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Signatures of Citizenship: Petitioning, Antislavery, and Women's Political Identity / Edition 1

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Overview

In this comprehensive history of women's antislavery petitions addressed to Congress, Susan Zaeske argues that by petitioning, women not only contributed significantly to the movement to abolish slavery but also made important strides toward securing their own rights and transforming their own political identity.

By analyzing the language of women's antislavery petitions, speeches calling women to petition, congressional debates, and public reaction to women's petitions from 1831 to 1865, Zaeske reconstructs and interprets debates over the meaning of female citizenship. At the beginning of their political campaign in 1835 women tended to disavow the political nature of their petitioning, but by the 1840s they routinely asserted women's right to make political demands of their representatives. This rhetorical change, from a tone of humility to one of insistence, reflected an ongoing transformation in the political identity of petition signers, as they came to view themselves not as subjects but as citizens. Having encouraged women's involvement in national politics, women's antislavery petitioning created an appetite for further political participation that spurred countless women after the Civil War and during the first decades of the twentieth century to promote causes such as temperance, anti-lynching laws, and woman suffrage.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[An] incisive examination."
National Women's Studies Association Journal

"Invaluable to scholars of political culture. . . . Elucidates new aspects of women's political consciousness in the nineteenth century."
Historian

[Zaeske's] analysis of the way petitions shaped women's identities as citizens and raised their feminist consciousness is a splendid contribution to historical scholarship. (Gerda Lerner, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

A subtle and original analysis of women's antislavery petitioning to Congress that both historians and rhetoricians should consider essential reading. (Lori D. Ginzberg, author of Women and the Work of Benevolence: Morality, Politics, and Class in the Nineteenth-Century United States)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807854266
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 3/3/2003
  • Series: Gender and American Culture Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Zaeske is associate professor of rhetoric at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: A Touching, Ludicrous, Edifying History 1
Ch. 1 The Unfortunate Word "Petition" 11
Ch. 2 What Can Women Do? 29
Ch. 3 A Departure from Their Place 47
Ch. 4 A Firebrand in Our Hands 73
Ch. 5 It's None of Your Business, Gals 105
Ch. 6 Discreditable to the National Character 126
Ch. 7 To Shut against Them This Door 145
Afterword: We Can No Longer Be Neglected or Forgotten 173
Notes 185
Bibliography 213
Index 245
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