Images: The engraving on the left depicts the so-called “petticoat electors,” women permitted to vote in the New Jersey electorate from 1776 to 1807. The painting on the right depicts a Missouri election in the 1850s. As the historian Rosemarie Zagarri writes, the contrast between these images captures a backlash against gender in early America. Although the political process was much more inclusive in the revolutionary era, only white men were empowered by the 1850s.

Introduction: Please excuse me. This historiographical essay begins in an unorthodox way: with a personal story. This past fall, I was serving as a teacher’s assistant for the very first time at UC Davis. I was assigned to Professor John Smolenski’s course, “HIST 17A: History of the United States to 1877.” On Wednesday morning, November 2, Smolenski gave the class a particularly memorable lecture. It was about the age of former president Andrew Jackson, and the theme was “An Age of Removals.” Of course, Smolenski talked about the Trail of Tears, and the removal of the five major Southeast Indian tribes west across the Mississippi River in the 1830s. Then he talked about the ongoing work of the American Colonization Society—their continuing effort to remove free black people from the country in the same era. Last, but not least, he talked about the so-called “petticoat electors.” Now this was a subject that I had come across before, but only in passing, as I skimmed textbooks in preparation for teaching at Solano Community College. Nonetheless, I am ashamed to admit that, as a twenty-eight-year-old PhD student in History, I had never appreciated the subject until Smolenki’s lecture. As most historians of early America know, the “petticoat electors” refers to a group of property-holding women in New Jersey. These women took advantage of a new state constitution from 1776 that did not specifically prohibit women from voting. They voted in local elections from the 1790s to 1807, when new state laws removed them from the electorate.[1]

What is the purpose of discussing the “petticoat electors?” The forced removal of property-holding women from the New Jersey electorate is only one example of what historians often refer to as the “limits” or the “paradox” of the American Revolution and the subsequent establishment of the United States of America as a new nation-state. In the above example of Smolenski’s lecture, the case of these female electors serves to round out a three-dimensional introduction to such limits. The example of the Trail of Tears introduces the limits in relation to Native American peoples; the example of the American Colonization Society introduces them in relation to African-Americans; and, last, the case of the “petticoat electors” introduces them in relation to propertied women. On the one hand, the story of these women has become a standard line in history textbooks, because perhaps no other incident in early American history can so clearly demonstrate the blatant failure of revolutionary ideals—like calls for “liberty” and freedom from British “tyranny, oppression, and slavery”—to translate into increased freedoms for women. On the other hand, the example of the “petticoat electors” is also an introduction to a much larger argument about the history of gender and the founding of the United States. This argument is called the “backlash thesis.”[2]

What is the “backlash thesis?” Well, if you searched the phrase in an online journal database like JSTOR, America: History and Life, or Academic Search Complete, you would probably come away thinking that it was about Southern, white racial conservatism in reaction to the desegregation decision in the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. Indeed, the phrase “backlash thesis” is most commonly used in academia to refer to the postwar period of the twentieth century, especially to how the modern conservative movement arose as a direct response to gains that were made in areas such as racial equality, women’s reproductive rights, and LGBTQ rights. Much of this work derives from a foundational article by the Civil Rights and legal historian Michael J. Klarman. However, the phrase “backlash thesis” is also employed in the field of early American history. Here it refers to a national conservatism in reaction to gains in women’s and gender rights that accompanied the American revolution and the founding of the country. Perhaps its most vocal advocate—its Michael J. Klarman—is the historian Rosemarie Zagarri, in her 2007 monograph Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic.[3]

Summarizing Rosemarie Zagarri’s “Backlash Thesis:”

Zagarri’s “backlash thesis” has two parts. First, she argues that the long American revolutionary era, from roughly the late 1760s through the War of 1812, inaugurated “a comprehensive transformation in women’s rights, roles, and responsibilities.” During this era, Enlightenment ideals of the Lockean tradition—those that had advocated for “natural rights”—gave new strength to a pre-existing discourse on “women’s rights,” which had argued that the “The mind has no sex.” While this discourse stretched back to the seventeenth century, with works by François Poulain de la Barre and Mary Astell, it had reached new heights during the revolutionary and post-revolutionary eras, when groups like the “petticoat electors” began to vote, colleges began hold discussions on the idea of women’s complete civil equality, and influential works inspired by Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women circulated in print. Moreover, this discourse coincided with the increased politicization of women brought on by a combination of factors, including mobilization for the war, expansion of print culture, and the emergence of competing political parties. Fiercely partisan women like the Republican Mercy Otis Warren and the Federalist Judith Sargent Murray, who were known in contemporary terms as “female politicians,” embodied this intersection between “women’s rights” discourse and the expanded political participation of women.[4]

For the second part of the “backlash thesis,” Zagarri explains how this idea of gender equality was foreclosed. As the bitter rivalries of the country’s political parties wore on, through events like the Embargo of 1807-08 and the Panic of 1819, the idea of gender equality became an increasingly politicized and divisive issue. Republicans continued their partisan opposition to female participation as their party gained strength, and new writers like Donald Fraser encouraged women to relocate to the home to offset this ugly factionalism. Meanwhile, a few broader ideological shifts were gaining momentum. The first moved away from Lockean Enlightenment ideals to those of the Scottish Enlightenment. This movement advocated the expression of rights through duty, authority, and social hierarchy. The second was a rising belief in “biological essentialism” as a means of justifying the uneven allocation of rights. This idea that the feminine was naturally inferior and should, therefore, be excluded from civic rights existed in the country since its founding, when it was invoked by such leaders as John Adams. However, the concept rose to prominence in the early nineteenth century. Taken together, these changes ushered in a new gendered arrangement called “separate spheres ideology.” This restricted femininity—a category that included women and non-whites—to the private, non-political sphere of the home while reserving the public sphere for white males. This erasure of women’s revolutionary-era rights was completed by 1830, when Alexis de Tocqueville observed that women were “confined within the narrow circle of domestic life.”[5]

