The New America

Words by Elizabeth Boynton Harbert; tune "America" (originally, "God Save the King"), 1891

What is the message of this song? Who is this song appealing to? Why?

What argument is the song making? What justice were women seeking in the 1880s/1890s? How long had the women's rights movement been working for suffrage? The Seneca Falls Convention, where pioneering feminists first asked for women's right to vote, was in 1848.

How long was it before women won the right to vote? In the West, where local populations were often smaller and women needed to fill public roles, women won the right to vote and own property before they did in the older states. Nationwide women’s suffrage was achieved in 1920, although many women (and men) of color continued to be denied the right to vote until Civil Rights legislation removed barriers in the 1960s.

Why do you think it took so long for women to win the right to vote?

In what ways were temperance and suffrage sentiments related?

Which song is more effective? Why? Why did the authors choose to recycle "America" (originally borrowed from "God Save the King") instead of another tune or an original tune?

"The New America" performed by Paula Purnell. All rights reserved. © 2004.

Perhaps inspired by a certain sense of militancy on the part of the woman suffrage movement, Paula Purnell's rendition of this song is accompanied by a snare drum. The addition of new voices on each verse emphasizes the mounting enthusiasm for women's right to vote.

View the music and lyrics for "The New America."

Elizabeth Boynton Harbert
Elizabeth Boynton Harbert

Elizabeth Boynton Harbert (1845–1925) was a novelist and an important activist in the Illinois women's suffrage movement. In addition to her controversial book Out of Her Sphere, which fictionalized the feminist dilemma in the nineteenth century, Harbert also wrote a popular weekly newspaper column and started the monthly newspaper New Era.

Compare this song to:

"Going to the Polls" (this unit)

"Women's Doxology" (Unit 6)


suffrage: The right or privilege of voting.

temperance: A movement to abstain from drinking liquor.

Research the "Declaration of Sentiments" (patterned on the Declaration of Independence) that was passed at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Make a "report card" listing each of the nine "sentiments" and make two columns labeled "1890" and "Present." Grade the United States on each of the sentiments during that era and during the present. How far have we come? How far do we still have to go?


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