The Political Thought Of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) was not only one of the most important leaders of the nineteenth century women's rights movement but was also the movement's principal philosopher. Her ideas both drew from and challenged the conventions that so severely constrained women's choices and excluded them from public life.

In The Political Thought of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sue Davis argues that Cady Stanton's work reflects the rich tapestry of American political culture in the second half of the nineteenth century and that she deserves recognition as a major figure in the history of political ideas. Davis reveals the way that Cady Stanton's work drew from different political traditions ranging from liberalism, republicanism, inegalitarian ascriptivism, and radicalism. Cady Stanton's arguments for women's rights combined approaches that in contemporary feminist theory are perceived to involve conflicting strategies and visions. Nevertheless, her ideas had a major impact on the development of the varieties of feminism in the twentieth century.

Thoroughly researched and engagingly written, The Political Thought of Elizabeth Cady Stanton draws on a wide variety of primary and secondary sources and promises to fill a gap in the literature on the history of political ideas in the United States as well as women's history and feminist theory.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Davis's monograph is a valuable resource not only for scholars across the humanities...but also for those who wish to better understand American political culture and the history of ideas."-Kristan Poirot,Rhetoric & Public Affairs

“A convincing case for Stanton's significance as a central figure in the American political tradition.”
-Women's Review of Books


“Davis does a brilliant job of analyzing (while not excusing) the political tactics—and often, political Machiavelliism—that the early feminist employed during her long, active life.”
-Feminist Review


“In this thoroughly researched, well-written, and engaging study, Davis reveals how Cady Stanton drew upon liberalism, republicanism, ascriptive forms of Americanism, and radicalism in advancing the cause of women's rights. Davis’s historical institutionalist approach to the topic is most suited for demonstrating not only the way in which Cady Stanton, as a political actor, adjusted her arguments because of strategic consideration of the way they were received, but also the normative theoretical commitments that shaped the thinking of Cady Stanton as a political philosopher. The book is a must read for scholars of the history of political thought, feminist theory, and women's studies who wish to understand the full significance of Cady Stanton’s intellectual and political legacy for American political thought. . . . Highly recommended.”


“Scholars of American political thought have often failed to appreciate the significance of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Scholars of Cady Stanton have often not been deeply immersed in broader studies of American political thought. Davis’s outstanding book rectifies both these deficiencies in ways that will have enduring value.”
-Rogers M. Smith,author of Stories of Peoplehood: The Politics and Morals of Political Membership

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814719985
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 0.81 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Sue Davis is Professor of Political Science at the University of Delaware. She is the author of American Political Thought: Four Hundred Years of Ideas and Ideologies, Understanding the Constitution, and Justice Rehnquist and the Constitution.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Multiple Traditions     1
Seneca Falls and Beyond: Attacking the Cult of Domesticity with Equality and Inalienable Rights     39
The 1850s: Married Women's Property Rights, Divorce, and Temperance     70
Gatherings of Unsexed Women: Separate Spheres and Women's Rights     93
The Civil War Years: Breaking Down Boundaries Between Public and Private     113
The Postwar Years: Reconstruction and Positivism     128
The Postwar Years: The New Departure, the Alliance with Labor, and the Critique of Marriage     157
Not the Word of God But the Work of Men: Cady Stanton's Critique of Religion     178
"In the Long Weary March, Each One Walks Alone": Evolution and Anglo-Saxonism at Century's End     196
Multiple Feminisms and Multiple Traditions: Elizabeth Cady Stanton in American Political Thought     219
Notes     227
Bibliography     271
Index     281
About the Author     299

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