Essentially, the “backlash thesis” is about recovering a conservative turn the new republic took in the early nineteenth century in relation to gender and women’s rights. In this way, Zagarri’s narrative suggests a parallel to interpretations of black Civil Rights and the Reconstruction era of American history. The abandonment of the federal Reconstruction program at the infamous compromise of 1877 is similar to the forced removal of women from the New Jersey electorate. Both narratives argue against a traditionally Progressive interpretation of history as always advancing toward equal rights. Put slightly differently, both narratives are based in the core assumption that there are identifiable historical moments when human rights have actually been reversed, and that historians can pinpoint those moments. In this respect, Zagarri’s “backlash thesis” differs markedly from progressive narratives of women’s and gender history, such as Mary Beth Norton’s Liberty’s Daughters. It is redolent of Susan Faludi’s work Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women. Although Faludi did not go all the way back to the revolutionary era, she was also writing about conservative reactions to gains in women’s and gender rights throughout American history.[6]

The presumption that human rights can regress helps to explain one more part of the “backlash thesis.” This is the fact that it is often hard for historians to discuss the thesis without indirectly commenting on another old-fashioned, and yet still relevant, debate. This debate used to called the “golden age thesis.” It stated that conceptions of gender and, as a corollary women’s and feminine rights, were not only more fluid in the revolutionary era but in the colonial one as well. In this old line of argument, the American colonial era was sometimes over-simplified to be a “Golden Age” for gender relations, hence the reductive name given to the thesis. Regardless, whether in relation to the colonial or only the revolutionary era, both the “backlash” and the “golden age thesis” make a core claim about the conservative nature of the American nation-state by the md-nineteenth century. For instance, Susan Juster has argued that “[F]rom the beginning, democratic states have been ‘masculinist’ in character, depending for their existence on the political exclusion or social marginalization of women.” To this claim, Zagarri would likely respond that “exclusion or social marginalization” did occur but were in no way inherent to the creation of a democratic republic. Rather, gendered exclusion emerged belatedly, alongside the nation’s pursuit of universal white male suffrage in the Jacksonian era. In simplifying the parameters of the “Golden Age” debate, Kathleen Brown once wrote the “debate pitted scholars who believed women’s lives had deteriorated after 1800 against those who thought women’s lives had been equally dismal before 1800.”[7]

To organize the rest of this historiographical essay, I would like to discuss Zagarri’s “backlash thesis” in relation to three different subjects. These subjects are 1) a revision of the American revolutionary era as an moment of triumph for democracy and equal rights; 2) a revisiting of the relationship between the “golden age” thesis and women’s and gender history; and 3) a redefinition of the analytical categories of politics and gender. At the end, I will present a brief critique of the “backlash thesis” and close with a suggestion about what I think is its most important contribution.

Revising the American Revolutionary Era:

In 1959, the historian Robert Roswell Palmer was awarded the prestigious Bancroft prize for the initial installment of a two-volume study The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760-1800. Palmer argued in this work that the American Revolution was the first salvo in an ongoing battle for establishing and then extending liberal democracy throughout the foundation of “Western civilization.” Palmer linked together the American Revolution and the French Revolution, and he argued the events were upheavals resulting in a triumph of liberal democracy. Indeed, if historians had to pick one triumphal text on the American Revolution, Palmer’s would fit the bill. “It is a main thesis of this book,” he wrote, “that the American Revolution was a great event for the whole Eur-American World.” It was “the earliest successful assertion of the principle that public power must arise from those over whom it is exercised.” And yet, Palmer’s high praise, applause, and optimism for the American nation-state’s most formative event has not withstood the test of time. In a new synthesis, American Revolutions by the historian Alan Taylor, the American Revolution is depicted as a period of tremendous suffering, inequality, and violence. In stark contrast to Palmer, Taylor concludes that “Republican visions of democracy and equality” were only sustained by notions of white supremacy, of native dispossession, and of enslavement. In short,  “Colonial America was a poor place to look for democracy.”[8]

Taylor is not alone in arguing against triumphal interpretations of the American Revolution and the formation of the American nation-state. In fact, his interpretation has become more common over the past several decades. While historians like Bernard Bailyn, Gordon Wood, and Michael Zukerman have advanced Palmer’s idea that the American nation-state—whether during the revolutionary era or in its colonial antecedent—was about the radical notion of spreading democracy and undermining traditional notions of aristocracy, many other historians have moved in Taylor’s direction. Jane Merritt has argued, for example, that the Revolutionary War hurt native peoples “dearly,” quoting a delegation of Shawnees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokee, and Iroquois who claimed that the revolutionary era struck “the greatest blow that could ever have been dealt us, unless it had been our total destruction.” Likewise, Catherine Cox has argued that “democratic arrangements did not survive the establishment of the Continental Army,” which became an institution of strict hierarchy, conservatism, and harsh discipline. As a final example, Christopher Tomlins has argued against the narrative that the revolutionary era advanced the abolitionist cause and led to more freedoms for black Americans. To Tomlins, gradual abolition acts in the northern and so-called “free” states were little more than hollow acts of “smug grandiloquence.”[9]

Tomlins was writing about the history of American slavery and law in his work Freedom Bound. However, he seemed to epitomize the thesis of a broad revisionist generation of scholars when he wrote, “Those who celebrate the American Revolution and its aftermath as the beginning of American slavery’s end do history no favors.” Indeed, whether looking at the revolutionary era from the lens of military history, Native American history, African-American history, or any other conceptual framework, scholars have found it increasingly difficult to uphold Palmer’s triumphalist interpretation of the revolutionary era. Writers explore the various protections for slavery written into the US Constitution; describe the political disenfranchisement of French and Spanish subjects absorbed into the nation state; chronicle the manifold repression of loyalist and pacifist persons; and note the enduring poverty of rural peoples across America in the decades following the war. Taken together, these scholars have constructed a backlash against the Cold War praise of the revolutionary era. Yet, while this kind of backlash is similar to the argument that is articulated by scholars of women’s and gender history, it is also slightly different in a fundamental way.[10]

