Suffragists in an Imperial Age: U.S. Expansion and the Woman Question, 1870-1929

Suffragists in an Imperial Age: U.S. Expansion and the Woman Question, 1870-1929

Suffragists in an Imperial Age: U.S. Expansion and the Woman Question, 1870-1929

Suffragists in an Imperial Age: U.S. Expansion and the Woman Question, 1870-1929

Synopsis

In 1899, Carrie Chapman Catt, who succeeded Susan B. Anthony as head of the National American Women Suffrage Association, argued that it was the "duty" of U.S. women to help lift the inhabitants of its new island possessions up from "barbarism" to "civilization," a project that would presumably demonstrate the capacity of U.S. women for full citizenship and political rights. Catt, like many suffragists in her day, was well-versed in the language of empire, and infused the cause of suffrage with imperialist zeal in public debate.

Unlike their predecessors, who were working for votes for women within the context of slavery and abolition, the next generation of suffragists argued their case against the backdrop of the U.S. expansionism into Indian and Mormon territory at home as well as overseas in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii. In this book, Allison L. Sneider carefully examines these simultaneous political movements--woman suffrage and American imperialism--as inextricably intertwined phenomena, instructively complicating the histories of both.

Excerpt

“We were expansionists in those early days,” Henry Brown Blackwell recalled in May 1899, in remarks he wrote for the eightieth birthday celebration of Julia Ward Howe, the Boston suffragist, socialite, and renowned author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Blackwell, co-editor of the Boston suffrage newspaper Woman’s Journal, had been Howe’s collaborator in the struggle for woman suffrage for almost thirty years. His comment referred back to the early 1870s, when he and Howe’s husband, the reformer Samuel Gridley Howe, were both investors in the New York–based Samana Bay Company, which leased the Samana peninsula from the Caribbean republic of Santo Domingo from 1872 to 1874. At the time, Blackwell had hoped that the United States would forge a more permanent political relationship with Santo Domingo, and he and Howe, as Blackwell described it, “stood with President Grant for tropical annexation, with the consent of the inhabitants.” Blackwell’s recollection of his Santo Domingo days was surely provoked by contemporary politics and perhaps intended to underscore the ideological distance he had traveled over the last three decades. In 1899, Blackwell was a vocal critic of the ongoing Philippine-American War and an opponent of U.S. efforts to establish sovereignty over the former Spanish colony by putting down the Filipino resistance movement. Like many suffragists that spring, Blackwell was beginning to think that self-government for women and self-government for the Philippines might be two sides of the same coin.

In 1899 Blackwell may have felt that his location in the antiwar and anti-imperial camp required him to explain away his earlier, expansionist ambitions, but his comments reflected a certain nostalgia for the time he . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.