tv Author Discussion on the Centennial of the ACLU the 19th Amendment CSPAN December 25, 2020 10:48am-11:34am EST
i also don't but that's one more reason to vote for the man. >> right, right. >> p. j., thank you. >> days, i missing you i hope to see you in person again soon come on back to dancing with me. p. j. is a senior. >> you are watching booktv on c-span2, every weekend with the latest nonfiction books and authors. booktv on c-span2 created by america's cable-television companies, today we brought you by the television companies who provide booktv to viewers as a public service. >> welcome to the texas book festival. for those of you -- i we in the right session? you are in the panel about the 19th amendment as 100 years.
we often have a wonderful discussion with two great authors. kimberly hamlin who is the author of the book called freethinker, and ellie kos, who is the author of "democracy, if we can keep it." my name is teresa frontado, i'm the executive editor of kut-fm in austin, texas, and i am an avid reader. very eager to have i finally fid discussion with these two very interesting authors, and i can't the books enough. they both have a lot to add to people are interested not only in our history what a lot of current events. i'm going to give kimberly ann
allison couple minutes to introduce themselves and then jump into discussion. generally, you want to go first? >> i'm so delighted to be here. as i was telling before we get started, i used to live in austin. i went to ut for my phd. so being a a part of the texas book festival has it been a dream of mine for a long time. i didn't picture it would happen this way but but i will take i. i'm very grateful to the stated thank you so much for having me. so i'm historian and i study women, sex and politics and also site and medicine. now i live in cincinnati and teach at miami university of oxford, ohio, and i conceive it essays to publications like the "washington post." i've op-ed today about, harris and also have my new book united states which tells a story of the fallen woman meaning and one that sex before marriage and
edwin found out about it, the fallen woman who reinvented herself became one of best-known speakers and writers at of the 19th century and then moved to washington in 1910 1910 where e became the savages lead negotiator in washington, and she negotiated congressional passage of the 19th amendment and converted president woodrow wilson to the cause. when she died in 1925 she was highest-ranking woman in federal government and a national symbol of what it meant for white women to befall citizens. she donated her brain to sites to prove the equality of women, in a jar, . i i can picture of the if you wt to see. pretty interesting. i'm excited to talk about all these issues with you all today. >> thank you, kimberly. ellis, you want to take it from here? >> that's hard to follow someone volunteering to show you images of the brain but i will do my best.
i'm a lifelong journalist. i have served in several journalistic capacities including chief of the editorial page of the "new york daily news," also columnist and contribute editor for many years for "newsweek" magazine. started my career in chicago where i was a columnist on a national correspondent, have done 12 books, actually two published this year, the one on the aclu, another one on free speech called the short life entries death of free speech in america. and i am also a former writer in residence for the american civil liberties union and live now in new york city. >> thank you, ellis. one of the reasons why i volunteered to moderate this panel is because i love the topic, love the books, and both authors go to the heart of two
institutions that shaped modern america's political and civil spaces. the american civil liberties union, aclu, and the league of women voters. this book shows are witches, complexity and even contradiction within institution and movements that change the course of our history. through helen hamilton gardener, camera shows a distinctive woman appropriate the very american right to shaper unaided and move into public space to work for social reform. texas with an image of carter and shows us a commitment to the cause of women's rights and track the evolution of her thought and why she indenting that kind of work which i thought was fascinating. it becomes almost like intellectual biography of hers.
ellis takes a monumental task of chronicling the cases that shaped the aclu and the social, political and cultural environment that shaped individuals that a participated in them. he shows out in his first hundred years of life visitation has adopted to the needs and the spirit of the time. sometimes at the cost of individuals. i wanted to open the conversation by describing for the members of the audience who haven't read your books how closely associated are the women's reform movement that define helen hamilton gardener life and the social progressive that led the movement that way to become aclu? i just wanted, for those of not got these books, how these two different branches connect?