Unlike these previous works, Zagarri’s Revolutionary Backlash is not just a new takedown of the American Revolution as a defining moment of victory in a longue durée history of democracy and liberty. Rather, the “backlash thesis” is about the ambiguous or ambivalent inheritance of the revolutionary era—what Zagarri has describes as the “bifurcated legacy” of the liberal tradition. In comparing Zagarri’s work to those mentioned above, we should recall her saying that “the legacy of the Revolution was redefined and circumscribed so as to limit its full benefits to white males.” To Zagarri, this limitation was neither the original intent nor effect of the revolution. Her work recalls a tradition of studies that have accepted the radical nature of the revolutionary project without denying its co-optation by conservative interests in the new republic. Among these works is Alfred Young’s The Shoemaker and the Tea Party. This book showed how an old Boston veteran became a celebrity, and his memory was used to advance a conservative interpretation of the war.[11]

Revisiting the “Golden Age” Thesis:

The revolutionary era has long been looked upon as ambivalent in the context of the history of women’s rights and gender relations. In Disorderly Women: Sexual Politics and Evangelicalism in Revolutionary New England, Juster characterizes a foundational text by Norton—entitled Liberty’s Daughter’s—as a triumphal interpretation of the American Revolution. She situates it as a Palmer-like work on the subject of women’s rights and the revolutionary period. She writes in a footnote: Norton “presents the American Revolution as a decisive victory for women, a defining moment in the search for ultimate political and legal equality.” However, while it might be accurate that Norton set the standard for optimistic portrayals of women’s history and the American Revolution, her work was actually much more ambiguous than this mention suggests.[12]

In the concluding section of her book, entitled “The Changing Patterns of Women’s Lives,” Norton touched upon the equivocal legacy of the American Revolution. Like the rest of her work, she interacted directly with the “golden age thesis”—interpreting the gains of the period in reference to the relatively restrictive options that she believed women had in the colonial era. She concludes, “an educated woman in 1800 had only a modicum more control over her destiny than her uneducated grandmother had had in 1750.” The operative phrase here is “only a modicum.” While Norton argued the egalitarian rhetoric of “the war necessarily broke down the barrier which seemed to insulate women from the realm of politics,” it also reformulated basic concepts of gender, subscribing all people labeled feminine—including women—to the domestic sphere. “The ironies of this formulation,” wrote Norton, were “manifest” in the notion that women were expected to fulfill a domestic and maternal role in the new republic, and that people believed women “sacrificed their femininity if they attempted to be more (or other) than wives and mothers.” In short, though Norton characterized the revolutionary era as one in which women’s opportunities were expanded because notions of domesticity were finally praised and no longer “denigrated,” she still could not escape a sense that “the legacy of the American Revolution for women was thus ambiguous.”[13]

Norton’s Liberty’s Daughters serves to remind us of two salient facts. The first is that even the most laudatory portrayals of gender, women’s rights, and the revolutionary period were at least partly restrained in their applause for the era. Another example of this fact is the foundational work of Linda Kerber. Like Norton’s Liberty’s Daughters, Kerber’s classic study Women of the Republic can be considered as a relatively triumphal piece. This text broke down some narrow definitions of political action as being restricted to either voting or office holding. Instead, Kerber emphasized the myriad ways that women took part in the revolutionary war effort via an “ambivalent ideology” of “Republican Motherhood”—an ideology that assumed women’s expanded participation in society should be based on a restriction to the feminized roles of mothers, wives, and daughters. For Kerber, the American Revolution “was a watershed” in the struggle for women’s rights because it liberalized many restrictions—such as local divorce laws—while encouraging women to start participating in new movements for moral reform, for religious involvement, and for a fight for female education. Nonetheless, even Kerber pulled back on giving a full-throated praise of the revolutionary era. In opening her book, she bluntly acknowledged that the American Revolution seems “less radical and more conservative when measured against the conscious refusal of constitution makers to recognize women’s presence in the Republic and to change women’s status.”[14]

The second fact that we can take away from works like Norton’s Liberty’s Daughters concerns the relationship between the colonial and the revolutionary era. Even as early as the late 70s, when authors like Norton and Joan Hoff Wilson—who wrote that “the American Revolution produced no significant benefits for American women”—debated the relationship between the revolution and women’s rights, comparisons to the colonial era were central. Putting the fields of gender and women’s history aside, the legacy of the revolution can rarely escape this direct comparison to the colonial era. Even recent works like Barbara Clark Smith’s The Freedoms We Lost frame the conservative turn of the American nation-state in reference to an articulation of more communitarian values among subjects under colonial rule. Interestingly, many authors who judge the conservative turn of the post-revolutionary or the new republic era against the colonial era are careful to distance themselves from any direct association with the “golden age thesis.” For instance, both Smith and Juster explicitly state in the introductions to their work that they do not endorse the idea the colonial period was a “Golden Age” for social and/or gender rights. Nonetheless, these writers articulate their claims about the conservative nature of the early republic through a detailed investigation of how those same rights were more expansive in the colonial period.[15]

Norton’s Liberty’s Daughters also articulated the revolutionary era in reference to its colonial predecessor; however, since Norton interpreted the revolutionary and post-revolutionary periods as having an overall positive effect on women’s rights and gender relations, the colonial era was cast as a comparatively dark and backward time. “Far from having a high status and an excellent opinion of themselves and their abilities,” Norton wrote, “most of the white women who lived in prerevolutionary America turned out to display low self-esteem, to have very limited conceptions of themselves and their roles, and to habitually denigrate their sex in general.” After examining roughly 360 unpublished collections of family papers, Norton concluded that the Revolution inspired white women to involve themselves in realms that had been unthinkable during the colonial age. Women practiced contraception, left unhappy marriages, and pursued educations. Moreover, literacy, birth rates, and child-rearing literature had all improved since the colonial era. The result was that women had a greater “reverence for self” and were no longer viewed as having “no independent function” outside of motherhood. In these ways and more, Norton argued the first half of the “backlash thesis”—the initial positive effects of the revolution—without the defining second half: the backlash itself. She did this through a sustained comparison with the colonial era.[16]

