Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America / Edition 1

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Overview

With this book, Nancy Isenberg illuminates the origins of the women's rights movement. Rather than herald the singular achievements of the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, she examines the confluence of events and ideas—before and after 1848—that, in her view, marked the real birth of feminism. Drawing on a wide range of sources, she demonstrates that women's rights activists of the antebellum era crafted a coherent feminist critique of church, state, and family. In addition, Isenberg shows, they developed a rich theoretical tradition that influenced not only subsequent strains of feminist thought but also ideas about the nature of citizenship and rights more generally.
By focusing on rights discourse and political theory, Isenberg moves beyond a narrow focus on suffrage. Democracy was in the process of being redefined in antebellum America by controversies over such volatile topics as fugitive slave laws,
temperance, Sabbath laws, capital punishment, prostitution, the Mexican War, married women's property rights, and labor reform—all of which raised significant legal and constitutional questions. These pressing concerns, debated in women's rights
conventions and the popular press, were inseparable from the gendered meaning of nineteenth-century citizenship.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Isenberg has a finely honed sense of the ironies that emerged within the antebellum polity, which she illustrates.

American Quarterly

The substantive chapters of the book contain consistent interest and insight and pockets of brilliant research and analysis.

Law and History Review

[A]dmirably executes its stated mission to recapture the variety and theoretical sophistication of U.S. feminism at its origins.

American Literature

[S]heds entirely new light on this important chapter in women's political history in the United States.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History

[A] pathbreaking book.

Virginia Quarterly Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807847466
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 12/14/1998
  • Series: Gender and American Culture
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy Isenberg is the Mary Frances Barnard Chair in History at the University of Tulsa.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Firstborn Feminism
2. Citizenship Understood (and Misunderstood)
3. Visual Politics
4. Conscience, Custom, and Church Politics
5. The Political Fall of Woman
6. The Bonds of Matrimony
7. The Sovereign Body of the Citizen
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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