Elizabeth Cady Stanton and George Fitzhugh were in agreement on one issue, that white males were the privileged leaders of society. That is where the agreement ends however. In his book Cannibals All, Fitzhugh discusses how it is the government’s role to make decisions for the population, referring to family structure of the time:
The very term, government, implies that it is to be carried on against the consent of the governed. Fathers do not derive their authority, as heads of families, from the consent of wife and children, nor do they govern their families by their consent. They would never take the vote of the family as to the labors to be performed, the moneys to be expended, or as to anything else (Cummings 283).
Fitzhugh believes that white Southern males are the only hope that the nation has to preserve conservative values of society from abolitionists and socialists. He goes on to say,
Love and veneration for the family is with us not only a principle, but probably a prejudice and a weakness…We are the enthusiastic admirer of the social relations exhibited in the histories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The social relations established in Deuteronomy, and 25th Chapter Leviticus, and as practiced by the Jews to this day, elicit our unfeigned admiration and approval. Moses is with us the Prince of Legislators, and the twenty-fifth Leviticus the best of political platforms. The purity of the family seems to be his paramount objective (Cummings 282).
Fitzhugh is concerned with protecting the status quo, the patriarchal order of the white male as the dominate power in society. Citing religious precedent to support his beliefs about slavery and capitalism, he places criticism on the social movements in the North that would grant all people equality, which he believes would lead to anarchy and the collapse of the family (Cummings 283).
Elizabeth Cady Stanton sees white male privilege in a different way. She equates slavery with the plight of women, noting that both groups have no voice in the course of their lives, each at the mercy of the white man who owns them (Cummings 251). She believed it was time to relieve men of the burden of taking care of all the business of running the country and family by themselves. In her Address to the New York State Legislature in 1860 she said:
Man is in such a labyrinth of contradictions with his marital and property rights; he is so befogged on the whole question of maidens, wives, and mothers, that from pure benevolence we should relieve him from this troublesome branch of legislation. We should vote, and make laws for ourselves (Cummings 252).
Stanton advocated for the rights of women to support themselves and their children. She believed that there was no need for men to protect women when God had given every person the ability to take care of themselves if they were given the chance (Cummings 252). Stanton’s efforts for women’s equality have resulted in greater opportunities for women. Yet attitudes like Fitzhugh’s regarding the role of the father and the role of women within the family still persist today.
The Quiverfull Movement, an Evangelical Christian movement that promotes the father as the ultimate protector and decision maker in the family, is one organization that promotes those attitudes. Vyckie Garrison, who founded the organization No Longer Quivering, describes the Quiverfull lifestyle as extremely demanding and demeaning for women and girls. Women are expected to produce as many children as possible to expand their husband’s religious and political influence. Since the wives are often worn out from childbirth it is left to the daughters to take care of the children and the housework. Most girls in Quiverfull families are only taught domestic skills which are seen as the only useful education they will need in their lives. Many are home schooled but college is considered “worldly” and not essential for women. Daughters are expected to serve their fathers and families and then serve their husbands. Garrison points out that Quiverfull promoters are very good at “spin” and many people are joining the movement (Jones).
George Fitzhugh makes the comment “It is falsely said that revolutions never go backwards. They always go backwards, and generally farther back than where they started (Cummings 284). Given the Quiverfull movement and recent events regarding the attempt to restrict women’s rights, do you think Fitzhugh’s comment has validity?
Cummings, Michael S. “Elizabeth Cady Stanton-Address to the New York State Legislator”. American Political Thought. 7th ed. Los Angeles: Sage, 2015. 251-252. Print.
Cummings, Michael S. “George Fitzhugh”. American Political Thought. 7th ed. Los Angeles: Sage, 2015. 276-285. Print.
Jones, Sarah. “Born to Breed: An Interview with Quiverfull Walkaway Vykie Garrison.” Politicus USA Archives. 25 June 2011. Web. 1 Mar. 2015. <http://archives.politicususa.com/2011/06/25/born-breed-quiverfull-walkaway.html>.