In Revolutionary Backlash, Zagarri does not embrace the comparative model of the “golden age” thesis to the degree of many other authors. However, neither does she swing the pendulum in the complete opposite direction. In mentioning Enlightenment precursors to the revolutionary discussion of “women’s rights,” influential authors like John Locke, Mary Astell, and Richard Burton, her work seems most aligned with a study like Linda L. Sturtz’ Within Her Power: Propertied Women in Colonial Virginia. Sturtz claimed in this book that women’s economic activity had declined slightly over the course of the eighteenth century; however, the colonial era was still crucial because it “provides a context for women’s activism” of the later revolutionary period. For Zagarri, the colonial era serves a similar purpose. It is a staging ground for later changes—a place of early “political stirrings” that foreshadows much greater revolutionary and post-revolutionary transformations. If anything, critics might accuse Zagarri of moving the so-called “Golden Age” of gender up from the colonial period to the long revolutionary era. As she writes, “For a few brief decades, a comprehensive transformation…seemed not only possible but perhaps inevitable.”[17]

Redefining the Categories of Politics and Gender:

Women voters play an important part of Revolutionary Backlash. As Zagarri explains, the fact that New Jersey law in the 1790s explicitly, if briefly, extended the voting franchise to propertied women demonstrates that at least some people took the revolutionary ideals of natural rights “to their logical, if unexpected and untraditional conclusion.” However, Zagarri is not writing a history about achieving the right to vote. She is not adhering to what Lisa Tetrault has argued in The Myth of Seneca Falls was the narrative created by early suffragists, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Joselyn Gage, and Susan B. Anthony. These nineteenth-century leading women positioned their own struggle to obtain women’s suffrage above any and all other forms of women’s and gender rights during the late 1870s and 80s. As Tetrault shows, they literally re-imagined the history of women’s rights in works like their multi-volume chronicle, History of Woman Suffrage. In so doing, they attributed everything that had come before their time as the “Preceding Causes” of a history that did not begin until the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. By treating all “antecedent women as either individually heroic or working for something other than women’s rights,” Stanton and her allies invented a narrative that precluded the very kind of story Zagarri would later write—a story of the collective struggle for women’s rights in the revolutionary era. Unfortunately, this Seneca Falls-era fiction became “perhaps the most enduring and long-standing myth ever produced by a U.S. social movement.” Its persistence helps to explain why the revolutionary era was so long overlooked by feminist scholars and other scholars of women’s history.[18]

Zagarri’s definition of political participation is much more inclusive than suffrage. This is because she is partaking in a lineage of writers who have worked to re-define what political participation means. In this project, she draws from a deep well of literature that goes all the way back to some touchstones of women’s history like Mary Beth Norton and Linda Kerber and has continued through the more-recent work of scholars like Susan Branson and Catherine Allgor. In the late 1970s and early 80s, scholars of women’s history began to move beyond works of mere contributionism, such Linda Grant DePauw’s Founding Mothers. In this text, DePauw tried to uncover the “invisible” and “hidden heroines of the revolutionary generation” who took part in many distinctive “activities,” of which “politics” was only one. By the early 1990s, political action had become a vastly enlarged category of historical analysis. As Zagarri acknowledges, “Borrowing from the social sciences, [historians have worked to re-define] politics to include not only the formal institutions of government but also a wide variety of informal norms, symbolic actions, and everyday behaviors.” Depending on who was doing the writing, politics could include everything from boycotting or producing goods, to demonstrating at rallies, to fundraising or campaigning, to petitioning in newspapers, to simply living as someone who was gendered female in a masculine society. To explain this last idea, we must turn to a related category of historical analysis: gender. [19]

Politics or political action is not the only historical category germane to Zagarri’s work that has been drastically redefined since the era of the 1970s. A second and crucial analytical category is that of gender. In fact, so much has changed since the historiographical era of DePauw’s Founding Mothers that to write about “women’s roles” in early America now is to engage in an anachronistic conversation. Since at least the late 1980s, the literature has shifted far away from discussing separate historical “roles” of men and women. Instead, the scholarship emphasizes the fundamental differences between the categories of male/female and masculine/feminine. The feminist scholar Joan Scott has defined this crucial distinction in her most salient collection of essays, Gender and the Politics of History. Masculine and feminine, Scott writes, “are a set of symbolic references,” while male and female are terms used to reference “physical persons.” Moreover, although “there is a relationship between” these two categories, “they are not the same.” Scott contends that gender is a socially constructed phenomenon. Although conceptions of gender must be historicized in place and time, they do not evenly correspond to the presence of male and female people in that age. For Scott, gender is a set of social relations based on perceived differences between the sexes. More importantly, gender is a “primary way of signifying relationships of power.”[20]

What is the power of this historiographical transition away from “women’s roles” to conceptions of gender? The central idea is that gender is a much more inclusive category that intersects with all aspects of society. Focusing on gender helps historians to avoid projecting the social and historical construct of “separate spheres” back onto the more-fluid arrangements of earlier periods and, thereby, reinforcing its underlying logic. Put in a different way, the notion that a scholar can investigate “women’s roles” is based on the false assumption that “women” are, in fact, a  separate analytical category from men to begin with. The historian Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor has summarized this historiographical shift in her text, The Ties That Buy. She writes, “As historians of revolutionary-era religion, politics, and labor have shown, creating a new, independent American citizen meant reassigning all forms of dependence into a category of ‘femininity’ reserved for white women, children, and people of color.” In Revolutionary Backlash, Zagarri acknowledges this idea that the “feminine” citizen in the early republic includes more than just women. The same concepts of biological essentialism that cast women as inferior to men had a similar effect for black males.[21]

