Browse our archive of original historical documents on the themes of this book:

- Founding Principles

- Slavery

- Property Rights

- Women and the Right to Vote

- Women and the Family

- Was the Founding Undemocratic? The Property Requirement for Voting

- Poverty and Welfare

- Immigration and the Moral Conditions of Citizenship

- Afterword: Liberals and Conservatives Abandon the Principles of the Founding


Home > Document Library > Women and the Right to Vote > Today's View of the Founders on Women

Today's View of the Founders on Women

Wilson, Kerber, Current, Mason, Cummings, Burns, Stampp

[Seven contemporary writers denounce the Founders' view of women. — TGW]


[T]he American Revolution produced no significant benefits for American women. This same generalization can be made for other powerless groups in the colonies—native Americans, blacks, probably most propertyless white males, and indentured servants.

—Joan Hoff Wilson, "The Illusion of Change," in The American Revolution: Explorations in the History of American Radicalism, ed. Alfred F. Young (Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1976), 387 (a leading scholar of women in American history).

When in 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton came to write the Declaration of Sentiments for the New York Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, she shaped it as a direct echo in form and substance of the Declaration of Independence…. There had been a blind spot in the Revolutionary vision. The promises of the Revolution had not been explored for what they might mean to women. The obvious way to make this point was to write a parallel declaration; to ask what the Declaration of Independence might have been like had women’s private and public demands been included.

—Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), xii (a leading scholar of women in the founding).

In colonial society…a married woman had had virtually no rights at all…. The Revolution did little to change [this].

—Richard N. Current et al., American History: A Survey, 7th ed. (New York: Knopf, 1987), 142 (a college textbook).

When Jefferson spoke [in the Declaration of Independence] of "the people," however, he meant only free white men.

—Lorna C. Mason et al., History of the United States, vol. 1: Beginnings to 1877 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992), 188 (an eighth-grade textbook).

And today, two centuries later,…women in America are still struggling for the full freedom and equality denied them by the framers.

—Milton C. Cummings and David Wise, Democracy Under Pressure: An Introduction to the American Political System, 7th ed. (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1993), 45 (a college political science text).

The Declaration…refers to "men" or "him," not to women.

—James MacGregor Burns et al., Government by the People, 15th ed. (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1993), 117 (a college political science textbook).

[Early American men] would not accept them as equals.

—John M. Blum et al., The National Experience: A History of the United States, 8th ed. (Ft. Worth: Harcourt, 1993), 266 (a high-school textbook).


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