The National Woman's Party's Militant Campaign for Woman Suffrage: Asserting Citizenship Rights through Political Mimesis
Stillion Southard, Belinda Ane
Parry-Giles, Shawn J.
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This project attends to ways in which the National Woman's Party's (NWP) militant woman suffrage campaign empowered U.S. women to assert their political agency and help earn women's fully-enfranchised citizenship rights through rhetorical acts of political mimesis. Specifically, this study examines how the NWP mimicked political rituals and rhetorics to simultaneously earn political legitimacy and expand women's citizenship roles in the nation-state. To this end, this project examines the NWP's suffrage discourse between 1913 and 1920 to demonstrate the ways in which the group's mimetic strategies both reified and challenged progressive and wartime notions of U.S. nationalism promoted by President Woodrow Wilson and members of Congress. These chapters trace the trajectory of the NWP's campaign as it mimicked inaugural parades, third-party strategies, and congressional and presidential politicking to empower NWP members with the political authority that rivaled the nation's political leaders. The NWP's mimetic strategies allowed NWP members to constitute their national citizenship identities as they accessed reserved political spaces, demanded the attention of President Wilson and members of Congress, engaged the U.S. citizenry as political actors, and suffered severe backlash against their militant acts. In so doing, the NWP helped normalize women's presence in the political sphere, nationalize the suffrage movement, attract national media attention, and ultimately, earn widespread recognition and political legitimacy. Finally, this study looks at the empowering and disempowering potential of political mimesis as a strategy for social and political change, particularly as the NWP formed alliances and divisions among women in national and international communities. In the process, the project looks at how the NWP's rhetoric of political mimesis shaped and was shaped by the democratizing exigencies of President Wilson's nationalist vision; in turn, the NWP's militant campaign helped re-envision the gendered nation.