Returning to politics, Zagarri treads in between two counter poles. She does not limit “politics” to a discussion about “formal institutions of government and the activities related to governing.” But neither does she follow Scott’s idea and extend “politics” to all “unequal power relations” that pervade a gendered society. Instead, Zagarri positions her work in the conceptual framework of Mary Kelley and her definition of a “civil society.” This concept refers to those men and women who contribute to the national consciousness outside the realm of party and electoral politics, such as through print media or “charitable societies, benevolent organizations, and social reform movements” for education, abolitionism, and temperance. Perhaps most important for Zagarri, however, is only that “female politicians” cultivated a “political awareness,” like the South Carolinian Margaret Manigault. Throughout Revolutionary Backlash, Zagarri places emphasis on how both men and women created the social category of “femininity,” first in the context of women’s rights and then in the context of separate spheres ideology and essentialism. By moving away from “women’s roles” and discussing constructed and re-constructed ideas of gender, Zagarri is able to reveal fascinating insights. In analyzing the campaign of 1807, she writes: “Gendered imagery [between the Federalists and Republicans] advanced men’s interests, not those of women.” Although “women were not the primary targets, they nonetheless suffered from collateral damage.”[22]

Zagarri was not the first writer to embrace new theories of gender in the form of “backlash” arguments. Much of the historian’s work on the relationship between ideas of gender and the formation of the nation-state built on a larger foundation of feminist scholarship. For another example of this work, we can turn to an oft-cited study by feminist theorist Joan Landes, called Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution. In this work, Landes shows how the transition from an absolutist to a bourgeoisie society in revolutionary France—between the years 1750 to 1850—resulted in the relegation of the symbolically feminine to a private-domestic sphere and, as a result, a reconstitution of the public sphere as a solely masculine realm. Initially, the revolution opened up new opportunities for the feminine and suggested a more-fluid definition for gender in French society. During the decade of the 1790s, for instance, public spaces such as the court and the salon embraced notions of the feminine and so women and others participated in revolutionary politics through such militant groups as the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women. However, men and women reacted to this change by articulating a new code of “gender propriety.”[23]

By the mid-1790s, Landes notes that diverse groups of men and women in France engaged in a multi-faceted program to relegate the feminine to the domestic or private sphere. This program involved cultural, political, and discursive forces. Culturally and politically, it involved a crackdown on feminine spaces that existed during the Ancien Régime and revolutionary era. Salons and workshops were closed and various other institutions, such as the lower house of legislature, “excluded women from senior teaching positions.” Discursively, new gender roles were promoted in works of Enlightenment authors like Jean-Jacques Rousseau. His Emile, or On Education, for example, linked sensibility with femininity and rationality with masculinity while also calling for the special status of women inside the home. In this way, Landes shows how conceptions of gender in relation to public life were reorganized along social, political, and cultural lines. Summarizing this change, Landes observes, “[R]epublican women were [now] expected to express their patriotism and their (personal) virtue in the language and practice of republican motherhood.” Though Zagarri revises Landes’ scathing critique of liberalism writ large, she keeps the basic trajectory of counter-revolutionary backlash. Her emphasis on feminine/masculine conceptions instead of male/female roles allows her to explore the ways that men, like Elias Boudinot, Abel Upshur, and Daniel Bryan, were equally, if not more, invested in the outcome of heated debates about femininity. [24]

In Women and the Public Sphere, Landes argued that “the bourgeoisie republic was constituted in and through a discourse on gender relations.” In so doing, she articulated a narrative of decline in which gender conceptions were more fluid during the revolutionary era and immediately preceding the formation of the nation state than they became after. Moreover, Landes demonstrated how this transition could be studied as a multi-faceted process, as “a revolution in feminine psychology” that reflected itself in law, politics, and discourse. Such ideas have since been picked up by a wide range of historians of early America, including Juster. In Disorderly Women Juster traces a similar narrative of decline across the revolutionary and new national period. Specifically, Disorderly Women is a case study of the Baptist church in New England during the eighteenth century. More broadly, Juster performs for the study of the American Revolution what Landes did for that of France. She uses her work to show how the transition to nationhood in America coincided with a transformation of gender roles. “The Baptist church illustrates this with particular clarity,” she says, “ as women were expelled from the body politic at the cost of revolutionary patrimony.”[25]

Critiquing the Backlash Thesis:

After having addressed the “backlash thesis” from several historiographical angles, I would like to offer up a brief critique of the argument. While there are many limitations worth discussing, the two that I would like to mention here relate to historical actors largely left out of Revolutionary Backlash. These are people who were outside the boundaries of the nascent United States as well as those who were not elite and white. First, as we now know, the “backlash” is about a conservative turn of the American nation-state in regards to gains that stemmed from the revolutionary era; however, for women’s and gender rights outside of the thirteen colonies, this historical trajectory does not adequately characterize what happened. Depending on variables like race and overlapping or pre-existing legal regimes—what is usually referred to in historiography as “legal pluralism”—the picture can be seen as one of either steady decline or maintenance throughout the revolutionary era, instead of an initial period of freedom followed by a reactionary period of foreclosure.

Most American historians are familiar with the narrative of María Amparo Ruiz de Burton. She was a California woman who was disenfranchised when the United States annexed her home after the Mexican-American War. Scholars are familiar with her story because, like the “petticoat electors,” she appears consistently in textbooks. But students are less familiar with Burton’s counterparts during the revolutionary period. In her work on the French and Spanish borderlands of the Gulf Coast, Kathleen DuVal shares the stories of these individuals. She reveals how the revolution exported the repressive, common-law institution known as coverture—a defining principle of marriage relations in the Anglo-American world that cast women as virtual property of their husbands in the eyes of the law—to regions where women had previously experienced much greater civil autonomy.  In a comparable example, Daniel Schafer tells how Spanish civil law permitted certain black women, like the former slave named Anna Kingsley, to own real estate in East Florida until its purchase by the American nation-state in the first quarter of the nineteenth century had resulted in her legal and political disenfranchisement. Although many groups of women were able to navigate conditions of legal pluralism to their benefit, the basic fact remains that the conservative turn of the American nation-state is not always a “backlash” when seen from the perspective of actors who existed outside the boundaries of the thirteen colonies before the Revolution.[26]

