomes a legend most?,” which (beginning in 1968) enlisted the charisma of famous women (and some men) to glamorize mink coats. This Essay also appeals to the dual meanings of legendary -- “of, relating to, or characteristic of legend” and “well-known, or famous” -- and argues that the campaign for woman suffrage is the stuff of legend in both senses. This is evident in challenges surrounding how best to represent the anniversary in public monuments (such as the recently unveiled Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument in New York City's Central Park) and public exhibitions: Which legendary suffragists are included? Who is left out? What role do legends play in the commemoration? The abundance of invocations of “the Nineteenth” in the buildup to 2020 and in the commemoration itself suggests multiple answers about how best to commemorate it. Some answers look back in time, urging critical reflection on what we do and do not really know about the campaign for woman suffrage and insisting that a deeper, intersectional examination teaches sobering but necessary lessons about inclusion and exclusion and the challenges of coalition building. Such examination also yields valuable role models of agency and action to inspire action in present-day struggles for women’s rights. Other answers focus on the present day and unfinished business: the next hundred years should bring a renewed commitment to advancing women’s political power in the next century, in particular, that of Black women, who stand out for their high levels of political participation yet who have not received sufficient party encouragement and resources as candidates for office. Another forward-looking answer urges attention to how gendered models of who should be a political leader and stereotypes about race and gender work against women’s full participation in governance. This Essay comments on these and other answers offered by the contributors to a symposium in Boston University Law Review on the centenary of the Nineteenth Amendment: Professors Nadia Brown and Danielle Casarez Lemi, Lolita Buckner Inniss, Kelly Dittmar, Paula Monopoli, Virginia Sapiro, and Katharine Silbaugh.

Keywords: Nineteenth Amendment, Fifteenth Amendment, Voting rights, Woman suffrage, Public monuments, racism, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Women’s political leadership, Gender stereotypes

Suggested Citation

McClain, Linda C., What Becomes a Legendary Constitutional Campaign Most? Marking the Nineteenth Amendment at One Hundred (October 2020). Boston University Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 1753, 2020, Boston Univ. School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 20-40, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3722231

Linda C. McClain (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Do you want regular updates from SSRN on Twitter?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics