October 31, 2017
Following the Army
Today’s post accompanies “The Revolutionaries' Army,” episode 158 of Ben Franklin’s World and part of the Doing History 2: To the Revolution! series. You can find supplementary materials for the episode on the OI Reader app, available through iTunes or Google Play.
By Holly A. Mayer
Women have volunteered service in all American wars, but they have always been exempt from the civic obligation to serve in the military. As Linda Kerber has argued, that meant that they found themselves “outside the boundaries of [civic] reciprocity and entitlement.” If the definition of “citizen” included bearing arms as a communal obligation, but one could not or would not bear arms for the state, could that person be a citizen entitled to all attendant rights and privileges? When that question arose well after the Revolution in debates over giving women the right to vote, suffragists argued that the obligation entailed more than bearing arms: it was “risking one’s life for the republic, and that childbearing women repeatedly satisfied that obligation.” Rights activists then and later also contended that women preserved the republic in other ways.[i] Nonetheless, activists accepted the premise that willingness to meet the obligation to sustain the nation, meaning to risk life and property, was key to full citizenship. One may also argue that it was key to full representation in history. Read More
12 min read