>> are you asking one of us to start pgh yes. [laughing] >> i just had the pleasure of reading her book. i want to give our audience over the context about the women's reform movement and how it's basically the aclu in a way relates to it and how speedy what if i take the prehistory and then ellis takes the aclu 20th century part? >> i guess that means you go first. >> okay. so i think an important aspect of this to understand is that a lot of the women who wanted to agitate reform political, sexual, bodily autonomy came up against the comstock laws. the comstock laws were a series of laws passed in 1873 to outlaw
obscene speech, what was obscene, anything that anthony comstock who became the postal inspector deemed obscene. so sort of technically it was about stopping pornography, reformers like comstock in 1870s were really concerned about the thousands of young men and women moving away from the family farms, moving to the big cities, reading these stories that had noddy stories are pictures, that was like their te express purpose of what they also did was plan now on all sorts of speech including really basic anatomy books here what are the parts of your body? what are they called? how did it work? how could you avoid disease and pregnancy? eats these comstock laws that early women activists, birth control activist come up against. in the case of helen hamilton gardener she was a little confluences barker factors will come she was boarding 1853 so
she's a little early. she doesn't become a birth control activist. she's a sex reform in a in a different way which we can talk about the she's a free thinker, meaning we would today call atheist or agnostic. so the freethinkers also come up against the comstock laws. not for talk about sex but for challenging organized religion, for writing things have considered blasphemous, for questioning the bible and the word of god. so the freethinker sometimes aligned with the free lovers who are the ones that wrote openly about sex and critique traditional marriage in their joint opposition to the comstock laws. that's the part that i was going to talk about, and then to get to the early aclu i will turn over to my co-panelists. >> it's interesting because -- one thing is the aclu did not start as a woman's project until the 1970s. and so people tend to associate the aclu very much with civil
liberties for defense of the bill of rights, much more so than with anything having to do specifically with women. if you look at the history of the aclu you really have to go back because he aclu itself started in 1920 which is a few months before the 19th amendment was passed in 1919 was an interesting year for lots of things. 1920 was interesting because it was the fan at the aclu, the tempest numb and the 18th then of course the 19th amendment. but the aclu itself was preceded by another organization. 1915 there was something founded called the american union against militaristic -- crystal eastman was one of the people in that. jane addams was very much involved with that. jane addams of course was a great leader, women's peace movement and all of the people involved in it were heavily involved in the suffrage movement back then. the idea behind the american
union -- was, was found in 1915 because there was this movement, this militarist movement going on in the united states to get us ready for work and to get us into world war i. the whole function of the american union against militarism was to stop the use of getting involved in world war i. it was to advocate for peace. obviously that failed. the united states got involved in world war i in 1917. there was free thinking that took place and they said we had this moment that grew out of the movements -- women's peaceloving to sort of keep us out of war. what's our purpose now or do we have the purpose now? the purpose, they realize right away that the was a lot of repression that was going on. the sedition act was passed in
1917. the espionage act was passed in 1918. it also became very clear that people who were opponents of the work of young men who didn't want to fight in the war, we need someone to speak for them, someone to represent them in court to make sure they had their objectives, et cetera. .. and ultimately that morphed into the american civil liberties union in the year 1920. roger baldwin came on just
before the in tlb was formed and went to jail for being a draft resistor. when he got out it was right at the end of 1919, there was all of this activity going on in the aftermath of the first world war. immigrants were rounded up for having bad thoughts, anarchy and radicalism. all these people who had spoken out against the war, there was a lot of late region 1990 and 1920. they said that a lot of stuff, the war is over and we thought we would be through with our business once the war was over but there is always repression in the united states, all this
anti-democratic activity in the united states so we need to focus on building on that and you have the creation of the american civil liberties bureau. even though it was sponsored by suffragettes and people interested in fighting for women's rights even though it was very much involved in that from the beginning the focus of the aclu early on is somewhat different and became a defense of the bill of rights and first amendment, free speech, freedom of the press, assembly. >> i know you are summarizing a lot. one of the things i wanted to ask about is you remember this billy joel song. >> guest: i remember that.
