Neuman, Johanna. “Gilded Suffragists: The New York Socialites who Fought for Women’s Right to Vote”, NYU Press, 2017.
Turning a Feminist Cause into a Fashionable Revolution
Over two hundred of New York’s most glamorous socialites joined the suffrage movement in the early twentieth century. Their names read like who’s who-—Astor, Belmont, Rockefeller, Tiffany, Vanderbilt, Whitney and so on and these names carry great public value. These women were the darlings of the media of their day because of the extravagance of their costume balls and the beauty and their couture clothes. Their social registers were filled with political power because of these women and they were able to turn the female vote into a fashionable cause.
Even though critics dismissed them as “bored socialites” who looked upon suffrage as they would like at fashions on the fashion runway, they were at the epicenter of the great reforms of the Progressive Era. They championed education for women, women pursuing careers, and they advocated for the end of marriage. They were part of the great changes in New York City.
Writer Johanna Neuman shows us rightful place in the story of women’s suffrage. Knowing that there was a need for popular approval for any social change, these socialites used their wealth, power, social connections and style to bring mainstream interest and in doing so they were able to diffuse resistance to the cause and helped to push women’s suffrage.
These are not the women we think of as leaders in the fight for women’s right to vote, but they were and they got there by using their wardrobes and their homes as a way to get there and promote an ideology.