Caroline Severance
by Virginia Elwood-Akers

"Nervous at first, she conquered her fear and spoke with such honesty and feeling that the audience listened attentively for nearly two hours. (Cleveland Mercantile Library Association, 1853)"

Caroline Severance may be one of the most important women of the suffragette movement to whom most Americans have never been introduced. In this exhaustive biography taken from letters and journals of the woman herself—as well as friends, family, and associates of Severance—Elwood-Akers delivers a portrait of a woman who was attuned to the social problems of her times. Not only was she tuned in, she was a tireless worker in not only the woman’s fight to gain voting rights but also in the abolition of slavery and the right for women to become doctors. Severance was a socialist and a peace advocate who lived during the Civil War. She was also an adventurer who eventually moved with her husband from the East to California. Settling in Los Angeles, Severance continued her humanitarian work, and at the age of ninety-two became one of the first women to vote in a United States national election.

This extremely well-researched biography introduces readers to a woman who was instrumental from the very beginnings of the fight for women’s rights in America. It is interesting to note that although she befriended and worked alongside those who are well-known in the movement—for instance, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucy Stone, to name a few—her name doesn’t grace the history books as does those with whom she worked. Yet, her influence is still substantial. Though Severance failed to leave her inner feelings about the happenings in her life, this biographer has managed to put together a fascinating read about this profoundly relevant woman. Anyone interested in history, especially the early years of the women’s rights movement, will gain much from reading this biography.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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