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We Demand: The Suffrage Road Trip Reviewed by Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com
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Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal, QC
Thursday, May 6, 2021

 

Author: Anne B. Gass

Illustrations by Emma Leavitt

Publisher: Maine Authors Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-63381-259-8

The names Ingeborg Kinstedt and Maria Kindbergprobably don’t ring a bell unless you are acquainted with thewoman’s suffrage movement. Yet, these two middle-aged Swedishimmigrants, who settled in Rhode Island, played a meaningful role inthe early part of the twentieth century in the movement. 

Based on a true story, Anne B. Gass in WeDemand: The Suffrage Road Trip crafts afictional reconstruction of a bold 3000-mile cross-country auto tripfrom San Francisco to Washington, D.C. in 1915 involving Ingeborg andMaria.


The two, along with Sara Bard Field and socialiteFrances Joliffe were to amass and deliver thousands of signatures ona petition to Congress and President Wilson, demanding women’sright to vote.

Field and Joliffe represented the Congressional Unionfor Woman Suffrage (CU), an organization set up by Alice Paul andLucy Burns in the United States in 1913 to fight for a constitutionalamendment guaranteeing women’s suffrage. Because of ill health,Joliffe had dropped out before the trip was ongoing.

The narrative unfolds in late September 1915, wherewe first encounter Ingeborg and Maria. Their initial plan was toexplore the USA on their own, and they never imagined they wouldbecome involved in such an importantevent. 

After decades of hard toil, the two hadtraveled by steamship to San Francisco to attend thePanama-Pacific International Exposition. It is here where they meetsomeone belonging to the Congressional Union, who briefs them thatthe CU. had prepared to launch a trip in a few weeks, sending onehundred cars to Washington, D.C packed withsuffrage supporters. Their mission is to drive across the USAwith petitions urging Congress pass the federal suffrageamendment. Unfortunately, there were no volunteers. 

Upon learning of their predicament, Ingeborg blurtsout, without consulting Maria, that she and Maria will undertake it.She mentions to the woman they arepurchasing a Convertible Overland Sixautomobile in San Francisco to travel back to their home inProvidence, Rhode Island, which is not very farfrom Washington, D.C. She further tells her there isample place for the petitions.

When Alice Paul gets wind of their offer, she agreesto have the two Swedes drive with the petitions and explains to themthey will pay for the automobile and their expenses. The CU willcompensate them for food and lodging for the two envoys that will tagalong. The envoys turn out to be Sara Bard Field and Frances Joliffe,and as pointed out previously, the latter slipped out early in theadventure. Ingeborg and Maria were not totally thrilled when Alicetells them about the two representatives and reluctantly accept thetwo riders. 

At the commencement of the trip, a chauffeur drivesthe three women to Salt Lake City, who, incidentally, gets lost onthe path to their destination. This doesn’t sit very well withIngeborg, who fires the driver. Maria takes over the driving, andIngeborg, who knows the workings of a car, attends to the maintenanceof the Overland Six. Sara becomes the spokesperson for the CU,who will be engaged with public relations while meeting withdignitaries, socialites, and politicians along the way. 

You can well imagine the harrowing adventures thesewomen would experience, which Gass describes in detail in thenarrative, as they make their way across the country throughinclement weather, poorly signed mud roads, andwhere getting lost or stuck was part of thefun

And as one Congressman succinctly summed it up, “Iknow those roads.... some would be better done on horseback than inan automobile. Many a man has rued the day he attempted them.”

Several times Ingeborg questionsher judgment to having agreed to take partin the voyage. As she mentions, if onlythey had pinned Alice Paul down on the details: who would speak, thedistances, and the roadconditions? Then there was the matter of being shunned by someof the CU women because they were immigrants. Andto add insult to injury, even the media ignored them as if they wereghosts. Likewise, there was the outright bigotry andracism, which she came across which was notconsidered before embarking on the trip. 

This extensively researched work is more than arecord of a journey of two feisty Swedish women, which is trulyremarkable. Gass skillfully interweaves the individual histories ofthese women with interesting contextualinformation regarding the social and political atmosphere thatexisted at the time. In addition, herappreciation for the prowess of her principal characters radiatesthroughout the story. She brings the cross-country road trip toconvincing life through carefully wrought, affectingcharacterizations and accurately rendering details of place and time.A bonus for readers interested in exploring more of the women’ssuffrage movement is the selected readingat the end of the book. 

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 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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