24 October 2014
Group B: Question 2
Before the American Revolution, men monopolized the political and government realms while women were denied this right. Furthermore, in the existing social hierarchy women were viewed as subordinate to men and not considered independent legal individuals. As women grew tired of their inferior legal status and inequality to men, some began to express interest in politics. However, they were unable to have any substantial influence, as they were unable to hold office, denied the right to vote, and encouraged to not involve themselves in politics. If they wanted to participate in politics they had to do so indirectly by attending balls, salons, and court ceremonies in hopes influencing any present political figures. However, the American Revolution represents a turning point, as it opened the first doors allowing women to enter the political realm. Throughout the duration of the Revolution and during the War of 1812, women’s political involvement further increased, and their participation was both encouraged and praised. However, in the early 19th century they were not only urged to withdraw from the political realm, but to also “relinquish their political identities” altogether. In the years leading to the American Revolution, Whig leaders knew that to successfully resist Great Britain that they would need to mobilize widespread support from the public. To gain as much support as possible, women could not be excluded. Although subordinate, women were still acknowledged as independent and logical thinkers that would need to be convinced to join the resistance. To achieve this objective, leaders used print media as a tool to urge women to join the cause. Through newspapers women were asked to boycott imported luxury goods, which many agreed to, and some even signed formal agreements to show their commitment. For the first time, women were being invited participate into the political realm. They now had the ability to impact the war by taking action in support of the revolutionary cause, and many took advantage of this opportunity to become increasingly more politically active. One way women did this was by writing articles, often under pseudonyms, to express their political views. For example, Mercy Otis Warren wrote political poems and satirical plays that attacked the British tyranny and rallied support for the revolutionary cause. The Revolution invited women to participate in politics, and were continued to do so even after the war ended. Upon victory in the American Revolution, there was broad public support of women’s contributions to the cause, which were essential in securing American independence over Great Britain. The war fostered a newborn unity throughout the nation, for the victory would have been impossible without the aid of both genders. Women were praised, and became a symbol of “what was best about the American people at war: their selflessness, courage, and willingness to sacrifice for the public good”1. It was the American Revolution that allowed women to take their first steps toward political involvement, and the victory that further reinforced and encouraged their roles as political actors. As women’s political influence solidified, it became questionable as to why they were still not given equal rights. Since the Revolution was fought in the name of America’s commitment to equality and preservation of natural rights, the fact that women were excluded from the government contradicted American ideals and values. In 1792 Mary Wollstonecraft directly addressed this issue in “A Vindication of the Rights of Women,” arguing that natural rights are universal and given by God to all humans regardless of gender. Therefore, women are “rights bearers” and have the moral authority to demand the state protect these rights. Wollstonecraft’s political involvement through print media forced this previously ignored issue to the surface, forcing the public to decide...
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