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Cover of Women's History Review

Women's History Review

Volume 17, Issue 3, Jul 2008
Pages 419-434

  • DOI: 10.1080/09612020801924563
  • Print ISSN: 0961-2025
  • Online ISSN: 1747-583X

Singular Leadership: Anna Howard Shaw, single women and the US woman suffrage movement

When the Rev. Dr Anna Howard Shaw became president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), her status as a single, self‐supporting woman forced changes in this organization, which had been dominated by economically dependent middle‐class women. Yet Shaw did not fit into either acknowledged category of Progressive Era never‐married women: the privileged and educated ‘new woman’ who chose to work and the working‐class ‘working woman’ who labored out of necessity. This article argues that Shaw's liminal identity allowed her to bridge numerous constituencies and foster the needed changes in the NAWSA while also contributing to the redefinition of American womanhood. The problems of analyzing Shaw's life highlight the need for additional scholarship and theory on the category ‘single’ in women's history.