Signatures of Citizenship: Petitioning, Antislavery, and by Susan Zaeske

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Additional resources for Signatures of Citizenship: Petitioning, Antislavery, and Women's Political Identity (Gender and American Culture)

Example text

Are not their voices weak, and their aid feeble? ’’ ‘‘True, the voice of woman should not be heard in public debates,’’ L. H. acknowledged, recommending that instead of entering public deliberation, women should educate themselves about the subject of slavery so they might use their influence to direct family members and friends to the abolition cause. ‘‘Public opinion is the source of public action,’’ the author averred, ‘‘and where is this opinion formed? ’’ Women, L. H. ’’ 1 L. ’s recommendations echoed those of other antislavery leaders, male and female alike, who urged women to wield their influence over male relatives and friends, to teach free blacks, and to boycott products of slave labor.

Thus the House’s refusal in 1797 to receive the slaves’ petition signaled that despite its allegedly inalienable nature, the peoples’ right of petition still could be abridged based on the status of 20 : t h e u n f o rt u nat e wo r d ‘‘ p e t i t i o n ’’ petitioners and checked by Congress’s right of reception. 20 * * * During the first decades of the nineteenth century a number of factors combined to increase the power of petitioning and render it a particularly useful tool for those who remained outside the formal political process.

15 Tradeswomen’s efforts to use petitioning to achieve economic reform were less common and less successful than those of their male counterparts. In 1788, for example, ‘‘sundry seamstresses’’ of Charleston, South Carolina, petitioned the general assembly complaining that they were out 18 : t h e u n f o rt u nat e wo r d ‘‘ p e t i t i o n ’’ of work due to the importation of ready-made clothes. ’’ But unlike the petitions of male artisans and tradesmen who pleaded for economic reform, the women’s petition was ignored.

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