>> we didn't start the fire. >> your book feels like that because it is 100 years from 1920s on. >> billy joel and i were collaborators, helped write this book. >> what i am trying to say is it is a tour. >> i realized i could not write a book about the history of the aclu, without 100 years of american history because the aclu was involved in many major activity that affected america, talking about world war i of course it was born, talking about the scopes monkey trial and evolution, very much involved in that, world war ii, the japanese internment, very much involved in that, the rise of communism and the effect
that had on the united states and the push back on that, very much involved in that, the civil rights movement, talking about the aclu, the antiwar movement, all the way to now when talking about the excesses when it comes to being unconstitutional for lack of a better word of the trump administration. every major historical event that has touched on america has drawn the involvement of the aclu. >> what i wanted to hear a little more is it is pretty ambitious, different from other books in the sense it has the case law and the political controversies. how do you pick what goes and what is not, what is your writing process, it is pretty ambitious endeavor. how do you go about this?
>> the biggest task was deciding what to leave out. some of them are contextual in the sense, 1919 right before the aclu started you have a big labor strike, dockworkers strike in seattle, baltimore they have a huge metal strike, coworker strike going on. at the same time you have these raids all over the country where the justice department is arresting people willy-nilly, mass deportation taking place, race riots in chicago as arkansas and washington dc and elsewhere. the aclu touches on all these things in one way or another so you have to find a way to sum up and that is just one year, all of this.
all the stuff going on because it all created the environment that made it clear the aclu was necessary but ultimately we do what you do, what all journalists do, take one thing at a time and figure out how it tells the story because we are storytellers and we try to figure out what part of the story can you leave out and it makes sense, what part do you include and it still makes sense, a very long book but ultimately my first draft was long and i took literally - we have an apartment in puerto rico. i went to the apartment in puerto rico for six weeks and that was part of the process too.
this won't mean much to most people but it started well over 200,000 words and okay, i got something out of this thing and i isolated myself in the apartment, the condo in puerto rico and for six weeks just cut and put it back together again. that is part of a writing is writing process. >> kimberly, tell us about your writing process? i read early on in the book, the first contact, ellen hamilton gardner, was in texas. a little bit - >> exactly. i first met helen hamilton gardner or hhg as i called her, at the library at ut working on my dissertation so my
dissertation became my first book, looks at how 19th-century women, for feminist purposes, gender roles, thinking in terms of science and hj g was one of the women i was thinking about, popular science monthly, one of the most popular magazines of the nineteenth century. she was in there because there was a man named william hammond who is founder of the association of neurology and he claimed to have discovered women's brains were inferior to men's. she said this makes no sense was all you're doing is comparing the brains of great men with women you found in the insane asylum. cannot possibly be true. is this woman who has this
nerve to take on one of the most revered scientists in the country and one of the most popular magazine so that is where i met her in the library. if you want to know more about my process my first book was an intellectual history and it was not that fun to research. i would say it was rewording and that was fine but it was not as exciting. because my first book was a different kind, wouldn't it be fun to follow one person, i kept looking for her after my first book, she is at all of the things, she knows all of the people, the big debate so in her life history, 1853-1925, you can see the the women's
rights movement, my research for her was part traditional, the archives, a kind of paper so i had to be creative and where i found most of her papers, say something about politics and archives in the woodrow wilson collection. she's in the woodrow wilson collection more than any other woman, a suffragist who was a contact with the white house and no one has heard of her, the wilson biographer doesn't talk about her, mention her name one or 2 times but she is all over. the other part of my research which was really fun, i was like magnum pi, follow her around, every apartment she lived in, tore all the places and then do family research and look at the records from her
siblings, i was hot on the case because she had this affair with a fallen woman, not only was she a fallen woman but she reinvented herself and by moving to new york city, call herself hamilton gardner, it was funny detective work. >> it sounds that way. one of the later chapters in the book mentions how the woman's movement was going to be remembered and there was a lot of awareness about the politics around it. tell me a little more. we have a perspective of 100 years. what can we learn today looking back to the process? what is there for the modern
reader to understand and get perspective on? >> three main take aways. one, we think of women's rights history as about the vote, but it was bodily autonomy. the suffrage movement was a fringe movement for much of the nineteenth century. the temperance movement was much bigger with 200,000 members. those women talked about alcohol, it was not being raped by their husband, this wasn't gonorrhea or any other infectious disease in the nineteenth century. in my book i talk about how
they learned politics from the age, where she joined forces with the w ctu to raise the age of sexual consent for girls. in 1890 it was 12 or younger in 38 states, in delaware it was 7. a grown man could have sex with a 10-year-old girl and say she consented and avoid prosecution. this is an issue that converted those 200,000 temperance women into suffragists. we need to think about bodily economy, sexual double standard that is still with us today, that motivated women, they hoped with the vote they could have bodily autonomy. it is true but not true in 2020. the other message looking at women's suffrage history, something i learned from helen hamilton gardner, the take away message is the extent to which light meters continue to go to to keep african-americans from the polls. by the time it gets to congress
