Abstract and Keywords
The trajectory of women’s citizenship over the past two centuries reflects the changing political and cultural landscape at various moments in American history as well as a more constant liberal tradition. Women have made clear gains since the nation’s founding, though the rights granted to women came later than those granted to other groups and women continue to face barriers to political inclusion. Two key factors are women’s social construction as maternalists who are associated with the family, which liberal precepts define as separate and different from the state; and the incompatibility of women’s social construction as maternalists with the liberal American heritage that presumes individuals are equal. To promote their political citizenship, women had to transform the identity of the American state to be an institution similar to, not opposite to, the family, and they had to transform the identity of women so that the public and political elites viewed women not only as maternalists but also legally and constitutionally as individuals who were equal to men. To understand the trajectory of women’s political citizenship requires understanding how it is integrated with their social and civil citizenship as well as how that trajectory intersects with partisan disparities in women’s representation through the policies and platforms parties adopt over the course of American political development.
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