April 12, 2024

What Did the Founders Think of Women?

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Can A Woman Be President

At the time of the founding of the United States, the status of women was much different than it was today.  To take you back:

  • These were the days when everyone was homeschooling– before the days of the one-room school house.
  • Education was not universal, with boys tending to get more time learning the subjects that everyone gets taught today, and girls learning how to keep and tend to the house.
  • The colleges of the time all had to teach Christianity as part of their charters and goals.
  • Some states still had established religions for the state itself.
  • Slavery was an ordinary and accepted part of life.
  • The only people who could vote were landholders that were men.

It is in this framework that we find our Constitution written.  I’ve done a quick Internet search on Women in the Federalist papers and found nothing.  In fact, the only person to comment on the two together stated that women had limited civil rights until 1920– they were second-class citizens.

With this opinion of women in the Founders, what do you think they would think about a Chief Executive that was a woman?  I would suggest that they would not think highly of the idea.  For a number of reasons:

  • Education
  • Patriarchal Society
  • Not Land Owners
  • Not Their Role

A lot of these are no longer the case in our culture– and that, I believe, is why if you ask most people they see no issue with a woman being President.  In fact, there may not be any problem.  However, I believe that, if the goal is to look at what the Founders thought, I believe that they would not consider having a woman President.

They came from an entirely different era, with an entirely different view of Government than we have today.

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6 thoughts on “What Did the Founders Think of Women?

  1. I’m sure the FFs would have been against a woman president. however, they were also alright with slavery and not letting women vote.

    It’s nice to see we’ve progressed a bit, don’t you think?

  2. Well, at least we agree on this point, so far, Musicguy.

    I am glad that people are no longer physically enslaved the way they were at the beginning of this country. However, I would suggest that many more are enslaved today that were enslaved then– slavery just looks different. Instead of being told what to do, people are instead robbed of their earnings via the government and debt. If you stopped and figured out just how much of what the average American makes goes to someone else instead of them, I believe that you would find that a lot of people are no better off than they were in slavery– and in some cases worse. Look at people losing houses, paying most of their weekly paychecks to get out of debt– this is almost a more cruel form of slavery.

    As for letting women vote– I’m mixed here. Some say they shouldn’t vote at all. I’m not really in that camp, however, I’m not for universal suffrage either. I believe that if you had the responsibility to choose leaders into the hands of those that are to benefit from specific leaders your encourage corruption. Simply put, if I know candidate X will give me the most money as a hand out, I’ll probably vote for him even if it hurts the nation as a whole or the businesses in the area. I have myself in mind, rather than others. The Founders had land owners with the right to vote– the principle of having those with the most to lose seems to be a more fair strategy, but there’s abuse even there.

    In any case, I’m not totally sold on the idea of democracy when driven by the wind of culture. With no high standard, democracy will lead to anarchy. Now, it’s true that we’re a Republic and not a Democracy, so we have a little fault tolerance in there, but I’m not convinced that our leaders will do the right thing when duty calls. If they do, they will say that they shouldn’t. If they don’t, well, that’s stickier.

    So, we’ve progressed and then again we haven’t. It just moves around and hides as something else that we’ll find palatable now (like some with abortion) that I’m sure a future generation will list as a bane on this one.

  3. M…

    There is a HUGE difference between how our society views the family versus how it was viewed in the time of our nation’s founding, and I would dare say it hasn’t changed for the better!

    First…we have gotten to the point that radical individualism has rampaged our country. As such, we view everything in terms of the individual rather than in terms of a group of people called “family.” Robert Bork in his book, “Slouching Toward Gomorrah,” posited that “radical individualism” was one of the major factors behind the decay of our society.

