Women as political actors

The late 18th century and early part of the 19th century are important years in American history as there were very few precedents for what the founding fathers were trying to do with first the Articles of Confederation and then the Constitution. Their ideas were influenced by notable Enlightenment authors who embraced ideals of equality under the law and the importance of education – both of which will be only partially extended to women. The idea that men (but not necessarily women) were all equal is an Enlightenment idea and it is only incompletely realized during this time period. This is felt deeply by many educated elite women who pushed men to extend the legal rights afforded to women – particularly rights over property, legal standing and the right to vote (all things the male colonists complained that Britain had trampled on during the Revolution!). Women were celebrated for their public role during the Revolution, but after the new nation was formed they would need to carve out a niche within the new Republic. As part of your reading in the textbook make sure to note how the experience of the Revolution and the early Republic varied among different groups of women (wealthy vs. poor, colonial vs. native, and free vs. slave will all have varied responses). A local figure who isn’t included in your textbook can be found here: Alethia Browning Tanner. Steps to complete the Assignment: Read the sources provided below: Chapter 3 including the Documents: Education and Republican Motherhood on pages 145-151 in your textbook. The attached document provides a counterpoint to Rush and Murray’s arguments supporting education for women, Educating Women in the 19th century – a counterpoint to Rush and Murray.pdf . Use this handout to help you in analyzing primary sources: How to Analyze Primary Sources.pdf . It will explain how historians evaluate and interpret primary documents. Explore the list of women presented in the online exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery: A Will of their Own. Write a 400-600 word essay that responds to the following questions – be sure to use examples to support your answers and demonstrate your understanding of the readings. Although women did not have the right to vote, how were women politically active during the “Revolutionary Period” (from 1763 through the Revolutionary war). Provide examples from the textbook and the exhibit to support your thinking. Why did men support these actions? How did women’s political actions during the Revolutionary period help create the concept of Republican Motherhood? How did this concept impact Rush’s and Murray’s ideas about women’s education? How do you explain the difference between Rush and Murray’s ideas.

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