Saturday, October 1, 2011

Michael Kazin's "American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation"

Michael Kazin is professor of history at Georgetown University. His books include America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s (with M. Isserman), The Populist Persuasion: An American History, Barons of Labor, and A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan. He is coeditor of Dissent, a frequent contributor to numerous publications, including The New York Times and The Nation, and the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and twice from the Fulbright Scholar Program.

Kazin applied “Page 99 Test” to his new book, American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation, and reported the following:
Page 99 describes the political weakness of the woman suffrage movement in the late 19th century. Activists for the vote waged numerous campaigns in individual states but were victorious in only a few Western ones with small populations. One reason, I argue, was that suffragists made their case in individualist terms in an era when reform-minded Americans were increasingly thinking of society as an interdependent organism. At the same time, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the founding mothers of the suffrage movement, published a feminist revision of the Bible which was, as she knew, immensely controversial and difficult for most of her activist sisters to defend.

In the larger scope of U.S. history, the left was often successful in expanding the meaning of individual freedom. It helped free the slaves, legitimize sexual pleasure outside of marriage, make it impossible to continue the military draft, and initiated the gay liberation movement. But suffragists would not triumph until its champions persuaded most Americans, of both genders, that votes for women would do much to turn the U.S. into more humane, even homelike society.
Read more about the book at the Knopf website.

The Page 69 Test: A Godly Hero.

--Marshal Zeringue