Herbert P. Lefler Fall Lecture - Cassandra Good - Seeing Women in Politics: Visual and Material Representations of Women's Political Participation in America, 1776-1876
Seeing Women in Politics: Visual and Material Representations of Women's Political Participation in America, 1776-1876
The political history of America's first century is most often told as a story of great men. While gender historians have documented many ways that women could indeed participate in politics in this era, both our master narrative and our mental image of early American politics remain stubbornly male-centered. However, there is ample visual and material evidence that can change this picture. Most images of political gatherings in this period include women, and there are sometimes subtle signs in women's portraits of their political involvement. Women also advertised their political beliefs in their homes and on their bodies, using objects from teapots to hair combs adorned with the faces and slogans of their favored candidates. Indeed, once we look closely, it is easy to see women everywhere in early American political life.
Cassandra Good is a historian and writer who has taught at Marymount University, George Washington University, and University of Mary Washington. She received her PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania. She also has experience in museums, new media, and public history through her work at the Smithsonian Institution.
Her latest book, First Family: George Washington’s Heirs and the Making of America, will be released on June 6, 2023 from Hanover Square Press (an imprint of Harper Collins) in 2023. The book tells the story of Washington’s step-grandchildren, the Custises, who achieved fame as the nation’s first “first family.” The Custis family story – long overlooked – parallels America’s story in its first century: military triumph and tragedy; democracy and old aristocratic ties; visions of liberty alongside the horrors of slavery. As a new nation, America evolved from the heady idealism of the Revolution to the challenges of democratic governing, from tenuous steps towards ending slavery to the entrenchment of slave labor, from Washington’s isolationist foreign policy to manifest destiny. By tracing the lives of a family who lived not just through but at the center of this evolution, we get both an intimate and sweeping view of a young nation’s growing pains.