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Citizenship

January 23, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Religious history, Social history

Image of the pamphlet, Citizenship: A Manual for Voters by Emma Guy Cromwell

Citizenship: A Manual for Voters by Emma Guy Cromwell

Without question, the definition of citizenship is continuously modified in America to suit those who identify themselves as United States citizens. The residents of this nation have continuously sought out representation and have constructed a governmental institution for support and stability and thus guidelines developed regarding conduct within the nation. In Emma Guy Cromwell’s Citizenship: A Manual for Voters, citizenship largely refers to the duty of citizens to vote, particularly an appeal to women who had recently received the right. Additionally, women of this time were encouraged to have a political opinion and to apply their skills and abilities to aid the community. Today, citizenship encompasses similar trends which particularly parallel the history of women in Kentucky.  Today’s understanding of the term acknowledges civic activity while coming to relinquish national religious sentiments in order to uphold the rights of both genders recognized by the government.

Cromwell undoubtedly believed in the value of defining a model citizen in the effort to construct an ideal society. Her values however, included duties “to improve and protect the home, the church and the community” (Introduction). She includes men and women in this scope but does not neglect the inequalities in representation as she plainly states the division of labor within the state and national governments. Voting has been largely expanded since the publication of this document, however, the ideals Cromwell establishes hold much weight in today’s society in term of political apathy. When women earned the right to vote, Kentucky established the League of Women Voters which encouraged women “to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy”. While the discrepancy of Cromwell’s era fell among racial tensions, the complex issue today is separated by age groups. The youth are seen as the most likely group to invoke change in today’s society but also compose the most apathetic group. Cromwell suggests, “We are not patriotic unless we respond to the call of our government” and that “a person with no opinion on public affairs is a coward and unpatriotic” (Chapter V). Citizenship is recognized as the “rights to have rights” (Citizenship in the United States) and encompasses the duty of all eligible people to exercise their political rights including the power of electing officials.

Portrait of Emma Guy Cromwell

Emma Guy Cromwell

Furthermore, an emphasis on strong community involvement and an encouraged plea to promote relevant global issues has taken root in addition to the existing promotion of local civic issues. Environmental concern has been factored into the national political agenda today and has also come to be part of the definition of citizenship as the right of a citizen to take up interest in issues of national concern. For example, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization promotes women who “are empowered as decision-makers and leaders, especially in environmental and sustainable development arenas”.

Most notably, Cromwell consistently acknowledges the governmental body’s commitment to religion as it should defend the church. She explains, both the state and national conventions are “opened with prayer” (Chapter VI). This has largely been abandoned in today’s definition of citizenship because the ideal citizen would respect the differences that define Americans and various communities. Kentucky’s government, in particular, has revised its documents to acknowledge and respect the separation of church and state especially as it pertains to the sector of public education, to which all students are entitled. (See Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky).

Resources:

Cromwell, Emma Guy (1920). Citizenship: A Manual for Voters. Frankfort, Kentucky: Emma Guy Cromwell. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/25598/25598-h/25598-h.htm.

History, League of Women Voters of Kentucky

Women’s Leadership, WEDO

 

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