Before Equal Suffrage: Women in Partisan Politics from Colonial Times to 1920

Before Equal Suffrage: Women in Partisan Politics from Colonial Times to 1920

Before Equal Suffrage: Women in Partisan Politics from Colonial Times to 1920

Before Equal Suffrage: Women in Partisan Politics from Colonial Times to 1920

Synopsis

Dispelling the myth that women became involved in partisan politics only after they obtained the vote, this study uses contemporary newspaper sources to show that women were active in the party struggle long before 1920. Although their role was initially limited to attending rallies and hosting picnics, they gradually began to use their pens and voices to support party tickets. By the late 19th century, women spoke at party functions and organized all-female groups to canvass neighborhoods and get out the vote. In the early suffrage states of the West, they voted in increasing numbers and even held a few offices. By the time the suffrage amendment was ratified, women were deeply involved in the political process.

Excerpt

Four decades ago, when Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok collaborated on a pathbreaking book about women and partisan politics entitled Ladies of Courage, they began their story in 1920, the year American women finally acquired the vote on a national basis. Their brief description of political activity before that date dealt only with the woman suffrage movement. The implication seemed to be that members of the female sex did not really have any place in the partisan realm until after the suffrage amendment was ratified. In the past fifteen years or so, a number of significant historical works have appeared which demonstrate that women did play a public role even prior to the long suffrage struggle, and over time they managed to exert a good deal of influence on the course of events despite their disenfranchisement. Such works tell of women's activism during the Revolutionary War era, and their efforts in behalf of social causes in the early nineteenth century. They discuss women's contribution to the abolitionist crusade and the post-Civil War temperance movement. They describe women's involvement in progressive reform and socialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Yet rarely do these studies, however important they are in delineating women's activities beyond the household, more than touch on their participation in partisan politics.

Admittedly, a few of these writings and others cited later in this book do focus on certain aspects of women's partisan activity, starting with the second third of the nineteenth century. But the main emphasis in most of these monographs and related interpretive essays has been on the rather . . .

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