To What Extent Did Suffrage Free Women? Reconsidering Emma Goldman and Conservative Anti-Suffragists
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This research project is designed to look into the ideologies of anarchist Emma Goldman concurrently with the more conservative anti-suffragists in order to discern what their antisuffrage alignment signifies. Upon understanding their respective reasonings, I offer a discussion of how I believe that Goldman’s desire for a purer, individual centered freedom that is expanded upon in her discussion of anarchism and argument against suffrage could be a useful way to reconceptualize freedom as an entity independent of the state for its acquisition. The antisuffragists too, surprisingly, offer the suggestion that women's freedom resides outside of the state structure. I also find it helpful to consider the ways in which the conservative antisuffragists' assumptions about the nature of women and their relationship to politics still exist in contemporary society as limits to the potential for progress in women's liberation and a more equal and free society for all. The conservative anti-suffragists' ideological base in many ways represents inequalities that the United States of America was founded upon that have not been institutionally addressed even while suffrage has been universal for nearly one hundred years, and recognizing this is as a limit to women's freedom is an important step in pondering how the state can be improved and accessible to all. This project is divided into three main components. The first section will consider the larger bodies of thought Goldman and the anti-suffragists are based in, including answers to the questions of how the anti-suffragists and Goldman both understand the nature of women, whether or not freedom derives from participation in politics, how women are to be represented politically, the role of men and women in relation to one another, and what natural rights people possess. The second section hones in on their anti-suffrage arguments considering the questions whether Goldman and the anti-suffragists conceive of the state to be a friend or a foe, who or what is represented by the state, what the role of women as citizens is composed of, what legal rights the state provides, and what the consequences of women obtaining suffrage would entail. The third and final section will be a discussion of why Goldman and the anti-suffragists are useful tools in understanding the present state of limitations on women's liberation and freedom and envisioning a freer and just future. This final section will serve as the answer to my research question of why reconsidering these anti-suffrage arguments is important today and how they are beneficial bodies of thought to recognize and perhaps draw inspiration from. I come to the conclusion that these ideologies can aid us in conceptualizing a freedom not reliant on the state for its enactment, which may be a helpful way of going about women's liberation.