Feminism and suffrage by ellen carol dubois

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feminism and suffrage by ellen carol dubois

Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Womens Movement in America, 1848-1869 by Ellen Carol DuBois

Short version: If you have any interest in the origins of the feminist movement, this is the most concise survey of its early development. Heavy on the insights of Susan B. Anthony and early reform leaders.

Long version:

Upon its publication in 1978, Dubois’s first book proved less apt to solve a historical problem then to fill a historiographical hole in the study of the origins of American feminism. Her task to “uncover the process by which women’s discontent crystallized into the political demand for women’s emancipation” provided a useful chronology of the formation of an independent women’s movement in the late 19th century. More importantly, Dubois’ book entered uncharted territory in challenging the existing historiography of the time by not viewing the early suffragist organizations in terms of “isolated institutional reform” but instead as part of larger, multifaceted, and feminist social movement.
Dubois begins with the antebellum emergence of women’s rights, and how women’s rising discontent with their relegation to a separate and enclosed sphere began to take shape. Dubois’ insight goes further to note the key role of antislavery politics in providing an “organized constituency” and political platform for the growth of both women’s participation in the public sphere and the formulation of their suffragist aims. However, the Reconstruction Era was to fragment this unified agenda embodied in the Equal Rights Association. Dubois provocatively chronicles the postbellum politics and the rise of abolitionists to political power as central to the rift that developed between black and women suffrage. Dubois specifically cites the “wedge” created between those who favored black suffrage as a primary goal, versus a more generalized sense of suffrage including women. The tension ultimately destroyed the union of the ERA, and fragmented the suffragist movement into partisan organizations.
In this fissure erupted the radical encampments of Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Dubois continues to chronicle how post-war feminism under the helm of these key radicalists led to racism and elitism, which undermined their egalitarian platform. The feminist engagement with labor politics, and their criticisms of the 15th amendment further exemplified not only Anthony’s tendency towards racism, but also colored their “middle class approach to working women’s problems”. Yet Dubois thoughtfully concludes that despite these initial handicaps, in breaking from their subservient role in other reform politics of the time, the movement ultimately became independent and capable of the mass organization that characterized later decades.
My sole criticism arises from Dubois’s concentration on primary source documentation, thus localizing the movement to handfuls of key actors. Focusing heavily on the diaries and letters of Anthony, Stanton, and other crucial feminist and reform leaders, her attempt to chronicle the “social movement” of feminism fell short. Key to the viability of these socio-political organizations was large-scale support, yet the reader is left unsure of the impact these organizations had on the larger American socio-political sphere. Dubois provides us with ample insight into both the organizational debacles and early ideological and political shifts that characterized the early feminist movement, without much statistical or even historiographical documentation of its impact on the average woman of the time. However, despite this critique, Dubois lays compelling groundwork for future analysis of the early women’s rights movement, while providing the reader with a concise and chronological account of its early crystallization. In citing the multifaceted demands of radical female reformers of the time despite their inherent flaws, Dubois is successful in characterizing suffragists less as one-issue reformers, and instead as feminists who sought to “advance the interests of women as a sex”.

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Published 09.01.2019

Bic Pens for Women

Celebrating Ellen DuBois, transformative women’s historian

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In recent decades, the woman suffrage movement has taken on new significance for women's history. Ellen Carol DuBois has been a central figure in spurring renewed interest in woman suffrage and in realigning the debates which surround it. This volume gathers DuBois' most influential articles on woman suffrage and includes two new essays. The collection traces the trajectory of the suffrage story against the backdrop of changing attitudes to politics, citizenship and gender, and the resultant tensions over such issues as slavery and abolitionism, sexuality and religion, and class and politics. Connecting the essays is DuBois' belief in the continuing importance of political and reform movements as an object of historical inquiry and a force in shaping gender. The book, which includes a highly original reconceptualization of women's rights from Mary Wollstonecraft to contemporary abortion and gay rights activists and a historiographical overview of suffrage scholarship, provides an excellent overview of the movement, including international as well as U.

Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, In the two decades since Feminism and Suffrage was first published, the increased presence of women in politics and the gender gap in voting patterns have focused renewed attention on an.
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Her doctoral dissertation on the origins of the U. Currently DuBois is working on several new projects, a transnational history of the U. What grievances did women express, what movements did they engage in, what acts did they perform? They assumed a uniracial model that took no notice of women of color. Other historians, like Ruiz, soon challenged that view.

Thank you! The suffrage movement again? DuBois' version of pre-Civil War connections between the early women's rights movement and the anti-slavery campaign is not new. But in the postwar period, she focuses not on internecine struggles as previous histories of woman suffrage have done , but on the movement's relation to other political forces. The failed efforts of the Equal Rights Association to link woman suffrage to black suffrage during the fight for the Fourteenth Amendment are illustrated in DuBois' careful study of the disastrous Kansas Campaign of

I t is difficult to imagine a richer subject for a comparative history of democracy than the enfranchisement of women. Indeed, extending over more than a century and including most nations of the globe, the cause of woman suffrage has been one of the great democratic forces in human history. Whereas manhood suffrage, for instance, or the breaking of the political colour bar, have occurred more erratically, with limited links between national experiences, woman suffrage has been a self-consciously transnational popular political movement. As such, it resembles nothing so much as international socialism. This is especially true in the Third World, where enfranchisement, measured by numbers of countries in which women vote, has actually been accelerating since the s. One factor that has discouraged scholarship, especially from a left perspective, is the assumption that the enfranchisement of women has been, on balance, a conservative development. This notion, which predates not only the actual enfranchisement of women but even the heyday of the woman-suffrage movement itself, footnote 1 has left, right, and even feminist versions.

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