    Second…women in the day of our founding fathers were NOT second-class citizens, but rather were considered a part of a family, either a daughter or a wife. They were valued, protected, and appreciated in their roles, rather than cast out into society to fend for themselves. When the men were voting, they were voting not as individuals, but as heads of households; basically a landowner (the person most likely to be affected by the government) voted as the representative of his family. Government was much smaller in those days and didn’t have tentacles into every facet of life. The people likely to be most affected were those afforded the vote. The family was considered the cornerstone of society, so the idea of representation flowed all the way down. The man’s vote wasn’t “his” vote as much as it was the vote for “his family.”

    (On a side note, I’m not positive that voting was restricted to “landowners who were men.” If a single woman were a landowner, I think she had a vote as well. But I’m not positive on that. Do you have a source for the vote being restricted to “landowners who were men”???)

    Third…since education was accomplished in quite a different fashion than today (and the literacy rate was well into the 90% range…compared to today?!), women were educated in a manner that would best facilitate what they would do in life. They were certainly very literate, needing to read their Bibles as well as teaching of the children…can’t do either if you are uneducated! A subset of this is to define “education.” We consider a person “educated” if they have a college degree. Is that really the case? Does the conferring of a degree guarantee an educated person? Does a person have to have a degree to be educated? While that is a different topic, it does lend itself to the question of how “uneducated” women of the Founding era were. (Research how John Quincy Adams’ mother affected his education and his future…the society and women of that day did truly understand that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world!)

    So, before we condemn our Founding Fathers as racist, patriarchal losers, we should consider how society functioned in those days versus how it does today…and whether we are truly better off….

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  4. One more thing…regarding the consideration of black slaves as 2/3 a person…

    I’m willing to say at the beginning that I’m not saying this authoritatively, but rather as something I think is true…so if anyone has documented evidence otherwise, I’m willing to concede the point.

    I don’t believe the idea of a slave being 2/3 a person was in effect in the founding era of our country. I think it came about later when the south had a huge number of slaves. It was a pragmatic move to limit the political clout of the south. If each person, slave or free, were counted as a whole person, the South would have a larger representation in the government …something not desired by those in the North. By causing the slave (who was always black) to be considered only 2/3 of a person, it limited the total “persons” in the South, and thus their political representation.

    I really don’t think the primary reasoning of the ruling determining a black slave was only 2/3 of a person was to lessen the humanity of the black slave as much as it was to limit the political clout of the Southern States.

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  5. Charley, far from disparaging the Founders, I’m rather saying that the more things change the more they stay the same. It’s not that I’m for forcing women and blacks not to be people, but to recognize what way we can all be fulfilled and live a live pleasing God and to do that to the best of our ability. To that end, I definitely think that the FF’s were wiser in what they did, but also had their warts. Just as the next generation will be able to clearly identify our shortcomings while missing their own.

    I believe you’re right about 2/3s a person– I now remember it had a lot to do with how much representation the South had in government. Again, I don’t have a problem with people voting, but I don’t believe that those with their hands out should be overrepresented. Washington once said that it takes a moral leadership to be able to conduct government in the way that they had laid out. A people that are not moral will soon not be free either.

    Thanks for your insight.

  6. Oh, I know you aren’t disparaging the Founders. I just wanted to clarify some of the conditions and assumptions that existed at the time that created a society that we look askance at and criticize out of ignorance. The issue of women is one of those that most people just assume was bad. It really wasn’t. People of that era identified with their families instead of as individuals…and that was a good thing. Now we have nothing but a bunch of individualistic people running around without roots, either in family or in church.

    And of course there were warts…but their wisdom and foresight far outweighed the warts!

    And I agree with your voting philosophy. One observer of American culture from a while back said something to the effect of, “Democracies only last until the populace realizes it can vote itself money from the government.” (That wasn’t quite how it was put, but the point is the same.)

    And I agree with the necessity of a moral people educated in the ways of liberty and self-sufficiency to keep our government as originally designed. Sadly, I don’t think that’s the case any longer, and our government has already become a far cry from the Founders’ vision…regardless of which party is in office.

    In the Gap with you…

    Get Serious Blog
    HomeDiscipling Dad Blog

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