The Representation of Women

While reading the assigned works for Tuesday, I was particularly drawn to Harriet Martineau’s Society in America as she discusses the role of women in a democratic society. As Martineau notes, women did not have a role. Women did not have a say in how the government was run because they were not recognized as people who could have a say in anything, only men did. Martineau talks about how the Declaration of Independence says that the government gets its’ powers from the consent of the governed yet women do not even have the ability to give their consent to be governed. She then brings up what James Mill says in regard to representation in which he says, “In this light, women may be regarded, the interest of almost all of whom is involved, either in that of their fathers or in that of their husbands” meaning that men can say what women can and cannot do.

A connection can be made to what Thomas Carlyle says in Past and Present. Carlyle says, “…every Government is the exact symbol of its People, with their wisdom and unwisdom; we have to say, Like People like Government”. When Carlyle says this, he is saying that the government is a reflection of the people they serve and that it will only be as good as the people who the government is serving want it to be. When connecting this back to what Mill says, Mill was certainly not the only person who thought that women did not need the right to vote and could be represented by their male relations. This is reflected in the government that was put in place that Martineau is speaking out against. If people who had a voice in what the government did(men) were not speaking up for women to gain the right to vote, then why should the government do anything about it? It is because of these ideas that women in the United States were unable to vote until 1920.

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