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Johanna Neuman  

Historian, Author, Lecturer on Women's Suffrage

Johanna Neuman is one of the nation’s leading experts on the history of women’s suffrage. An award-winning historian and a scholar in residence at American University, she has written two books and several monographs on the topic. She often lectures about the long campaign by American women to win the vote, from the revolutionary fervor of the American Revolution in the 1770s to the call for justice during the Civil Rights Movement two centuries later. Chronicling one of the broadest coalitions for social change in American history, she brings delights in illuminating personalities – from the white colonialists who wanted the Constitutional Convention to offer them political privileges, to the black activists who fought Jim Crow laws in the South to protect their constitutional rights to vote.

A journalist who covered the White House, State Department and Congress for USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, Johanna won a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University, served as president of the White House Correspondents Association and specialists in writing advance obituaries of political figures in Washington, D.C. After her journalism career, she returned to the academe, earning a PhD in history from American University in 2016.

Her first book as a historian was Gilded Suffragists: The New York Socialites Who Fought for Women’s Right to Vote. Published by New York University Press in 2017, the book tells the story of what happened when some of the nation's wealthiest social figures—with names like Astor, Belmont and Vanderbilt—joined the movement. The media darlings of their day, they were chronicled by a thriving newspaper scene for every change of wardrobe, decor and itinerary. When they leveraged their social cachet for political power—marching in parades, giving speeches, in some cases going to jail—they became the first celebrities to endorse a political campaign in the 20th Century. Like Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of issues today, their embrace gave the movement, said to be in the doldrums, a burst of attention, creating buzz and excitement and helping push the “Votes for Women” campaign over the finish line.

Choice Magazine, the review journal of the American Library Association, called Gilded Suffragists “highly entertaining and gravely important … a wonderfully written history [that] details the relentless efforts required to make lasting change.”

Her second book, How Women Won the Vote: The Long History is a gripping story of female activism. Most historians begin the story in 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton first stood in public at a women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. and demanded the right to vote, and end the story in 1920, when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment. How Women Won the Vote expands our understanding of that history, positioning its origins with the revolutionary fervor in the 1770s and its final triumph two centuries later, when African-American women in the South had to fight Jim Crow laws to win right to vote. For two centuries, in petitions and parades, with warring tactics and diverse motives, women fought for and won this precious badge of equal citizenship. They voted in the 1770s, launched petition drives in the 1830s, attended suffrage conventions in the 1850s, and strategized to win victories in the states beginning in the 1870s. They lobbied Congress in the 1910s to enact the Nineteenth Amendment and galvanized public opinion around a Voting Rights Act in 1965. Together, they won the vote, against all odds.

A native of Los Angeles, Johanna graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, and earned a masters degree in journalism from the University of Southern California. After covering City Hall in Los Angeles and the state capitol in Sacramento for the Los Angeles Daily Journal, she moved to Mississippi to become the capitol bureau chief for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Under the direction of its new editor, Rea Hederman, the newspaper was trying to turn itself around from a racist past to a better future. While in Jackson, she covered the governor, legislature and several agencies for nearly three years before leaving for Washington, D.C. to open the newspaper’s first bureau there. After two years in D.C., she won a Nieman Fellowship for a year of study at Harvard University.

By the time she returned to Washington, the Clarion-Ledger had been sold to Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the country. Within a few years, Gannett had launched USA Today and asked Johanna to become the newspaper’s first White House correspondent. She covered Ronald Reagan’s second term as well as the first two years of George H.W. Bush’s administration before leaving for the State Department. There, she covered Secretary of State James A. Baker III and wrote her first book, Lights, Camera, War, about the impact of media technology on diplomacy, from the printing press to the Internet. After a brief stint as the paper’s foreign editor, she was hired by the Los Angeles Times, where she worked in the Washington bureau for the next ten years, as editor, general assignment reporter and blogger.

While in graduate school pursuing her PhD, Johanna vowed to dedicate the rest of her career to writing books of history that honored her two professions, incorporating the deep archival research of the historian with the storytelling talent of the journalist. She now lives in Delray Beach, Florida, with her husband Jeff Glazer, writing the history of women.

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