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Challenging Patriarchy The Abolition of Slavery and the Emergence of the Women’s Rights Movement.

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Presentation on theme: "Challenging Patriarchy The Abolition of Slavery and the Emergence of the Women’s Rights Movement."— Presentation transcript:

1 Challenging Patriarchy The Abolition of Slavery and the Emergence of the Women’s Rights Movement

2 U.S. Declaration of Independence “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

3 Meanwhile… Perhaps a third of the U.S. labor force was “unfree,” e.g., slaves or indentured servants. Political participation to property owners: about 10% of the population. Women’s lives were defined by the institution of “coverture,” the legal rules that defined relationships between husbands and wives.

4 Race Based Slavery Inherited status requiring labor to a master for life No property rights No political rights No civil rights – freedom of speech, expression, movement, assembly Banned from bearing arms Subject to the master’s discipline

5 Blackstone on Coverture (1765) “By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing; and is therefore called in our law-French a feme-covert, foemina viro co-operta; is said to be covert-baron, or under the protection and influence of her husband, her baron, or lord; and her condition during her marriage is called her coverture….

6 Blackstone on Coverture, cont. …The husband is bound to provide his wife with necessaries by law, as much as himself; and, if she contracts debts for them, he is obliged to pay them; but for anything besides necessaries he is not chargeable…

7 Blackstone, cont. …The husband also, by the old law, might give his wife moderate correction. For, as he is to answer for her misbehaviour, the law thought it reasonable to intrust him with this power of restraining her, by domestic chastisement, in the same moderation that a man is allowed to correct his apprentices or children; for whom the master or parent is also liable in some cases to answer. ….Yet the lower rank of people, who were always fond of the old common law, still claim and exert their ancient privilege: and the courts of law will still permit a husband to restrain a wife of her liberty, in the case of any gross misbehaviour.”

8 U.S. Declaration of Independence “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

9 Implications for Slaves and Women Slavery was incompatible with “liberty.” Coverture was incompatible with “liberty.” And… –“whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

10 Abolishing Slavery during the Revolutionary Era 1787: Constitution banned the slave trade in : Northwest Ordinance banned slavery from Old Northwest, what became OH, IN, IL, MI, WI Northern states began gradual emancipation, between 1777 and 1804: VT, NH, ME, MA, CT, NY, NJ, PA.

11 Challenging Coverture and Calling for Women’s Emancipation Defining the issue: Abigail Adams asked her husband, John Adams, to “Remember the Ladies” (1776) See also, Mary Wollstonecraft, “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” (1792)Mary Wollstonecraft

12 Abigail Adams to John Adams… “….I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation. That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, ….Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your Sex. Regard us then as Beings placed by providence under your protection and in immitation of the Supreem Being make use of that power only for our happiness.

13 John Adams responded: …As to your extraordinary Code of Laws, I cannot but laugh. We have been told that our Struggle has loosened the bands of Government every where. That Children and Apprentices were disobedient--that schools and Colledges were grown turbulent--that Indians slighted their Guardians and Negroes grew insolent to their Masters. But your Letter was the first Intimation that another Tribe more numerous and powerfull than all the rest were grown discontented.--This is rather too coarse a Compliment but you are so saucy, I wont blot it out. Depend upon it, We know better than to repeal our Masculine systems. Altho they are in full Force, you know they are little more than Theory. We dare not exert our Power in its full Latitude. We are obliged to go fair, and softly, and in Practice you know We are the subjects. We have only the Name of Masters, and rather than give up this, which would compleatly subject Us to the Despotism of the Peticoat….

14 Aspects of Women’s Emancipation Property Rights: to own property, work Political Rights: vote, hold office, serve on juries, participate in political activity Reproductive Rights: Birth Control Social & Civil Rights: to travel, speak in public, dress, attend cultural or educational institutions…

15 Declaration of Sentiments, 1848 “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.?

16 Women’s Emancipation Changes in State Laws on the Right to own Property –Married Women’s Property Acts (1850s on); –Married Women’s Earnings Laws (1870s on) Right to Higher Education –Women’s Colleges: “Seven Sisters” equivalent institutions to Ivy League –State University Coeducational Higher Education (1850s - on) Divorce and Custody Laws changed to give women custody of children (late 19th century)

17 Women’s Emancipation, cont. Reproductive rights: –voluntary motherhood (ca. 1880s); –birth control (ca 1920); –planned parenthood (ca 1950s); –reproductive rights (1970s+) Right to Vote: 19th Amendment to Constitution, 1920 Right to Economic Equality in the Workplace? not until the 1960s….

18 Abolishing Slavery during the Revolutionary Era 1787: Constitution banned the slave trade in : Northwest Ordinance banned slavery from Old Northwest, what became OH, IN, IL, MI, WI Northern states began gradual emancipation, between 1777 and 1804: VT, NH, ME, MA, CT, NY, NJ, PA.

19 Abolition stalled… 1820: Southern slave states mounted a new defense of slavery based on racism. Cotton economy gave race based slave labor system new economic life : Political conflict over abolition : Civil War

20 Wartime Amendments to the Constitution and Slavery Abolition 13 th Amendment: abolished slavery 14 th Amendment: guaranteed birthright citizenship; due process of law; equal protection of the law 15 th Amendment: voting could not be denied because of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

21 “Reconstructed South” Economy shifted to “free” labor, sharecropping or tenant farming. Slaveowners remained in possession of their lands Freed slaves took up civil and political rights but by and large remained in agriculture in the South.

22 Limits of the Challenge to Patriarchy In the late 19 th century, a new ideology emerged justifying subordination and deference: “separate spheres” and “separate but equal.” The new ideology was buttressed by –“scientific racism” – whites were the superior race and the races should not “mix” –“biological determinism” – a woman’s primary role is as childbearer and mother.

23 Between 1890s and 1960s for the Freed Population and Women: Limited Equality Separate but Equal (Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896) –segregated jobs, schools, public accommodations –“white” primary –“grandfather” clauses, poll taxes Separate Spheres… –Separate education: e.g., home economics –Protective legislation- banning women from “dangerous” jobs –Separate economic roles which mesh with ‘home responsibilities’

24 Post World War II… A “Second Reconstruction” or Civil Rights Revolution “Second Wave Feminism”


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