Women’s Political Agency and Public Education in the 19th Century
Nicholas, Kathryn Ann
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This study examines the relationship between women’s political agency and educational office holding in the mid- to-late 19th century. In the process, it expands the intersection between two domains of scholarship. Research related to the history of public schooling includes a large body of literature on the feminization of teaching in the U.S. beginning in the mid-19th century with a much smaller body of literature examining the rise in women’s school and district-level leadership in the early 20th century. Meanwhile, the field of American political development has begun to suggest a relationship between the rise of women’s formal political agency in the 20th century and their longer history of involvement in education politics. The few scholars examining women’s advancement as school administrators and their entry into electoral politics in both domains have suggested that the growth of school suffrage nationwide increased women’s political opportunities in the early decades of the twentieth century. New research tools, specifically the digitization of historic records, allowing for a systematic analysis of nineteenth century school suffrage provisions finds that these provisions had less to do with women’s broader voting rights than previously thought. It also reinforces the fact that suffrage rights and office holding were two separate facets of political citizenship. Expanding the discussion beyond school suffrage, this dissertation provides a comprehensive analysis of school suffrage, women’s educational office holding, and related provisions for all states and territories in the U.S. during the 19th century. In the process it reveals that women held elective and appointed educational offices more broadly and for a longer period of time than has been thought. This was particularly true in the West although such opportunities varied greatly. Focusing specifically on Montana and Washington, this study documents both similarities and differences in patterns related to school suffrage and women’s educational office holding in both states. Through a detailed examination of the circumstances which allowed women’s election (or appointment) as county school superintendents, their demographic backgrounds, and the job duties related to the position; this dissertation explores factors that promoted women’s political agency and education leadership from 1870-1900.
- Education - Seattle