in 1918-19 when the senate is seriously considering it and debating on the floor, no one can say women can't vote because they aren't smart enough or women can't vote because it will destroy the family. no one is saying anything about alcohol, the coalition amendment has passed. the only thing the senators are talking about because it passed easily in the house is race, senators from both parties say we can't and franchise black women in the south where there is more black voters than white voters, the nineteenth amendment was modeled word for word on the fifteenth, somehow compel the federal government to enforce the fifteenth amendment which on paper had enfranchised black men it hadn't been in court since 1877, having to actually let's black men and women vote and
that is the signature issue, where we don't hear about black women in the south. a piece about enforcement, keep discriminating against black women in the south or against black women, and won't say a word and that is where you have the nineteenth amendment to congress. the third take away message, the suffragists who home the archives and the libraries to see what women came before us, women never did anything but the suffragists were the ones to rehash and refine and tell the stories of women that come before and set up the archives like those lessons are library, the founding president of the
league of women voters, the stories of women, they knew the stories we tell about our past shape what is possible in the present and the future and if we don't know the names of women, we don't know their stories, it is hard for us to imagine women as leaders. in some ways we find ourselves in 2020, there's a 2017 report the national museum of women's history put out that is really depressing. the countless wonderful books that have been written about women, school textbooks still tell the little sidebar story about women and only a few women's names are required knowledge in most states. i hope this gives us the opportunity to think about the way we tell women stories and the narrative we tell ourselves, that was her dying
wish, the moment teresa was mentioning. a signing ceremony for the nineteenth amendment, the first of its kind, there was a treaty signing, this was the first bill signing ceremony. she wanted a historical record of it. the speaker of the house and the vice president -- the very next week call up the smithsonian and say i have a fancy gold pen used to sign a historic document and a bunch of other stuff you need to put in the exhibit. women's contribution to america. >> you talk about the conflict between the movements for racial equality. in 1919, very interesting year for lots of reasons after the end of world war i, the war
fought to make the world safe for democracy. after that war, many blacks were involved in, since that swept across black america, to advocate for our own, and many were led by soldiers. that was a direct result of that. this is not the time for you guys to, all kinds of trump to novel -- and and if you look at the facts came about.
the payments of various things during the war. black sharecroppers want to get a fair amount of money. they decided to immunize and that constituted a black uprising. one after another, just find it interesting kimberly talking about the friction between them, long friction between equality movements. >> both books are sophisticated enough even though you are highlighting a certain aspect to show what was going on in terms of not only one but
several voices and several resources going on. i am loving the discussion but i want to open the floor to questions from the audience, they are really really good and the first is for you. i noted the number of times in the last four years the aclu stepped up to litigate various infractions by the administration, any examples of cases the aclu wants? >> one of several, has 2 do with children in cages litigation. they stopped the united states government, forced the united states government to start trying to reunite some of these children in this fight still going on. we have 500 children, i
thousand originally, 550 georgian who were separated at the border. as a result, the administration has no idea at all but the aclu which was the lead organization that forced them to attempt to reunite these children and as recently as a few weeks ago, don't know where these kids are. the aclu and other organizations have taken it upon themselves to deal with that, the harassment in seattle of federal troops went into harass various people who were protesting. early on in the administration,
they lost that case, got to the supreme court, prevented the administration from the earliest version of the muslim ban and came up with a version the past the court and that could go on and in many cases the aclu prevails or delay the things that went through anywhere and in many cases still pending one way or another. >> one of the things in the book is to show, there are -- a lot of instances the aclu lost but the case was brought, created change. >> a lot of cases, the most
famous cases, the most famous case, 1925, the scopes monkey case was the case where there was a law passed that make it illegal to teach evolution and there was a big trial, the first trial that got national publicity, clarence darrow was the most distinguished religious attorney of the era, much more of a celebrity case than the o.j. simpson case, people packed into see this and did involve this 25-year-old teacher who decided to teach evolution even though it was barred. they lost the case. that law, roughly 40 years to be officially overturned but
even in losing it they raised the issue in such a way and raise the profile in such a way that they became known for a series of cases having to do with speech, going back all the way the most famous case in 1925, in new york, two guys who essentially had published this manifesto which was a socialist manifesto and they got arrested for violating a state law against speech. a couple things worth noting about that case. they lost the case, lost it on
appeal before the supreme court. before that case, not established in the first amendment, apply to the states and this is a state law. states could bar speech however they wanted. before the abolition of slavery it was illegal to circulate abolitionist literature in the south. even in deciding the defendants were guilty the supreme court decided wait a minute, the first amendment ought to apply to states and made the decision, complex legal reasoning having to do with the decision that all of a sudden the first amendment applies to the states. you had a losing case that resulted in huge impact on society and a victory for free speech in that circumstance. lots of cases like that.
