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changing roles of women due to the revolution. During the revolutionary era, American leaders decided to use economic boycotts in theirstruggle against Britain. The goal of these boycotts was to stop the purchase of imported goods(which could only be purchased from England). For this to be successful, women would have toincrease the production of homespun while finding a way to do without certain products that couldnot be obtained locally. This gave women’s domestic roles political significance. The successof this political tactic rested on the shoulders of women. Their participation in politics, evenin this slight way, produced a change in the way women thought of themselves. Prior to therevolutionary era, should a woman had made a comment about politics, she would instantlyapologize for her ‘mistake’. Women no longer thought of themselves as excluded from politics. They began to discuss politics widely. The discussion of politics among women soon led topolitical participation outside of domestic roles. A trend started by Esther Reed, women’sgroups started collecting money. This money was collected for the sole purpose of being donatedto the American war effort. The money was greatly needed and accepted with much gratitude byGeneral Washington. Female political participation would not stop there. In 1790, New Jerseyadopted an election law referring to voters as “he or she”, thereby giving women the right votemore than a century before the 19th amendment would be added to the constitution. For the firsttime women could actively participate in politics. Not just by discussion or donations. Womenhad the ability to effect the outcome of an election. The American leaders who had proposed the

economic boycotts had no idea what they had started. Women’s roles would never be the same. Even though women’s roles had changed through the course of the revolution, the men werestill reluctant to acknowledge any sort of equality. The revolutionary era had thrown politicalimportance on the domestic duties of women, but it had not changed them. The women were onlyasked to do what they had previously done. They were not asked to step outside of the feminineboundaries which had confined them before. Only now the importance was recognized. Thediscussion of politics slowly became socially acceptable. Other political acts were givenfeminine characteristics in order to rationalize the fact that women were responsible for them. When the women’s groups contributed money to the war effort, it was used to purchase shirts forthe soldiers. The argument was that one of the woman’s domestic responsibilities was sewing. Soin using the money to purchase shirts, Washington had changed a non-feminine act into one thatwas feminine. The women’s suffrage that briefly occurred in New Jersey was not due to a strongcommitment to the principle of equality by the men. It was due to the fact that there was aloophole in the New Jersey constitution. The women were eventually disenfranchised. Therevolutionary era may have broken down the barrier confining women from politics, but it did notdeclare that male and female roles should be the same. A woman’s public role was located in herfeminine domestic responsibilities. The revolutionary era only opened up new ideas which wouldlater grow into the women’s rights movement.


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