Philosophy Meets Flawed Execution

Our nation was built around the concept that the authority of any form of government should come from the consent of the governed.  The philosophical basis was flawed, however, as our Founders accepted two exceptions to the general rule:  African slaves and women, neither of whom had any legal rights and who could be literally or figuratively “owned” by others.  In the case of Africans brought to this country by force, the ownership rights were absolute.  In the case of women, both fathers and husbands exercised legal control but used discretion for reasons of domestic harmony.

Legal freedom came to all slaves after the Civil War; however, African-American males were ensured the right to vote in 1870, while all women would have to wait until 1920 to gain their right to cast a ballot.  

Nevertheless, in spite of Constitutional Amendments there were still forms of “enslavement.”  For example, in the South, the use of “Jim Crow” laws and regulations were implemented to “control” African-Americans.  

Similarly, after 1920, women were still restricted from engaging in activities that might put them at risk in a “man’s world.”  It was not just that certain professions, such as the law or medicine, were considered unsuitable; industrial jobs in most factories were also off limits.