Generally, readers of Revolutionary Backlash should ask whether Zagarri has done enough to interpret the changing gendered and political contexts of the new republic from the perspectives of conquered or subjugated persons. Admittedly, most of her subjects are elite, white, and literate women like Esther DeBert Reed, Margaret Bayard Smith, and Hannah Mather Crocker. While the revolutionary era might have resulted in a “backlash” against these women, historians need to think more about how we reconcile their loss and/or forfeiture of rights with that of others for whom the revolutionary period did not bring any privileges at all. Perhaps the answer rests in thinking about how race and gender have created one another in historical contexts. In an inspiring piece, Laurel Clark shows how property-holding women in Florida appealed to American treaty law to maintain their property, even while those laws worked to disenfranchise black women. Brown has also done pioneering work on the intersection of race and gender in colonial Virginia, demonstrating how the identities of white and black men and women were mutually constructed upon separate tracts. The identity of a white plantation mistress, her plantation slave, and her anxious husband, were all constructed in concert with one another. They should not be isolated in any historical study.[27]


In the course of researching this paper, I have come across a couple of works on women’s and gender history and the American Revolution that were outdated and unhelpful. Nonetheless, I think that returning to one of these books will allow me to make a closing point about the ultimate contribution of Zagarri’s “backlash thesis.” This book is called The Limits of Independence and, even though it was written by Marylynn Salmon, it is a quote from the introduction by Nancy Cott that appeals to me here. Cott writes: “The democratic promise of America at its founding encouraged the growth of some significant opportunities for women, especially in education…even while the political role for women in the new republic was limited to their influence in the home.”

On its face, this quote may seem fair enough. After all, the sentence captures the ambiguity of the American Revolution from the perspective of women’s rights, highlighting alleged gains in “education” and limitations in a “political role.” Yet, on closer inspection, the quote fails the purity test. The word “growth” implies the relative backwardness of the colonial era; politics and education are treated as wholly separate categories; the language is focused upon “women’s roles” rather than the analytical category of gender; and, most importantly, Cott’s passive voice does not capture all of the hard work and historical contingency that went into the project of limiting femininity to a private sphere. For, if there is only one lesson to be learned from the “backlash thesis”—indeed, one lesson to take away from Smolenki’s lecture, “An Age of Removal”—it is that the removal of the “petticoat electors” was not an isolated and unfortunate side effect of the country’s founding. Rather, it was a central component of the move toward universal white male suffrage. “The era of democratization for men” was built on the “narrowing of political possibilities for” others.[28]


Citation for Images: The image on the left is entitled “Women at the Polls in New Jersey in the Good Old Times,” and it originally appeared alongside an article in Harper’s Weekly from November 13, 1880. The image on the right is George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), The County Election, 1852. Oil on canvas. 38 x 52 in. (96.5 x 132.1 cm.). Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Mo., Gift of Bank of America. Both of these images appear in Rosemarie Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), 23, 164.

[1] John Smolenksi, “The Trail of Tears.” Lecture, History of the United States to 1877 at the University of California-Davis, Davis, CA, November 2, 2016. On the “petticoat electors,” see Judith Apter Klinghoffer and Lois Elkis, “‘The Petticoat Electors: Women’s Suffrage in New Jersey, 1776-1807,” Journal of the Early Republic, 12 (1992): 159-192; and Edward Raymond Turner, “Women’s Suffrage in New Jersey: 1790-1807,” Smith College Studies in History, 1 (1916): 165-187. The textbooks referenced in the above paragraph are the following: Ellen Carol DuBois and Lynn Dumenil, Through Women’s Eyes: An American History with Documents, 3rd ed. (New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2012), 145-146; Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty! An American History, Vol. 1, Seagull 4th ed. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014), 216-217. The term “petticoat electors” is a contemporary term, taken from newspaper sources like Federalist Gazette, Jan. 9, 1804, and Centinel of Freedom, Nov. 20, 1804. For reference, see Apter Klinghoffer and Elkis, “‘The Petticoat Electors,’” 185, n. 65. According to Rosemarie Zagarri, although the inclusion of “petticoat electors” in the New Jersey electorate was only tacitly approved in 1776, the inclusion became a “deliberate” decision by the 1790s, see Revolutionary Backlash, 30-32, 193 n. 38.

[2] For a textbook discussion of the “limits” of the American Revolution, see “Chapter 6: The Revolution Within,” in Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty! An American History, 210-246. Foner employs the phrase “The Limits of Liberty” in reference to this era. For a discussion of “The paradox of independence” in relation to diverse groups of peoples who had lived in the former French and Spanish territories on the Gulf Coast, see Part IV of Kathleen DuVal, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (New York: Random House, 2015), 223- 339.

[3] For a few sources that use this “backlash thesis,” see Michael J. Klarman, “How Brown Changed Race Relations: The Backlash Thesis,” The Journal of American History Vol. 81, No. 1 (June, 1994): 81-118; William Alex Pridemore and Joshua D. Reilich, “The Impact of State Laws Protecting Abortion Clinics and Reproductive Rights on Crimes against Abortion Providers: Deterrence, Backlash, or Neither?” Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 31, No. 6 (Dec., 2007): 611-627; Thomas M. Kech, “Beyond Backlash: Assessing the Impact of Judicial Decisions on LGBT Rights,” Law & Society Review, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Mar., 2009): 151-186; Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash, also several preceding articles on the topic, like “The Rights of Man and Woman in Post-Revolutionary America,” William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 2 (Apr., 1998): 203-230.

[4] Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash, 12, 30-31, 48, 60, 166, 178.

