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Let's Talk About It: Women's Suffrage: September: Once and Future Witches

In January 2021, the Woodward Library was awarded a grant from the American Library Association and support by the National Endowment for the Humanities. This guide provides an overview of grant materials and upcoming programming.

September 2022 Program

The Once and Future Witches

Facilitators: Professors Elaine Berg and Joanna Grisham

When: Thursday, September 29, 5:00 p.m.

Where: Office of Equity, Access and Inclusion (416 College St.)

About the Book

The Once and Future Witches Book CoverThe Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Call Number: PS3608.A783854 O53 2020

ISBN: 9780316422017

Publication Date: 2020-10-13

"In the late 1800s, three sisters use witchcraft to change the course of history in Alix E.  Harrow's powerful novel of magic and the suffragette movement. In 1893, there's  no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and  nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box. But when the Eastwood sisters -- James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna -- join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the  forgotten words and ways that might turn the women's movement into the witch's  movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote -- and perhaps not even to live -- the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive. There's no such thing as witches. But there will be." – from Publisher

Program Facilitators

Elaine BergElaine Berg

Elaine Berg is the interim director of library services at Woodward Library and a professor of library administration. She holds an M.A. from the University of South Carolina. Elaine also serves as the Faculty Representative of the APSU Board of Trustees.


Joanna (Joey) Grisham
Joey Grisham

Joey Grisham is an instructor of English and women's and gender studies at Austin Peay State University. She holds an M.A. in English from APSU, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Georgia College & State University. Her writing has appeared in The Emerson Review, Gleam, The Write LaunchConstruction Literary Magazine, Reunion: The Dallas Review, and elsewhere.


Discussion Questions

Use the questions below to guide your reading and prepare for the session. (All discussion questions provided by the ALA.)

  1. How does Harrow use magic as a metaphor for suffrage? Based on what you’ve learned about the suffrage movement in our other texts, do the parallels she draws between women fighting for the vote and women historically persecuted for witchcraft resonate?

  2. How do Harrow’s revisioned fairy tales help her tell this story?

  3. How does Harrow deal with the unique struggles of Black women for voting rights and representation within the larger suffrage movement?

  4. What role do labor rights and labor rights activists play in the novel?

  5. Where do you see references to actual events in US labor history? Does the intersection of the suffrage and labor movements reflect their real-life convergences and conflicts?

  6. What role does the press play in the novel? How do different newspapers report on the events in New Salem, and how do their headlines and stories move the plot forward?

Further Reading