American Labour Movements: the early years

Though the full force of the labour movement was not to become a political force until after the Civil War, American workers were organizing and advocating for themselves since before the Revolution. Continue reading

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A Short History of American Political Parties

The modern day Republican party bears no resemblance to the Republican party of the 19th century abolitionists. There was a shift from the 1880s to the 1970s, beginning with the 1876 court case US vs Cruikshanks, which set the precedent that mob violence aimed at intimidating voters was a matter for local law enforcement rather than the federal government. This allowed the KKK to systemically terrorize black voters and Republican whites to the point where the Republican Party ceased to exist in the South, leaving only varying degrees of Jacksonian Democrat. Meanwhile, cities in the North saw an influx of immigrants who tended to ally themselves with the Democrats due to the party’s populist overtones and lack of support for Prohibition, another Republican morality reform. Thus, the northern Democrats began moving left. Republican president Herbert Hoover’s failure to prevent the 1929 economic crash and timid attempts to relieve the suffering of the Great Depression that followed soured many progressives and liberals against the Republican party, and the success of FDR’s New Deal programs firmly cemented the Democrats as the party of labour unions, urban politics, minorities, and the working poor. However it also angered many southern Democrats, who saw themselves as betrayed by their party. This group deserted en masse after the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and joined the now-obsolete Republican religious reformers who saw themselves as bastions of American morality. The process was completed in the aftermath of Roe vs Wade, when the anti-abortion evangelicals jumped onboard, drawing off much of the southern vote.

Change and the Lack Thereof in 1920s Gender Politics

The 1920s are commonly assumed to have been a time of great social change in sexual norms and gender politics in celebration of women’s equality upon gaining the right to vote. As usual with common assumptions about history, the truth is far more complicated. The right to vote was not a cure-all to sexual inequality, and the gender politics of the 1920s were not as significant a departure from the previous age as is commonly supposed. There was, however, a significant increase in the visibility of women’s sexual behavior, and a corresponding normalizing of women’s sexuality in regards to men. It is more accurate therefore to say that while there was a sexual revolution in the 1920s, men were the primary beneficiaries, and it was part of a larger shift toward youth culture and consumerism. Continue reading

A Brief History of Intersectional Feminism and Other 19th Century Reform Movements

When women’s liberation arises, it does so as a companion to industrialization, urbanization, and the rise of the nuclear family, all aspects present in the United States in the period after the War of 1812. It is a response to the increasing requirement that women act as autonomous individuals, while remaining legally and socially dependent on and subordinate to men in accordance with the traditional culture.1 However it cannot simply happen automatically; it requires a precedent. Continue reading