[5] Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash 129, 146, 174, 181

[6] For an early work about the “white backlash” that accompanied emancipation and the beginning of Reconstruction, see Forrest G. Wood, Black Scare: The Racist Response to Emancipation and Reconstruction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), vii, viii; Mary Beth Norton, Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800 (New York: Little, Brown & Company, 1980). Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1991). Despite the merits of this comparison, Zagarri does not cite Faludi’s work in Revolutionary Backlash.

[7] Susan Juster, Disorderly Women: Sexual Politics and Evangelicalism in Revolutionary New England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), 229. “Golden Age” was originally a derogatory term employed by a critic of the thesis. See Mary Beth Norton, “The Myth of the Golden Age,” in Women of America: A History, ed. Carol Ruth Berkin and Mary Beth Norton (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1979). The “golden age thesis” was also about comparing the “status” of colonial American women to the “status” of their counterparts in England. For more on the historiography of the “golden age thesis,” see Kathleen M. Brown, “Beyond the Great Debates: Gender and Race in Early America,” Reviews in American History, Vol. 26, No. 1, The Challenge of American History (Mar., 1998): 96; and Claudia Goldin, “The Economic Status of Women in the Early Republic: Quantitative Evidence,” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 16, No. 3 (Winter, 1986): 375-404.

[8] Robert Roswell Palmer, The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760 – 1800, 2 volumes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959 and 1964), 4, 185. In his praise for the American example, Palmer’s work fits within a wider “consensus school” of American history that included Cold-War-era writers like Richard Hofstadter, Louis Hartz, Clinton Rossiter, and Daniel Boorstin. See Michael D. Hattem, “The Historiography of the American Revolution,” Journal of the American Revolution. 13 August 2013. Accessed 16 December 2016. Alan Taylor, American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750 – 1840 (New York: W.W. Norton, 2016), 26, 240, 400. See also Gordon Wood’s review of American Revolutions: Gordon S. Wood, “How the American Revolution Worked Against Blacks, Indians and Women,” The New York Times (Sept., 6, 2016).

[9] Michael Zukerman, “The Polite and the Plebian,” in Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution, 47-73, eds. Jane Kamensky and Edward G. Gray (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967);  Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1992), ix, 7. Catherine Cox, “”The Continental Army,” in Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution, 167. Jane T. Merritt, “Native Peoples in the Revolutionary War,” in Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution, 245. Christopher Tomlins, Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580-1865 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 504.

[10] Tomlins, Freedom Bound, 504; on protections for slavery written into the US Constitution, see David Waldstreicher, Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification (New York: Hill and Wang, 2009), 3; on the political disenfranchisement of French and Spanish subjects, see Kathleen DuVall, Independence Lost and Daniel L. Schafer, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley: African Princess, Florida Slave, Plantation Slaveowner (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003); on the repression of loyalists and pacifists, see Alan Taylor, “Loyalties,” in American Revolutions, 211-250; on enduring poverty in rural areas, see Allan Kulikoff, “The War in the Countryside,” in Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution, 222-223.

[11] Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash, 185. For Zagarri’s exploration of the mutual relationship between the creation of universal white male suffrage and the removal of the political franchise from both women and others who were labeled as feminine, see her concluding section: “Chapter Five: A Democracy—For Whom?,” 148-180; Alfred F. Young, The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999), 90, 166. This work is an expansion of an earlier article on the topic: Alfred F. Young, “George Robert Twelve Hewes (1742-1840): A Boston Shoemaker and the Memory of the American Revolution,” William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 38 (1981): 561-623.

[12] Juster, Disorderly Women, 12, n. 22; Norton, Liberty’s Daughters.

[13] Norton, Liberty’s Daughters, 295, 298.

[14] Linda Kerber first articulated the idea of “Republican Motherhood” in “The Republican Mother: Women and the Enlightenment—An American Perspective,” American Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Summer, 1976): 187-205; Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), xii, 11, 231. For another contemporary and foundational work that expanded the definition of political participation for colonial women but did so in the much-outdated discourse of “women’s roles,” see Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1982). Ulrich shared in the central ambivalence discussed here, writing that women’s history was not “a linear progression from darkness to light….but is a convoluted and sometimes tangled embroidery of loss and gain, accommodation and resistance,” (241).

[15] For some early work that discussed the American Revolution and the formation of the American nation-state from the perspective of women’s history and so-called “women’s roles,” see Joan Hoff Wilson, “The Illusion of Change: Women in the American Revolution,” in The American Revolution: Explorations in the History of American Radicalism, 383-445, ed. Alfred F. Young (DeKalb, Ill: Northern Illinois University Press, 1976): 386-387, 399; Lina Kerber, “‘History Can Do It No Justice’: Women and the Reinterpretation of the American Revolution,” in Women in the Age of the American Revolution, 3-42, ed. Ronald Hoffman and Peter J. Albert (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1989); and Elane F. Crane, “Dependence in the Era of Independence: The Role of Women in a Republican Society,” in The American Revolution: Its Character and Limits, 253-275, ed. Jack P. Greene (New York: New York University Press, 1987). Barbara Clark Smith, The Freedoms We Lost: Consent and Resistance in Revolutionary America (New York: The New Press, 2010), x-xi, xiv; Susan Juster, Disorderly Women, 12. In the former work, Smith interprets 1780 as a crucial turning point when Patriot leaders abandoned “common” communal values that had defined life in the colonial era and group resistance in the early revolutionary era. These leaders became, instead, advocates for the individual rights of wealthy financiers in a “new constitutional order” that was relatively restrictive. For a discussion of this new order, see her final chapter “The Freedoms They Lost,” 183-210.

