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  • Writer's pictureMax Sinsheimer

SOLD! Formidable (by Dr. Elisabeth Griffith)

Updated: Sep 18, 2021

I am thrilled to announce the sale of Formidable: American Women and the Unfinished Fight for Equal Rights, 1920-2020, by Dr. Elisabeth Griffith, to Pegasus Books.

Formidable is a sweeping account of the 100-year-struggle for Black and white women to achieve their equal rights following passage of the 19th Amendment. Historians have generally treated “Black equality” and “women’s equality” separately, or covered them narrowly, by decade or incident. Formidable takes a longer view and a wider perspective. By integrating the civil rights and feminist movements into one panoramic narrative, it reveals the complicated relationships and sometimes competing aspirations of the women who fought these battles.

Formidable progresses chronologically, with nine chapters organized around landmarks in women’s history. It opens with the certification of the 19th Amendment in August 1920, and concludes the week before the 2020 presidential election, with the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett. The diverse and expansive cast of characters include feminists, civil rights activists, politicians, social justice advocates, working class women, homemakers, radicals, and conservatives, all of them more complex than those categories. Also included are the women who were offended by feminism, threatened by social change, or convinced of white supremacy.

Portrait of Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was an anti-lynching crusader and a founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She was also a Black suffragist who defied orders to march at the rear of National American Woman Suffrage Association-organized parades, behind white men, in the colored section. Photo (c) Vogue.

Dr. Elisabeth (Betsy) Griffith is an authority on American women. She earned her PhD from The American University and has been both a Kennedy Fellow at Harvard and a Klingenstein Fellow at Columbia Teachers College. OUP published her first book, In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, which inspired a Ken Burns PBS documentary. The NYT heralded it as one of the best books of the 20th century, and Oprah magazine recommended it for women’s history month as recently as 2020. For twenty-two years, Dr. Griffith was headmistress of The Madeira School, an all-girls boarding school in Virginia.

Dr. Griffith certainly has the respect of her peers; I've never seen such a stunning array of early endorsements for a book. Her book proposal included quotes from Ken Burns, Hillary Clinton, Judy Woodruff, Ann Compton, Ellen Malcolm, and several other influential journalists, scholars, and activists. I'm looking forward to a launch event at the Politics and Prose bookstore here in DC, which feels inevitable, given that its co-owner, Lissa Muscatine, was another early endorser!

Here is the Publishers Marketplace deal memo:

This is my second sale to Pegasus, after they did a terrific job publishing John Reeves's A Fire in the Wilderness. Congratulations to Betsy and her editor at Pegasus, Claiborne Hancock!


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