The Chicken Case Project

The politics of sex, gender, and poultry


On August 18, 1919, the fight for women’s suffrage concluded in the United States. The Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, granting women 21 years and older the right to vote. While the national women’s suffrage campaign is well documented, the efforts, agendas, and stances of local women remain underevaluated. When discussing female enfranchisement, local scholars forgo the critical analysis of Holland’s suffrage movement in favor of reiterating the tale of the Chicken Case. On March 4, 1920, Holland’s first all-female jury issued a “guilty” verdict on the Chicken Case, a slander trial brought to the court by a pair of feuding women regarding stolen poultry. The trial, which concluded two days before newly-enfranchised women voted for the first time, served as an opportunity for the town’s women to demonstrate their political acumen prior to turning out at the polls. Students will not simply restate the facts of the Chicken Case as have previous scholars. Rather, the Chicken Case will provide students with an entry point into an in-depth evaluation of Holland’s suffrage movement and its female residents actions as citizens.

In their effort to advance the study of local women’s history, students may conduct archival research, fieldwork, and or textual analysis. The Holland Museum and the Joint Archives of Holland maintain records and newspaper collections that are relevant to the scope of this project. While contributors are encouraged to explore the topic independently, potential projects and digital components are listed below.

Potential Inquires
Topic // Research Question // Research Problem

I am researching Holland’s suffrage movementbecause I want to identify and evaluate the individuals and events that influenced the political formation of the city’s female residents in order to add to the scholarly literature on this understudied area of Holland’s history.

I am studying the development of Holland’s suffrage movement within the context of the national women’s movement because I want to identify how the local movement differed from the national movement and assess why these distinctions existed in order to help my audience better understand how the City of Holland’s movement operated in relation to the national movement.

I am studying the “Chicken Case” because I want to examine how the trial shaped local women’s perception of their own political acumen in order to help my readers better understand the political identities of the city’s first female voters.

I am researching the role of local women’s organizations in politics throughout the 1920s because I want to analyze how social, political, religious, and gender norms dictated the ways in which members wielded their newfound political power in order to add to the academic scholarship on this understudied area of the city’s narrative.

Suggested Digital Components

Mock Radio Special
Before Court TV and HLN, audiences gathered around their home radios to listen to coverage of high profile court cases, like the Scopes Monkey Trial. Students may produce a mock radio special that documents, analyzes, and contextualizes the events surrounding the Chicken Case. This work of creative non-fiction may include excerpts from the newspapers, city records, and court records.

Online Learning Modules
Students may develop a series of online learning modules that examine the development of the women’s suffrage movement in Holland and or West Michigan. Each module could include short film, podcast, game, recommended activity, and or quiz. These modules could be used by educators or interested members of the general public.

Students may create a timeline that traces the development of the local, state, and national suffrage movement. This timeline would serve as a visual representation of the students’ research on how Holland’s campaign for suffrage developed in relation to state and nationwide efforts.


Dr. Virginia Beard
Dr. Beard is the director of Women’s and Gender Studies and Associate Professor of Political Science at Hope College. While her primary research interests are comparative politics, focused on Africa, as well as public policy, she is also interested in identity politics with a focus on gender.

Dr. Natalie Dykstra
Dr. Dykstra is an Associate Professor of English. Her areas of expertise include Literary Biography, 19th-Century American Literature, Women’s History, History of Photography.

Dr. Janis Gibbs
Dr. Gibbs is an Associate Professor of History. Dr. Gibbs, a former lawyer, serves as the department’s pre-law advisor.

Dr. Jeanne Petit
Dr. Petit is an Associate Professor of History and is also a faculty member of the Women’s and Gender Studies program. Her areas of expertise include women’s history, American immigration history, and gender.

H01-1422. Ottawa County Times. Newspaper, 1892-1905. Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI.

H06-1638.71. Holland Evening Sentinel. Newspaper, 1947. Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI.

H08-1675.1. De Wachter (The Watcher). 1868-1941. Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI.

H08-1683.3. Holland Sentinel. Newspaper, 1912-1947, 1950-1952. Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI.

H09-1685. American Association of University Women (AAUW), Holland Branch. Records, 1938-2008.

H88-0336. Holland City News. Newspaper, 1872-1977. Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI.

H88-0426. Anchor. 1887-[ongoing]. Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI.

H89-0330.4. De Grondwet (The Constitution). Newspaper, 1871-1938.

H97-1250.50. De Hope (The Hope). 1865-1933; bulk, 1888. Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI.

T88‑0317. Woman’s Literary Club. Records, 1894‑[ongoing]. Holland Museum, Holland, MI.

T90‑1134. Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Records, 1877‑1969. Holland Museum, Holland, MI.

T92‑1296. City of Holland. Records, 1867‑[ongoing]. Holland Museum, Holland, MI.

Dumenil, L. “The New Woman and the Politics of the 1920s.” OAH Magazine of History: 22-26.

Goss, Kristin A. The Paradox of Gender Equality: How American Women’s Groups Gained and Lost Their Public Voice. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan, 2013.

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, and Religion Women. Women, Religion, and Social Change. Albany: State U of New York, 1985.

Sullivan, Kathleen S. Constitutional Context Women and Rights Discourse in Nineteenth-century America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2007.

Swierenga, Robert P. Holland Michigan: From Dutch Colony to Dynamic City. Holland, Michigan: Van Raalte, 2014.

Swierenga, Robert P. “Getting Political in Holland.” Holland Historical Society. Holland. April 11, 2006. Lecture.

Water, Randall P. Holland: Happenings, Heroes & Hot Shots : Illustrated Narratives of Memorable Moments. Vol. 1-4. Holland, MI: World of Shaker, 1994.

Methodology & Theory
  • Feminist Theory
  • Historiography
  • Political Identity Theory
  • Social Identity Theory
  • Theory of Intersectionality