In 1931, the New York Times hailed Belle Case La Follette as "probably the least known yet most influential of all the American women who have had to do with public affairs." A dedicated advocate for women's suffrage, peace, and other causes, she served as a key advisor to her husband, leading Progressive politician Robert La Follette. She also wielded considerable influence through her own speeches and journalism, as when she opposed racism by speaking out against the segregation of the federal government under President Woodrow Wilson.
In a concise, lively, and engaging narrative, Nancy C. Unger shows how Belle La Follette uniquely contributed to progressive reform, as well as the ways her work was typical of women--and progressives--of her time. Supported by primary documents and a robust companion website, this book introduces students of American history to an extraordinary woman and the era of Progressive reform.
"In this fast-paced biography, Nancy Unger rescues from obscurity the remarkable political leader, Belle La Follette—progressive, feminist, anti-racist activist, and pacifist—who managed in the early twentieth century to balance engaged motherhood with tireless campaigning for social justice."
—Robyn Muncy, author of Relentless Reformer: Josephine Roche and Progressivism in Twentieth-Century America
"In her groundbreaking biography, Nancy Unger adds an essential chapter to the history of American feminism. With vivid prose and meticulous research, Unger peels away La Follette's self-effacing shell to expose a brilliant, visionary crusader for women's rights, racial equality, world peace, and progressive reform. Belle La Follette: Progressive Era Reformer complements Unger's excellent biography of Senator Bob La Follette, allowing Belle to emerge from the shadow of her famous husband as a leader and trailblazer in her own right."
—Michael Wolraich, author of Unreasonable Men: Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics
"Unger, who has been a frequent speaker at the annual progressive gathering Fighting Bob Fest, has done a great service to the memory of Belle La Follette, who had as much to do with the course of Wisconsin progressivism as her famous husband and sons."
— Dave Zweifel, The Capital Times
Acknowledgments and Note on Sources
Part I: Belle Case La Follette
Introduction: "One of the Nation’s Greatest Women"
1. The Making of a Feminist
2. Seeking Balance: Marriage, Motherhood, and the Challenges of Progressive Womanhood
3. The Flowering of a Progressive: Journalist and Suffrage Leader
4. "The Successor to Harriet Beecher Stowe"
5. Champion of World Peace and Disarmament
6. Ensuring a Legacy
Part II: Documents