"…the white women all go for sex": Discourses of Gender, Race, Ethnicity in the American Woman’s Rights Movement, 1869

Michaela Bank

Abstract


As an emancipating movement for women, the American Woman’s Rights Movement can be considered as a "counter public sphere" which transgressed dominant orders of gender. In their alliance at the outset of Reconstruction, women's rights activists not only sought gender equality, but under the label of "universal suffrage" connected it to the ideal of racial equality. The discussion about the introduction of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1869 is understood as a political intersection for the movement since the movement, which initially promoted "universal suffrage," then disbanded on grounds of racism, sexism and nativism which appeared in different antagonistic arguments that were brought forth to either promote the amendment or to oppose it. This paper analyzes the discourses of gender, race, ethnicity in the internal discussions of the Woman’s Rights Movement and seeks to answer whether or not it transgressed prevailing notions of racism, nativism and sexism in order to achieve emancipating potential for women.

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