The Gendering of American Politics: Founding Mothers, Founding Fathers, and Political Patriarchy

By Mark E. Kann | Go to book overview
that a woman was obligated by her husband's political decisions." However, the woman's attorneys were able to make the argument that men and women should be seen as independent people, that husbands and wives each could evaluate the Revolution and other public issues for themselves, and that women's ability and responsibility for making public decisions constituted their "civic capacity." 26 That the lawyers could speak of women as persons with a civic capacity signified that at least some Americans displayed a pre-feminist capacity to challenge the idea that politics was strictly a patriarchal endeavor.One might argue that some early American women indirectly dissented against political patriarchy. Subtly, they indicated they were not contented with their subordinate status and they did not consent, explicitly or tacitly, to be governed by men. Their protests against men's tyranny within families, their active public roles during the Revolution, their publications promoting greater sexual equality, and their analyses of post-Revolution political events all suggested that a small but critical mass of America's founding mothers did appreciate female political capacities, sought gradually to weaken the rule of both family patriarchs and patriarchal politicians, and hoped thereby to hasten the day when women's full citizenship was not only thinkable but recognized as justifiable. 27
CONCLUSION
The founders' traditional justifications for patriarchal politics were destabilized during the founding era. Their major justifications for excluding women from politics were undermined by pre-feminist counterarguments that provided a more positive picture of women's private and public potential. The main counterarguments were:
1. Women's domesticity was a basis for women's moral elevation and public participation.
2. Women were able providers and protectors, exhibiting the independence and patriotism essential to citizenship.

-45-

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The Gendering of American Politics: Founding Mothers, Founding Fathers, and Political Patriarchy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction - Founding Fathers and Founding Mothers xi
  • PART ONE Remember the Ladies 1
  • CHAPTER 1 - Women's Exclusion from Politics 22
  • CHAPTER 2 - The Case for Women's Inclusion 45
  • CHAPTER 3 - The Doctrine of Republican Womanhood 64
  • PART TWO - The Ranks of Men 69
  • CHAPTER 4 - Disorderly Men 89
  • CHAPTER 5 - A Small Governing Elite 110
  • CHAPTER 6 - Weak Citizens and Gentleman Legislators 134
  • Conclusion - The Founder's Legacy 137
  • Chapter 7 - America's Gendered Politics 139
  • Notes 165
  • Bibliography 183
  • Index 191
  • About the Author 195
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