“American Experience” (9 p.m., PBS, TV-PG, check local listings) marks 100 years of women’s suffrage with “The Vote,” a two-night survey history of the women’s rights movement in the United States, dating back to the early decades of the 19th century.
While clearly a glance at our distant past, it conjures themes that still resonate today, particularly when discussing women’s history, women in politics and attitudes toward feminism with a capital F. Did the movement reflect the yearnings of all women, or only of an elite? Was it too middle-class? Too college-educated and too white? Or, in the case of this documentary approach, too PBS?
Those questions are reflected in the recent FX on Hulu series “Mrs. America,” about the movement to stymie the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. But they were being asked as early as the 1860s, when leading advocates for women’s suffrage took umbrage at the 15th amendment that granted the vote to black men, but not women. The question would come up in the 1890s and in the early 20th century, when many in the movement allied themselves with the Temperance movement, an advocacy of Prohibition that was seen as hostile to the working man and the bar owner and brewer, many of them recent immigrant strivers. “The Vote” shows how, in the 19th century, the movement for women’s rights ran up against anti-democratic forces not dissimilar to those active today that are against granting any political power to new, unassimilated Americans, seen as uneducated and perhaps even genetically inferior.
Tonight’s installment focuses mostly on personalities, including Susan B. Anthony, Harriot Stanton Blatch and Alice Paul.
“Vote” touches on, but does not emphasize, the role of changing economic forces in women’s liberation. Those who resisted women’s rights argued they would upset a “natural order” between husbands and wives. These attitudes held sway while women were seen as principally the breeders of large families to work the farm. But once millions of farm girls entered the factory, offices and textile mills and began to become workers and consumers, their political power grew as well. Similarly, the feminist revival of the 1970s coincided with the rise of a large female workforce, the matriculation of women at elite universities and the emergence of a female professional class.
An excellent survey history filled with a vivid cast of characters and all of the contradictions and paradoxes of unfolding struggles, “The Vote” features a wealth of period photography and the voices of narrators Mae Whitman, Laura Linney and Patricia Clarkson. It’s a real must for those who still watch television for something new to learn and think about.
— A film that may touch too close to home (at a time when we’ve been stuck there), the 2016 dramady “Wakefield” (8 p.m., AMC, TV-14) stars Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) as a lawyer who isolates himself in his garage attic. Jennifer Garner stars as his art curator wife, who inspires and resents his peculiar exile. Based on a short story by E.L. Doctorow that was itself inspired by a tale by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
— Acorn begins streaming the 2002 U.K. miniseries “Bodily Harm,” starring Timothy Spall (“Sweeney Todd”) as a man who loses his job and wife in quick succession.
Also on Acorn, the documentary “Edward & Mary: The Unknown Tudors” begins streaming as well.
TONIGHT’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
— Tragedy on ice on “9-1-1” (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).
— Alex Michel and Trista Sutter glance back on “The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons — Ever!” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
— Lola defends her reputation on “All Rise” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG).
— Gender reveals can be murder on “9-1-1: Lone Star” (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).
— A client walks a fine line between criminality and inspiration on “Bull” (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).
Bitter enemies (Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier) are forced to cooperate after escaping from prison while still shackled to each other in the 1958 “message” drama “The Defiant Ones” (10 p.m., TCM, TV-PG).
A line crossed on “The Neighborhood” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) … Dwayne Johnson presides over “The Titan Games” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) … Ricki Lake appears on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (8 p.m., CW, TV-14), followed by a repeat episode (8:30 p.m., TV-14) … Bob has allies on “Bob Hearts Abishola” (8:30 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) … Illusionists audition on “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” (9 p.m., CW, TV-PG) … “Dateline” (10 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
Emmanuel Acho and Chris Wallace are booked on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” (11:35 p.m., CBS, r) … Amy Schumer, Chris Fischer and Graham Norton visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (12:35 a.m., NBC, r).