Hillary Rodham Clinton’s video this week celebrating her presumed emergence as the first female major party nominee quoted Shirley Chisholm. A recording has the former member of Congress and 1972 presidential candidate saying: “Those who think that the women’s liberation movement is a joke, may I disabuse you of that notion. It’s about equal opportunity.” Indeed, women have been turning men’s mockery into female feats for years. In fact, the candidacy of the first woman elected as mayor—boosters insist to any political office—in the United States—began as a sexist prank.
In 1887, feeling empowered from having become eligible to vote four years earlier, women in the Quaker village of Argonia, Kansas, joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Crusading against booze expressed what some historians call “maternal feminism,” others call “municipal housekeeping,” going public with the motherly impulse to cultivate virtue.
WCTU women were often insulted and harassed, accused of being lesbians and doused with water or beer when they protested outside saloons. But, the historian Carl Degler notes, by the mid-1870s, “what has once been treated as a joke … began to be perceived as a groundswell of sentiment that in some places was even affecting the outcome of local elections.” This “Woman’s Uprising” inspired WCTU’s Argonia chapter to select a slate of prohibitionist men to run for mayor and city council...
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