pretty much all of them lost. they raised the issue and ultimately what we had now, which people think is in place forever because the bill of rights was ratified in 1791 and people think we had free speech since 1791, not true. we've only really had it since the early part of the twentieth century. >> decisions are more complex, the next question, can we keep democracy. your last chapter, you close
with very strong statements. neither the nation's founder or baldwin who was leader of the aclu, in the situation we have today, and all but impossible, with fallacies on society? >> that is the question of where a and this moment. kimberly mentioned an op-ed in the washington post and usa today which looks at this
question of our democracy and where we are and part of what i have in that piece, deciding who the president is, after an election, for four years actually rebuild us, how fragile our democracy is, not because we have an outmoded system of the elect oral college. before this century, only happens twice before, 1888-1876 that you had a person who lost the popular vote get installed in the white house because of the electoral college. that already happened twice and it looks like it might happen
again. that is a problem. i won't go into the complexities of how to solve it, not just because of the electoral college but the winner takes all, that is a structural problem in our democracy. we have all these conservative judges on the court. why do they sit on the court even though they are not representative of american society? they represent a distinct minority opinion. the senate controls who sits on the court. because of the decisions made in 1787 you have states that are tiny that have the same power as states that are large. the effect of that is you have politicians who represent less than one 6 of the population controlling who sits on our courts. that system may have made sense in the 1800s or late 1700s in virginia which was the largest state if you exclude slave
people was only 27 times larger than delaware, makes no sense at all now when you have texas which is almost 70 times larger than wyoming. it is all askew. at on top of that politics of misinformation and lying in the government that conspires with that, where big money decides what happens more than anything else. it is a question has to the health of this democracy and how to whether this. it is an open question. >> kimberly. modern american leaders, what can they learn from the efforts of helen hamilton gardner?
>> i think a big take away, what made gardner and many of her colleagues in the association, congress to meet with them, they were accountable to their constituents, i am one of your constituent debates, senator portman, i am here but senator portman doesn't care what i think, especially in ohio which is like this because of gerrymandering. he's not accountable to me because of gerrymandering and finance laws, the lesson of the suffragist, ellis was saying
fundamental institutions of our democracy are broken so we need to think about universal voting rights and access to the polls, meaningful campaign finance reform, to be effective once again. >> we are at our limit. i would like to thank everybody in the audience for their time and strongly recommend if you have not, go read "democracy, if we can keep it". you won't be sorry. you will get a lot of context and insight about what it took to build the system we have now and might give you a clue to the big obstacles and challenges we have next. thank you very much, everybody and for the audience, there's a
lot of production, thank you again for your time. >> thanks for this great opportunity. >> you are watching booktv on c-span2 every weekend with the latest nonfiction books and authors. booktv on c-span created by america's cable television company. today brought to you by television company to provide booktv to viewers as a public service. >> i am very excited for our panelists today. it will be a lively conversation. i will run through introductions first for each of our panelists and then we will hear from them in short, 15 minute intervals and then 15 minutes to ask any questions you may have of them.