Women and the United States Constitution: History, Interpretation, and Practice

Women and the United States Constitution: History, Interpretation, and Practice

Women and the United States Constitution: History, Interpretation, and Practice

Women and the United States Constitution: History, Interpretation, and Practice

Synopsis

Women and the U. S. Constitution is about much more than the nineteenth amendment. This provocative volume incorporates law, history, political theory, and philosophy to analyze the U. S. Constitution as a whole in relation to the rights and fate of women. Divided into three parts -- History, Interpretation, and Practice -- this book views the Constitution as a living document, struggling to free itself from the weight of a two-hundred-year-old past and capable of evolving to include women and their concerns.

Feminism lacks both a constitutional theory as well as a clearly defined theory of political legitimacy within the framework of democracy. The scholars included here take significant and crucial steps toward these theories. In addition to constitutional issues such as federalism, gender discrimination, basic rights, privacy, and abortion, Women and the U. S. Constitution explores other issues of central concern to contemporary women -- areas that, strictly speaking, are not yet considered a part of constitutional law. Women's traditional labor and its unique character, and women and the welfare state, are two examples of topics treated here from the perspective of their potentially transformative role in the future development of constitutional law.

Excerpt

Feminism lacks a theory of the United States Constitution, as well as an account of political legitimacy within the framework of democracy.1 The following collection of essays—we believe among the first of its kind—does not presume to supply such a full-blown theory. What it does purport is to provide some of the groundwork for such a theory (or, better, group of theories) by giving various analyses of what it is that the United States Constitution may be lacking insofar as women were nowhere among its original authors. Indeed, women were rarely among any of its authors or interpreters in the intervening two hundred years. This “lack,” or the lacuna of the representation of women in our constitutional tradition, emerges as twofold: on the one hand, it refers to the specific rights and to the political status of women, which, as the following essays all reveal, are still far from equal in the United States. On the other hand, the reference is to the general character of the U.S. Constitution and to its glorification and protection of activity that all too often emerges as traditionally and characteristically “male.”

Nearly all the essays in this volume, moreover, attempt to locate both the weaknesses and the strengths of our constitutional tradition in light of the possibility of future feminist practice: not only for a better understanding of how women might gain greater political control over their own lives but also of how their growing participation in law and government might effect and even redirect future constitutional practice itself. Finally, the hope is that women in other countries, in different circumstances, and under very different types of regimes, may yet learn from our struggles within the specific legal tradition of a particular country—especially from the struggles within . . .

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