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Woman Suffrage and Womens Rights

Woman Suffrage and Womens Rights

Ellen Carol DuBois
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 318
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  • Book Info
    Woman Suffrage and Womens Rights
    Book Description:

    In recent decades, the woman suffrage movement has taken on new significance for women's history. Ellen Carol DuBois has been a central figure in spurring renewed interest in woman suffrage and in realigning the debates which surround it. This volume gathers DuBois' most influential articles on woman suffrage and includes two new essays. The collection traces the trajectory of the suffrage story against the backdrop of changing attitudes to politics, citizenship and gender, and the resultant tensions over such issues as slavery and abolitionism, sexuality and religion, and class and politics. Connecting the essays is DuBois' belief in the continuing importance of political and reform movements as an object of historical inquiry and a force in shaping gender. The book, which includes a highly original reconceptualization of women's rights from Mary Wollstonecraft to contemporary abortion and gay rights activists and a historiographical overview of suffrage scholarship, provides an excellent overview of the movement, including international as well as U.S. suffragism, in the context of women's broader concerns for social and political justice.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8540-9
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 The Last Suffragist: An Intellectual and Political Autobiography (1997)
    (pp. 1-29)

    From the beginning, my decision to focus my scholarship on woman suffrage ran against the grain of the developing field of women’s history. In 1969, the year I selected my dissertation topic, women’s history was only an aspiration, albeit a widespread one.Feminismwas still a word that even those of us who would go on to revive it were uncomfortable using. In graduate history programs all over the country, young women like myself were realizing that the history of women in the United States was an enormous unexplored territory, rich with compelling analytical questions. Our interest in women’s history...

  5. 2 The Radicalism of the Woman Suffrage Movement: Notes toward the Reconstruction of Nineteenth-Century Feminism (1975)
    (pp. 30-42)

    The major theoretical contribution of contemporary feminism has been the identification of the family as a central institution of women’s oppression.¹ On the basis of this understanding we are seeing the beginnings of a revisionist history of American feminism that challenges the significance that has traditionally been attributed to the woman suffrage movement. Aileen Kraditor and William O’Neill have suggested that the woman suffrage movement did not lead to female emancipation because it accepted women’s traditional position within the home.² While attacking this “what-went-wrong” approach, Daniel Scott Smith has contended that suffragism should yield its claim to the central place...

  6. 3 Politics and Culture in Women’s History (1980)
    (pp. 43-53)

    This essay concerns the relationship between the history of feminism and the history of women. It rests on two propositions that I believe are closely related: A feminist perspective is necessary to make women’s history a vital intellectual endeavor, and women’s history should give special attention to the history of the feminist movement. My approach is basically historiographical: What have contemporary women’s historians had to say about the history of feminism and how has this affected their interpretations of other matters?

    The revival of women’s history in the 1960s began with a criticism of the past traditions of feminism, both...

  7. 4 Women’s Rights and Abolition: The Nature of the Connection (1979)
    (pp. 54-67)

    It is a common error among historians of American feminism to attribute American women’s consciousness about the oppression of their sex to the impact of the antislavery movement, particularly to its ultraist Garrisonian element. This argument suggests that, reasoning by analogy, female abolitionists perceived the similarities between their status before the law and that of the chattel slave.¹ Certainly the rhetoric of the prewar women’s rights movement abounded in the use of the slave metaphor to describe women’s oppression. “Slaves are we, politically and legally,” wrote J. Elizabeth Jones in an 1848 address to the women of Ohio.² Yet other...

  8. 5 The Nineteenth-Century Woman Suffrage Movement and the Analysis of Women’s Oppression (1978)
    (pp. 68-80)

    What is the political significance of studying the history of the feminist movement? Not, I think, to identify revolutionary ancestresses or petit-bourgeois leaders whose errors we can blame for our current oppression. We study the past to learn how to think about the present, to understand how change happens, to see how history creates and restrains the possibilities for people to intervene deliberately in it and change its course. We study the history of radicalism to understand why certain social movements take a particular character in particular periods, to learn how to locate political radicalism in history. Ultimately, we study...

  9. 6 Outgrowing the Compact of the Fathers: Equal Rights, Woman Suffrage, and the United States Constitution, 1820–1878 (1987)
    (pp. 81-113)

    In the midst of the Constitution’s bicentennial celebration, it is especially important for historians to recall the radical tradition of equal rights that flourished as a part of nineteenth-century republican thought. Women’s rights demands were an important aspect of that popular nineteenth-century republicanism. From its inception to the present, the women’s rights movement has pursued rights not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution and has sought to incorporate them into an expanded understanding of its meaning.

    From one perspective, the conviction at the heart of radical republicanism, that an expansion of “rights” would help create a more egalitarian society, reached its...