[16] Norton argued that her findings called “into question the generally accepted chronology of women’s history,” which favored the “golden age thesis” at the time. Norton, Liberty’s Daughters, xviii, 71, 316. In identifying authors who advocated for this chronology, Norton referenced “Elizabeth Cometti, “Women in the American Revolution,” New England Quarterly XX (1947): 329-346; Linda Grant DePauw, Founding Mothers Women of America in the Revolutionary Era (Boston: Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1975); and Wilson, “The Illusion of Change.” Another early proponent of the “golden age thesis” was Gerda Lerner, “The Lady and the Mill Girl: Changes in the Status of Women in the Age of Jackson,” Midcontinent American Studies Journal X, No. 1 (1969): 5-15. Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash, 20-21. Some recent authors who neither associate with nor embrace the now-outdated “golden age thesis” in their works, yet who still interpret the “separate spheres ideology” of the mid-nineteenth century in relation to greater freedoms during the colonial and/or early-national periods include Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor The Ties That Buy: Women and Commerce in Revolutionary America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), 4, 163; and Clare A. Lyons, Sex Among the Rabble: An Intimate History of Gender and Power in the Age of Revolution, Philadelphia, 1730-1830 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 1, 3-4, 6. While these works are, like Juster’s, both case studies of specific aspects of American colonial, revolutionary, and early-national society in specific regions—sex culture in Philadelphia and commercial culture in both Newport and Charleston—they nonetheless conclude that their respective topics were more fluid and open during the colonial era than the early republic.

[17] Linda L. Sturtz, Within Her Power: Propertied Women in Colonial Virginia (New York: Routledge, 2002), 178. For a long list of historians who have critiqued the “golden age” thesis, see Richard Middleton and Anne Lombard, Colonial America: A History to 1763, 4th edition (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 452, n. 1. Some of the authors listed here are Kathleen Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill: North Carolina University Press, 1996); and Cynthia A. Kierner, Beyond the Household: Women’s Place in the Early South, 1700-1835 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998), 13. Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash, 8. In Brown’s work, for example, a complex white-male patriarchy existed in colonial Virginia long before the nineteenth-century “separate spheres ideology” (181).

[18] Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash, 32. Lisa Tertrault, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), 4, 120-122. Perhaps the persistence of the Seneca Falls myth partly explains why Susan Faludi did not discuss historical backlashes against women’s and gender rights before the mid-nineteenth century in her classic work Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, 63-67.

[19] Susan Branson, These Fiery Frenchified Dames: Women and Political Culture in Early National Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001); Catherine Allgor, Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2000). Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash, 2, 7-8, 187, n. 5. DePauw, Founding Mothers, xi; Mary Kelley, Learning to Stand and Speak: Women, Education and Public Life in America’s Republic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 5. According to Zagarri, Kelley is building on the work of John L. Brooke, “Consent, Civil Society, and the Public Sphere in the Age of Revolution and the Early American Republic,” in Beyond the Founders: New Approaches to the Political History of the Early American Republic, ed. Jeffrey L. Pasley, Andrew W. Robertson, and David Waldstreichr (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 207-250. Although Zagarri does not cite this piece, the idea of the broadest possible definition for politics was expressed earlier in an essay by Carol Hanisch, “The Personal is Political,” Notes from the Second Year: Women’s Liberation (1970): 1-5. Hanisch writes, “It is at this point a political action to tell it like it is, to say what I really believe about my life instead of what I’ve always been told to say,” (4).

[20] Joan Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 42, 63.

[21] Hartigan-O’Connor, The Ties That Buy, 163, 235 n7; Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash, 179-180, 185.

[22] Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash, 7-8, 113, 129, 145. Margaret Manigault wrote in 1792, “I am turned a great Politician. I read the papers and talk learnedly about them all,” (76). This linkages between the “backlash thesis” and Kelley’s idea of “civil society” are articulated further in Rosemarie Zagarri, “Politics and Civil Society: A Discussion of Mary Kelley’s “Learning to Stand and Speak,” Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Spring, 2008): 61-73, 76.

[23] Joan B. Landes, Women in the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988), 3, 60, 146, 171, 202; for other feminist scholars who have addressed gender as a social construct and its relation to the formation of the nation-state, see Carole Pateman, The Disorder of Women: Democracy, Feminism, and Political Theory (Stanford: University of Stanford Press, 1989); Nancy J. Hirschmann, Rethinking Obligation: A Feminist Method for Political Theory (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992); Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash, 81, 98-102, 155.

[24] Landes, Women in the Public Sphere, 130, 152, 168.

[25] Landes, Women in the Public Sphere, 95; Juster, Disorderly Women, 136-137, 143.

[26] For a textbook discussion of Ruiz de Burton, see DuBois and Dumenil, Through Women’s Eyes, 260-261. Kathleen Duval, Independence Lost, 348; Daniel L. Schafer, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, 63-66; see also Daniel L. Schafer, Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. and the Atlantic World: Slave Trader, Plantation Owner, Emancipator (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2013), 4-5, 178-179, 180-182, 241; for an article that demonstrates how white, married women were empowered to retain the property rights they held under Spanish civil and American treaty law, see Laurel A. Clark, “The Rights of a Florida Wife: Slavery, U.S. Expansion, and Married Women’s Property Law,” Journal of Women’s History, Vol. 22, No. 4 (2010): 39-63. For another work that explore the expansion of the American nation-state into the borderlands, and the negative impact that expansion had on pre-existing gender and race relations, see Jane Landers, “Chapter 10: Racial Geopolitics and the Demise of Spanish Florida,” in Black Society in Spanish Florida, 229-248 (Chicago: University of Illinois, 1999). Finally, another work that demonstrates the racial motives of the conservative turn of the early United States, see Kariann Akemi Yokota, Unbecoming British: How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 218-219.

[27] Laurel A. Clark, “The Rights of a Florida Wife,” 39-63; Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs, 9.

[28] Marylynn Salmon, The Limits of Independence: American Women, 1760-1800 (New York: Oxford University Press), 7. Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash, 2. On the subject of creating freedom for one demographic group on the basis of denying freedoms to another demographic group, Revolutionary Backlash suggests a comparison to a classic study of colonial Virginia by Edmund S. Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom (New York: W.W. Norton, 1975).

Note on Provenance: This essay was written as a final paper for the course “HIS 201J, 001 — American History to 1787” with professor Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor. It was submitted for a grade on 17 December 2016.