19th Century Feminism

Over the past 30 years, the anti-abortion right has taken to extracting proof-texts from the writings of early feminists to lend support to the idea of anti-choice feminism.

Many of these documents are only available in pdf format. This means that the full context of the selected quotes are lost. Further, the historical context of 19th century medicine, property law, and civil rights is completely ignored in this contortion of the words of the dead.

The daughter pages contain text transcriptions of the original documents, with links to the source .pdfs. Annotated pages provide historical, legal and cultural context, with attributions. Commentary pages synthesize the arguments as the authors viewed them, and their relevance to the current argument.

A historical note: Abortion was not an argument for 19th century feminists. They had bigger issues on their plate. Marriage ended their legal existence until they became widows. They did not own their property, their bodies, or have rights to their children. If they earned income, it belonged to their husbands. They could not sue, could not petition for redress of grievance, but were legally liable for all penalties. They had all of the detriments of slavery except they could not be sold, and all of the responsibilities of freedom, without the power to exercise their rights. Further, the term abortion meant something very different in a world without ultrasound or xray or the concept of viability. Using their words to refer to our reality is like trying to put carriage wheels on a fuel injected BMW. The conceptual technologies just don’t mesh.