This year, WestportREADS will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment and the history of women’s suffrage. Two books — one nonfiction and one fiction — have been chosen as our year-long, community reads. The nonfiction choice is The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight for the Vote by Elaine Weiss, and the fiction choice is A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert. Copies of both books will be available at the Library. Copies to read and share are located next to the Reference desk on the Main Level, along with many other books on women’s suffrage, voting rights, women’s rights/feminism and biographies by noteworthy women. Link to more information on WestportREADS 2019-2020.

The non-fiction WestportREADS choice, The Woman’s Hour, focuses on one of the greatest political battles in American history: the ratification of the constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote. Nashville, August 1920. Thirty-five states have approved the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote; one last state–Tennessee–is needed for women’s voting rights to be the law of the land. The suffragists face vicious opposition from politicians, clergy, corporations, and racists who don’t want black women voting. And then there are the “Antis”–women who oppose their own enfranchisement, fearing suffrage will bring about the nation’s moral collapse. And in one hot summer, they all converge for a confrontation, replete with booze and blackmail, betrayal and courage. Following a handful of remarkable women who led their respective forces into battle, The Woman’s Hour is the story of how America’s women won their own freedom, and the opening campaign in the great twentieth-century battles for civil rights.

Elaine Weiss is a journalist and author whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor, as well as in reports and documentaries for National Public Radio and Voice of America. A MacDowell Colony Fellow and Pushcart Prize Editor’s Choice honoree, she is the author of the highly acclaimed narrative non-fiction book, The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight for the Vote (Viking 2018), hailed as a "riveting, nail-biting political thriller" with powerful parallels to today's political environment. Weiss is also the author of Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army in the Great War, the inspiring story of a long-forgotten women's movement.

The fiction choice is A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert, a moving portrait of the complicated legacies of mothers and daughters. It chronicles five generations of women from the close of the 19th century through the early years of the 21st. From a European suffragist who starves herself for women’s rights in 1914 to her great-granddaughter in New York in 2007, Walbert’s work highlights the love, friendship, and regrets that each of these women experienced. Readers will be swept up in the tremulous times as these five women attempt to find their way in a society that needs an answer to “The Woman Question.”

Kate Walbert is the author of six books of fiction. A Short History of Women was on the New York Times Book Review list of Ten Best Books of 2009 and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize stories.

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