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


  • Michaela Bank




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.

Author Biography

Michaela Bank

Michaela Bank studied American Studies, Modern German Literature and Business Administration at the J.W. Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main. She completed her studies with her MA-thesis on the History of Black Mountain College, 1933-1957 in January 2005. Since October 2005 Michaela Bank has been a member of the interdisciplinary DFG-Graduiertenkolleg Öffentlichkeiten und Geschlechterverhältnisse. Dimensionen von Erfahrung at the Universities of Frankfurt am Main and Kassel. The working title of her dissertation project is "Universal sisterhood"? Migrant Women in the American Woman’s Rights Movement. It looks at the roles of European women in the American Woman’s Rights Movement in the nineteenth century and is primarily interested in these women’s experiences with nativism and racism in the movement.


How to Cite

Bank, Michaela. “‘…the White Women All Go for sex’: Discourses of Gender, Race, Ethnicity in the American Woman’s Rights Movement, 1869”. Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies, vol. 8, Mar. 2012, doi:10.5283/copas.94.