Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Women's March by Jennifer Chiaverini relates three women's roles in the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession

On March 3, 1913, a day before President Wilson’s inauguration, suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, to advocate for a constitutional amendment. Chiaverini’s impassioned account pulls readers into the organization, staging, and aftermath of this large, historic event, making the details feel freshly alive.

The perspective alternates among three historical figures. Procession co-organizer Alice Paul grows impatient with the national suffrage organization’s focus on state-by-state legislation and pushes for a federal solution. Activist Ida Wells-Barnett, whose background is abundantly illustrated, works to ensure Black women’s rightful place at the voting booth and in the parade. So-called “militant suffragist librarian” Maud Malone challenges politicians to take a stance.

As their plans come together, the story adeptly evokes the obstacles they all face, including Wilson’s opposition, inadequate police protection, and internal divisions about appeasing bigoted Southern white women.

Although some expressions feel overly modern, this politically aware novel about a historic quest for democratic justice compels readers to contemplate everything that has and hasn’t changed over time with voting rights and gender and racial equality.

The Women's March will be published this coming Tuesday by William Morrow; I wrote this review for Booklist's historical fiction issue (5/15/2021). Needless to say, this is a very timely novel.  All three women are historical figures, though only Wells-Barnett's name had been known to me previously.


  1. Thanks for the review. I didn't know about this book and will definitely get it. Jennifer Chiaverini has made an interesting leap from writing cozies to nonfiction. I think this is her 3rd nonfiction? FYI- Ida Wells has a street named after her in my city, Chicago.

  2. Hope you enjoy it! This book is biographical fiction rather than nonfiction. I haven't read any of her earlier novels (the quilt ones) before she started writing about real people, but some of those are historical also and look interesting. I especially liked reading about Ida's background. She gets more attention overall than the other two protagonists.