Date of Award

2009

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Advisor

Marli F. Weiner

Second Committee Member

Richard W. Judd

Third Committee Member

Amy Fried

Abstract

The study of the nineteenth-century woman suffrage movements in Maine and New Brunswick brings to light the struggles of Americans and Canadians to define a wider democracy and citizenry amid times of profound socio-economic changes. Targeting the struggle for the female vote allows the historian to explore time-honored ideas about womanhood, manhood, and membership in a national political body. In the Borderlands of Maine and New Brunswick, a place where historians see cultural connections, the border loomed large. Borderlands historians have virtually ignored women’s political behavior in this region. This study will demonstrate that although Maine and New Brunswick women both tapped into the ideals of the Enlightenment and individual and property rights, their political work diverged by the turn of the twentieth century. The women, with a history of working together on issues of temperance, religion and slavery that transcended the border, were more tuned into the work of their national organizations and political structures when it came to suffrage. Maine woman suffrage was shaped by the American Revolutionary War and its ideals, the rights of citizens, which allowed for a process of professionalization and radicalism. Maine women also had training in the anti-slavery movement, which strengthened their ideas about woman suffrage. By the turn of the twentieth century, Maine suffragists had strong ties to national and international suffrage organizations, and drew upon these to bolster their own stateside cause. In New Brunswick, the Loyalist legacy continued, in the nineteenth century, with its emphasis on hierarchy and the importance of property ownership, to influence ideas about suffrage and women’s place in society. Despite a brief blossoming of female leadership connected to the Maritime Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and Saint John suffragists, female reformers could not always target the vote as their chief goal, nor did they attempt to fight for it as citizens, but rather, as property owners. In this respect, the New Brunswick suffrage movement was dampened by the social gospel movement that sought to bring religion to the streets, other women’s reform causes, and the limitations of land-owning suffrage, by the early twentieth century.

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