American Women’s Rights Before Seneca Falls

  • Rosemarie Zagarri


The failure to extend political rights to women in the aftermath of the American Revolution is often seen as symptomatic of a deep and abiding failure in the American political system.1 Political theorists such as Carole Pateman, Joan Landes, and others regard it as a part of a failure of liberal polities in particular and liberalism in general to incorporate women. Liberal states, they say, are based on a ‘fraternal contract’ that is essentially ‘masculinist’ in character. ‘Structural sexism’ represents an ‘enduring’ or ‘fundamental’ feature that makes liberal governments resistant to change. Indeed, they suggest, full incorporation of women into the polity may be structurally impossible.2


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  1. 5.
    J. A. Klinghoffer and L. Elkis, ‘The Petticoat Electors’: Women’s Suffrage in New Jersey, ([0-9]+)–([0-9]+),’ The Journal of the Early Republic, 12 (Summer 1992), 159–93; E. R. Turner, ‘Women’s Suffrage in New Jersey: ([0-9]+)–([0-9]+),’ Smith College Studies in History, 1 (July 1916), ([0-9]+)–([0-9]+); C. Prince, New Jersey’s Jeffersonian Republicans: The Genesis of an Early Party Machine, ([0-9]+)–([0-9]+) (Chapel Hill, 1964), 134 n.7. It is very difficult to get accurate estimates of how many women actually voted. See The Centinel of Freedom (Newark, NJ) of 18 October 1797, which states, ‘no less than seventy-five women were polled at the late election in a neighboring borough.’ Presumably, more than that voted throughout the entire state.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 23.
    S. Miller, A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1803), II: 284.Google Scholar

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© Rosemarie Zagarri 2005

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  • Rosemarie Zagarri

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