Elisabeth Griffith has earned a reputation as a respected authority on women’s lives, past and present. She has marched for women’s rights, worked to elect women candidates, supported women’s causes as a leader in the National Women’s Political Caucus and the Women’s Campaign Fund, educated students, and motivated audiences to take up the banner.
Her latest book, Formidable: American Women and the Fight for Equality, 1920-2020 (Pegasus Books, August 2022) recounts the roles of Black and white women as change agents and social justice activists who worked to secure voting rights, end racial violence, and improve the lives of all women. It begins with certification of the Nineteenth Amendment and ends with the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett and the looming threats to reproductive freedom, concluding that women have more work to do.
Her biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, In Her Own Right (Oxford, 1984), was named “one of the 15 best books of 1984” and “one of the best books of the century” by the editors of The New York Times Book Review and “one of the five best books on women’s history” by the Wall Street Journal in 2009. In March 2020, Oprah magazine recommended it for women’s history month reading. It inspired Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, Not for Ourselves Alone, on which she served as a consultant.
Dr. Griffith began teaching women’s history at the National Cathedral School and American University in Washington, DC. Now she lectures at Politics & Prose, an independent bookstore, and the Smithsonian Associates.
From 1988 to 2010, she was Headmistress of The Madeira School, an independent girls’ boarding and day school. During her long tenure, Dr. Griffith enhanced the school’s profile, led its centennial celebration, raised $100M, and strengthened the school’s sense of community. Her success was acknowledged by the Washington Post’s “Distinguished Educational Leadership Award” in 2005.
As a non-profit CEO, Dr. Griffith emphasized how vital volunteer boards were. Her board service included the Wellesley College Alumnae Association, Camp Dudley, the Women’s Campaign Fund, and WETA. Her work on behalf of racial diversity earned her the “Sally Carruthers Spirit of Volunteerism” award, the Junior League of Washington’s highest honor.
Dr. Griffith earned her doctorate in history from The American University, where she was named the University’s outstanding graduate student and its alumni “Lodestar” in 1992. She holds a master’s degree from The Johns Hopkins University and a BA with honors in history from Wellesley College. In 1977 she was a Kennedy Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard and in 2001 a Klingenstein Fellow at Teachers College, Columbia University. Elected to the Society of American Historians, she is listed in the Directory of American Scholars.
Her research has been funded by the J. Franklin Jameson Fellowship, awarded jointly by the American Historical Association and the Library of Congress. Smaller projects include book reviews for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and professional journals, as well as assorted op-eds, articles and book chapters.
She is an engaging public speaker on women’s history, politics, and education. Her audiences include alumnae organizations, corporate conferences, law firms, the League of Women Voters, the Department of Labor, and the Girl Scouts.