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1: Empire and Universal Rights 2: Women and Revolutions 3: Documenting Race, Rights, and Family Ties 4: The Politics of Motherhood 5: "Civilizing Missions" and Voting Rights 6: The Struggle for Women's Suffrage in U.S. Colonies 7: Voting and Party Politics in the U.S. Empire 8: Case Study of When the "Empire Strikes Back": The Puerto Rican Diaspora 9: Nationalist Feminisms with Global Visions 10: Social and Economic Citizenship 11: Anti-Militarist Feminisms 12: Body Politics and Sexual Sovereignty 13: Women Who Ran 14: The U.S. Presidency and Gendered Political Culture 15: Global Women in Leadership
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“The genealogy of modern liberalism is thus also a genealogy of modern race; racial differences and distinctions designate the boundaries of the human and endure as remainders attesting to the violence of liberal universality.”
– Lisa Lowe, The Intimacies of Four Continents
The 19th Amendment concerned a group of American women and a particular type of political participation: the vote. The significance of voting and its relationship to citizenship have their own long histories, rooted in the creation of modern states during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Not coincidentally, this period also witnessed the expansion of European and U.S. empires. Two frameworks therefore guide this foundational module: (1) the concept of a “Vast Early America,” which situates the history of the continent in its global connections, especially in terms of the movement of people and goods, and (2) direct comparisons across the Americas and between the Americas and Europe, especially in terms of revolutionary politics. The Age of Revolutions spread competing ideas about rights and their connections to citizenship and personhood, which took hold in the creation of new states in the Americas and their subsequent empires. Anticolonial wars coincided with a global movement for the abolition of slavery on the grounds of universal human rights.
The political and military revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries replaced existing monarchical hierarchies and imperial dominion with new political forms and organizing principles. Women participated actively in these revolutions and subsequently used their participation to claim expanded rights, though many claims were rebuffed by the new states, which typically linked military service to “earning” the rights of citizenship. The new status of “citizen” rather than subject or slave challenged entrenched ideas about who could be independent and who could represent independence. The technologies of citizenship, including the courts and written documents, tended to reinforce forms of domination, though women from a wide range of backgrounds used them successfully to assert rights and family ties. The ballot, too, became a technology of political participation that the new United States specifically confined within racial and gender hierarchies.
Two ideas—about the universality of humanity and the specific power of mothers—emerged as potential sources of political power for women by the 19th century. At the same time, these ideas were steeped in assumptions about racial, class, and gender hierarchies and were used to justify imperial conquest and enslavement of human beings deemed outside the bounds of civilization. The sections in this module underscore the fact that so-called universal rights enshrined racial and gender domination at the founding of the United States. Likewise, while motherhood could be an effective source of political influence within communities, men and women used the idea of motherhood to divide women across racial, religious, political, and colonial lines, with long-lasting consequences.
This module is divided into four sections:
PI: Ellen Hartigan-O'Connor
Research Team: Faith Bennett, Kacey Calahane, Emma Chapman, Samantha de Vera, Charlotte Hansen Terry