Read Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869 by Ellen Carol DuBois Free Online
Book Title: Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869|
The author of the book: Ellen Carol DuBois
ISBN 13: 9780801486418
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 16.69 MB
City - Country: No data
Edition: Cornell University Press
Date of issue: July 15th 1999
Loaded: 1117 times
Reader ratings: 6.7
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Short version: If you have any interest in the origins of the feminist movement, this is the most concise survey of it's early development. Heavy on the insights of Susan B. Anthony and early reform leaders.
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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