It is telling part of history when women were split on whether or not the fourteenth amendment should be passed. Why would they not be though? The amendment still viewed women as inferior to men. The way it was originally wrote was not an accident, to emphasize male, rather than in previous amendments, man or mankind. In the time, this was viewed by many women as a step back for women’s rights. It provided a way under law to deny women the right to vote. Politicians could argue, using the amendment that the Constitution establishes that women do not have the constitutional right to vote.
On another note, the previous paragraph makes it sound like women did not have an active voice in politics. This however is not completely true in my opinion. It is clear that without the right to vote, their power was limited. This however did not prevent women from standing up for the causes they believed in. In fact the rise of the “new woman” caused a change in the perceived role of women in society. Women were no longer staying at home and just having children. They were going to get an education, and chasing after opportunities that were viewed impossible by previous women generations. In 1900, 20 percent of women were getting a college degree versus only 13 percent in 1890. Furthermore, women were actively participating in clubs for social reform and charity. There were over 160,000 women participating in over 500 clubs (1). I believe this information shows that women were beginning to take a step towards becoming more active participants in politics. It is clear without the right to vote they could only do so much. Still they were able to advocate for their causes, and later their political unrest would lead for them to achieve the right to vote.
As far as African Americans go and other minorities, this was time where they had little influence and power. Even when they received the right to vote, literary test and other obstacles were put in place to impede them. These were tests many white men would be unable to pass. The other obstacles could be even violent. These methods and the racial beliefs that many people had towards minorities gave them no power in society. These conditions I believe, made it impossible for minorities to have an active voice in politics. It would take years of discrimination before they could truly not feel disenfranchised.
So the question comes to be, if women and minorities did not have the power in this time period, who did? Was it the rich, white man? The interesting thing about the time period was the pace of information. I believe it would be incredibly easy for a rich individual to buy or bribe influence without anyone knowing about it. Therefore, I do not believe it would be impossible that rich people and businesses carry the majority of the influence in government. With the constant push and easy access we have for information this would be definitely more difficult to occur today. However, in this time the people were lucky to hear about even the bigger news out of government.
Lastly, I do believe that our system provided a way for even the poor working man to have a voice, although a quiet one. The voice is simply through the power of voting. There were more working men than rich men, therefore these men had the larger say in who represented the country. Those who were elected still had to respect that voice in fear of not be reelected. Whether or not politicians viewed them seriously in this time period is curious, however I believe our democracy even then did a decent job in spreading out influence. It clearly needed changes as we see in the later time periods, but I believe it was still a well-built system.
Keene, Jennifer D., Saul T. Cornell and Edward T. O’Donnell. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Volume, 3/e. Boston: Pearson, n.d. Chapter 17.3.2 (1)