America's Gendered Politics
The American founders' gendered politics was challenged and changed in the next two hundred years. American women acquired parental primacy, gained access to higher education, won property rights, secured suffrage, and moved into the military, jury boxes, and elective and appointed political offices. Formerly excluded males such as poor whites, African Americans, and Irish Catholics achieved political recognition, citizenship, and public office. Meanwhile, democratic activists forged populist movements intended to enhance citizen decision making and erode elite authority. The American founders' legacy of patriarchal politics was continuously contested.
But it was not eliminated. Virtually every historical struggle against patriarchal politics was opposed by large numbers of Americans who feared that change would generate great public disorder. For example, antifeminists regularly argued that women's political rights would destroy families and produce public chaos. Skeptics of political inclusiveness often asserted that poor men and minority men were too impassioned and irrational to be trusted with citizenship. Local and national elites also criticized democratic activism as an invitation to mob rule. Long after the founding, American men's rule over women and