January 26, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history

Citizenship in the context of Kentucky women’s  history is a complex issue because it creates a division with women about their roles in society; namely whether women deserve the right to vote on a human rights basis, or whether, because women are mothers and have a different and natural sexuality to them that the voting booth is not a suitable place for respectable, gentlewomen.

In Emma Guy Cromwell‘s “Citizenship” she takes another look  into what  a women’s role is not only as it pertains to suffrage but also her role as a citizen of her country. While she speaks generally at first of more basic ideas such as naturalization versus  natural born citizens and the idea of civil rights that are available to all citizens of a nation, in reference to America specifically, she says,” Our country is a land of freedom and opportunity, and it is our duty to help uplift the government, and as citizens we must study  conditions and know how to govern and be governed. We must be familiar with our national and state Constitutions, for they are the fundamental principles by which we are governed. We must know how to make laws and how to have them executed. We must keep posted on the issues of the day, and know something of the standing and character of our public men and women” (Chapter 1). With this she calls men AND women to become better informed of the nation and its inner workings in order to be the best citizen possible. In that way all people can vote in the most educated maner.

This ties into other things that help to better classify citizenship. Among these are also the ability to give an informed vote, paying taxes and natural birthright to the nation. Cromwell identifies in  her introduction an interesting idea that women should be involved in the election process while still understanding their role as women. Said another way, women should utilize their vote to instill in Americans what the most important unit  is in America, the family in the home. With this, it can be seen that as long are women are informed (just as it would be assumed that men were) then their vote would  help them fit the mold as American citizens, just as their birthright and contribution to society grants them their citizenship.

In light of Cromwell’s ideas on the woman in the household, one could one could easily argue that with the women being mothers to the “great citizens of tomorrow,” as denoted in the  separate spheres theories in both America and Western Europe, that women’s contribution to society might even be greater to that of men because they are molding the minds of the future. That said, as long as American women remember that the unit of the home, offering intelligent and well-informed loyalty to the statehead, is the most important function of a woman, then the right for women to vote to extend their citizenship should be given. Overall, Kentucky women had a delicate balance to reach between their maternal expectations and their rights as US citizens.

2 responses to Citizenship

  1. Women are most certainly undermined in society, as you said. They don’t receive the credit they deserve, yet the mothers are the ones who spend long nights caring for their children when they are sick, making sure they are well-fed, and ensuring that they are getting a good education. Because women are constantly put in a box by society, it is often difficult to escape “the cult of domesticity.” It is hard to tell if women will ever be able to break the glass ceiling.

  2. There is definitely an interesting dichotomy that I am finding all over this subject, between what a woman’s place and/or role actually is.

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