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Kimberly A. Hamlin is a cultural historian specializing in women, gender, sex, science, and politics. A recent recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Public Scholar Award, Hamlin regularly contributes to the Washington Post and other media outlets, and she lectures widely on topics related to women and gender. Her latest book, Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener (2020), reveals the remarkable story of the “fallen woman” who changed her name, reinvented herself, and became the “most potent factor” in Congressional passage of the 19th Amendment as well as the highest-ranking woman in federal...
After being outed in Ohio newspapers in 1876 for having an affair with a married man, Helen Hamilton Gardener reinvented herself and dedicated her life to securing women's financial, bodily, and political autonomy -- recognizing that the three were fundamentally intertwined. She joined the freethought movement, then worked to raise the age of sexual consent for girls (in 1890 it was 12 or younger in 38 states), became a famous speaker and author, and, eventually, the "most potent factor" in Congressional passage of the 19th Amendment and the highest-ranking woman in federal government. Her life story centers sex and race in the history of suffrage and issues an urgent call for the importance of women's history.
"A suffragist for the #MeToo era, Helen Hamilton Gardener reminds us that voting rights are women's rights."