Reconstructing the Polity (1870)
The reconstruction of the American polity after the Civil War—in particular, the adoption of the 15th Amendment in 1870—marked a key moment in the long history of the 19th Amendment, women’s political mobilization, and the contested boundaries of United States citizenship.
During the campaign for the 15th Amendment, and the campaign of racial terror that accompanied its passage, Black women mobilized to defend themselves and their communities, innovating ideas and strategies that would reshape the women’s suffrage movement. As federal troops moved from the South to the West, Native women faced new forms of violence and questions about whether to defend tribal sovereignty or seek rights within the American nation. Chinese American women, meanwhile, confronted efforts to exclude them from citizenship. This panel will use gender as a lens to understand the cross-cutting trends of enfranchisement and disenfranchisement that came together in the wake of the Civil War.