Reform Politics and Partisan Activity
As noted in the previous chapter, many more women participated in partisan politics in the post-Civil War period, but they were still acting mainly on the periphery. While Rebecca Felton may have managed her husband's congressional campaigns and worked in Washington, D.C., as his administrative assistant, no woman exercised political authority to any significant extent. A few served as campaign speakers or wrote articles, a few ran for office, and a considerable number did canvassing or received low-level appointive posts. But these as well as the vast majority who simply attended party meetings or marched in parades were essentially supporting players. Ultimately, some women did play a more central role, having entered politics in a different way: joining reform groups and then affiliating with minor parties. Operating within an alternative framework, they were frequently able to exert a greater degree of influence than those associated with the major parties. The effectiveness of these individuals as campaigners soon caused the traditional party leadership to begin employing women on an expanded basis in their organizations as well.
Perhaps those most responsible for initiating this change were the women of the temperance movement. Temperance had long been an issue of deep concern to women, who were often the victims of abusive alcoholics in their families or in society at large. Although antiliquor