Emerging Women Politicians Essay
Emerging Women Politicians
The main political documents of the period confirm this point. The Declaration of Independence (1776) espoused no theory of women’s rights, saying merely that all men are created equal, without defining exactly what this meant. The new state constitutions, ratified a short time later, generally excluded women from exercising any political power, frequently in a more specific manner than before. There was one exception: the state of New Jersey.
Either by design or by chance, the framers of its constitution wrote that “all inhabitants of this Colony, of full age, who are worth fifty pounds,” 5 and have been residents for 12 months, “shall be entitled to vote,” 5 and this was construed to include unmarried women otherwise qualified. Even though not too several of those eligible took advantage of the opportunity at first, a number of single or widowed New Jersey women ultimately went to the polls and cast ballots. However this turn of events did not cause similar happenings elsewhere.
Most other states, start with New York in 1777, had made sure that women could not vote by using the word “male” to explain potential electors. In fact, in no case did the rights of women become a public issue; their exclusion was just taken for granted. The reasons for excluding women from the political process were not generally spelled out in print. However, the statement of Theophilus Parsons of Massachusetts in an extensively read tract recognized as the Essex Result (1778) most likely well expressed the prevailing male view.
Whereas Parsons affirmed that women must not vote for the reason that they were unworldly, Thomas Jefferson, in a letter discussing the question of representation, later argued that women must be barred from all political activity so as to prevent them from becoming worldly. This would protect their morals, which, he said, would become endangered if they mixed promiscuously in the public meetings of men. In these comments and others like them, patriotic contributions to the war endeavour were ignored and long-standing ideas regarding women’s morals and supposed “domestic” nature were considered dominant.
(Letters of delegates to Congress, 1774-1789) Even though the above statements most likely embodied the point of view of most men, it is obvious that not all women readily consented to being barred from political life. Hannah Lee Corbin, sister of the famous Virginian Richard Henry Lee, for one, objected to this conduct. In a strongly worded letter to her brother in 1777, she urged him to support suffrage rights as a minimum for property-holding widows.
She asserted that since such women paid taxes it was unjust to impose a system of taxation without representation upon them. In the meantime, there is evidence to illustrate that quite a few women had a high level of political awareness, in spite of their restricted “intercourse with the world. ” (Letters of delegates to Congress, 1774-1789) Among northern women, two of the most well versed in politics were Sarah (Sally) Livingston Jay and Catherine (Kitty) Livingston, daughters of New Jersey governor William Livingston and both married to politically active men.
Sally Jay, the wife of diplomat John Jay of New York, escorted her husband during the war on his imperative foreign mission to Spain. Her letters back home were time after time filled with political subjects, while sometimes she felt the need to apologize for having “transgress’d the line that I proposed to observe in my correspondence by dipping into politicks, but my country and my friends possess so entirely my thoughts that you must not wonder if my pen runs beyond the dictates of prudence.
” 6 Kitty Livingston’s letters were even more greatly political than those of her sister. All through the 1780s, she corresponded with major congressional figures like Gouverneur Morris and her brother-in-law John Jay, presenting comments on national affairs, particularly concerning the actions of Congress. On one occasion, Kitty’s brother, Henry Brockholst Livingston, remarked to her: “I know your bent for Politics, and how little you value a Letter in which a few pages are not taken up with news. ”