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How One Woman Discovers Something Bigger Than Herself in ‘The Accidental Suffragist’

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The Accidental Suffragist: A Novel

By Galia Gichon

Wyatt-McKenzie Publishing, Inc., 2021

Historical Fiction/Women’s Fiction

Via: Author/publisher review request

Summary: A family tragedy propels a working class wife and mother into the Women’s Suffrage Movement where she finds a part of herself she didn’t know existed.

“Ladies, do you believe in the importance of women voting?”

This is the salient question put forth in The Accidental Tourist. We may take the right to vote for granted now. But that wasn’t the case in the early 1900s, when a few stalwart women worked tirelessly to secure voting rights for themselves, their daughters, and future generations of American women. The Accidental Suffragist is part of that story.

The Basics

Helen Fox is a thirty-something wife, mother and factory worker. Overworked, underpaid, and struggling to help make ends meet in the New York tenement she shares with her husband, Albert, and their children, Helen stumbles upon a women’s suffrage parade with her young daughter. She isn’t quite sure what to make of the movement.

Curious, Helen learns more. She’s soon torn between familial responsibilities and her low-paying factory job and the fight for a woman’s right to vote. When she’s offered a job by a suffragette leader after a tragedy at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, Helen is catapulted into the movement, hoping to better her lot and her family’s.

Contrasts

As Helen’s story unfolds, a stark contrast is drawn between wealthy upper crust suffragettes and working class suffragettes like Helen who can barely feed their families and have neither the time nor the energy to attend suffragette rallies and marches. “Did these women have any idea that every cent she earned made the difference between cold and heat?” wonders Helen.

As a newly minted suffragette, Helen must also deal with a disgruntled husband, antagonistic neighbors, and a public largely hostile to The Cause – including other women. Helen struggles with inner doubts and anxieties as she tries to balance home and family and her passion for The Cause.

Growth

As Helen grows both personally and professionally, she finds the National Woman’s Party, the “Silent Sentinels,” Emmeline Pankhurst and the indomitable Alice Paul. And much more. In the midst of harrowing experiences and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Helen also discovers an inner strength and a reservoir of resilience and resolve she didn’t know she had.

A Basic Primer

Although the plot is a bit thin in places, even predictable, this historical fiction is a good basic primer on the battle for women’s suffrage. Indeed, The Accidental Tourist will deliver a rousing read to those unfamiliar with the topic and the story behind the passage of the 19th Amendment.

 

Our Rating: 3.5

 

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