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Posts Tagged ‘associations’

Women in Politics 1780-2014

As many Americans anticipate the likely nomination by a major party of a woman for president – the New Republic cover of July 14 calls Hillary Clinton “Inevitable” – it is worth pausing to reflect on how women’s participation in politics has changed over the course of American history. In eras before Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Nancy Pelosi, participating in politics was not only nearly impossible for women but was also considered a violation of what it meant to be a woman.

A just-published article in the Journal of the Early Republic by Emily J. Arendt illustrates the stark contrast between then and now. Arendt tells the story of the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, “the first female voluntary association in the United States,” formed in 1780 to assist Continental soldiers. The domestic nature of its work and awestruck reaction observers had to activist women underlines the era’s low expectations for women’s participation in civic life. Those low expectations lasted – despite the notoriety of early feminists – well into the twentieth century, making the last half-century a sharp historical departure for women in politics.

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Labor’s Laboring Efforts

The past Labor Day weekend stimulated thoughts of – besides cookouts and the end of summer – the fate of labor in America.

(My parents' union.)

This year has not been particularly good for labor with unemployment so high. The last few decades have not been particularly good with most Americans’ wages having stagnated since about 1970. And the last half-century has not been particularly good for the labor movement, with membership declining since about 1960.

Historians and sociologists have tried to figure out for many years now why union membership in the United States is so low – now about one-eighth of the employed– compared to elsewhere in the world and why it has dropped so far – down from about one-third in 1955. The answers seem to lie in economics, globalization, and politics. And lurking behind the politics may be something about Americanism itself that goes back much further than 1955.

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