  10. 7 Taking the Law into Our Own Hands: Bradwell, Minor, and Suffrage Militance in the 1870s (1990)
    (pp. 114-138)

    Among the most contested elements of the Constitution have been the Reconstruction amendments, and a crucial aspect of that contest has been the relation of the Fourteenth Amendment to women’s rights. This essay addresses the early history of women’s rights claims to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. It explores the legal arguments with which woman suffragists approached the Reconstruction amendments, the popular support and militant activism they inspired, and the role that the defeat of women’s rights claims played in the larger history of Reconstruction constitutionalism. This mid-nineteenth-century episode in women’s rights history was extremely brief, but it reverberates richly...

  11. All illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. 8 Seeking Ecstasy on the Battlefield: Danger and Pleasure in Nineteenth-Century Feminist Sexual Thought (1983)
    (pp. 139-159)
    Linda Gordon

    It is often alleged that female sexuality is a more complex matter than men’s, and, if so, a major reason is that sex spells potential danger as well as pleasure for women. A feminist politics about sex, therefore, if it is to be credible as well as hopeful, must seek both to protect women from sexual danger and to encourage their pursuit of sexual pleasure.

    This complex understanding of female sexuality has not always characterized the feminist movement. In general feminists inherit two conflicting traditions in their approach to sex. The strongest tradition, virtually unchallenged in the mainstream women’s rights...

  13. 9 The Limitations of Sisterhood: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Division in the American Suffrage Movement, 1875–1902 (1984)
    (pp. 160-175)

    In the 1850s and 1860s, divisive political conflict characterized most efforts of American feminists, but by the mid-1870s and on through the end of the century, these conflicts had lessened. During the Gilded Age, politically active women made a strong commitment to consolidation. Ideologically, women emphasized their similarities rather than their differences; organizationally, they emphasized unity over division. Women of the period tended to create multi-issue, all-inclusive, and nonideological organizations that, at least theoretically, embraced all women and united them in a sisterhood dedicated to the elevation of their sex. The consolidation of women’s reform efforts might be said to...

  14. 10 Working Women, Class Relations, and Suffrage Militance: Harriot Stanton Blatch and the New York Woman Suffrage Movement, 1894–1909 (1987)
    (pp. 176-209)

    More than any other period in American reform history, the Progressive Era eludes interpretation. It seems marked by widespread concern for social justice and by extraordinary elitism, by democratization and by increasing social control. The challenge posed to historians is to understand how Progressivism could simultaneously represent gains for the masses and more power for the classes. The traditional way to approach the period has been to study the discrete social programs reformers so energetically pushed in those years, from the abolition of child labor to the Americanization of the immigrants. Recently, historians’ emphasis has shifted to politics, where it...

  15. 11 Making Women’s History: Historian-Activists of Women’s Rights, 1880–1940 (1991)
    (pp. 210-238)

    The subject of this paper is the history of women’s history in the years following the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote, and the waning of the public face of organized feminism.

    This subject is important for several reasons. Most of the people involved in writing and promoting the history of women’s rights in those formative years were veterans of the suffrage movement, who thought the preservation of history would contribute to “the cause.” They were not academically trained, but popular, even amateur, historians. The enthusiasm and sense of political mission with which they pursued...

  16. 12 Eleanor Flexner and the History of American Feminism (1991)
    (pp. 239-251)

    Century of Struggle: The Woman’s Rights Movement in the United Statesby Eleanor Flexner has stood for thirty years as the most comprehensive history of American feminism up to the enfranchisement of women in 1920.¹ InCentury of Struggle, Flexner did what had never been done before: she used the history of the suffrage movement, not as a way for veterans of the movement to congratulate themselves, but as a window on the larger history of American women. A whole generation of historians of American women who came after her profited immensely both from the large historical analyses and the...

  17. 13 Woman Suffrage and the Left: An International Socialist-Feminist Perspective (1991)
    (pp. 252-282)

    It is difficult to imagine a richer subject for a comparative history of democracy than the enfranchisement of women. Despite casual remarks about various governments “granting” women the vote, enfranchisement in the overwhelming number of cases was preceded by a women’s movement demanding it. Indeed, extending over more than a century and including most nations of the globe, the cause of woman suffrage has been one of the great democratic forces in human history. Whereas manhood suffrage, for instance, or the breaking of the political color bar, have occurred more erratically, with limited links between national experiences, woman suffrage has...

  18. 14 A Vindication of Women’s Rights (1997)
    (pp. 283-300)

    Of all the terms associated with what we now call feminism, the one that has been used for the longest time iswomen’s rights. It dates back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when it signified a revolutionary approach to women’s nature and prospects, advocated by a tiny group of Anglo-American radicals and tainted by its association first with the French Revolution and then with socialism. Two hundred years later, the term women’s rights is used much more widely than in earlier centuries and its contemporary associations are far less terrifying. The current meaning of women’s rights leans...

  19. Index
    (pp. 301-308)
  20. About the Author
    (pp. 309-310)