Was Teddy Roosevelt a Feminist?
In his twenties, Manhattan-born Theodore Roosevelt became enamored with the ruggedness of the American West. He built a ranch out in the wide-open spaces of the Dakotas and learned to ride, rope, and hunt. Later in life, he was celebrated for his role with the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War, forever known for charging up San Juan Hill. And during his presidency in the early 1900s, he held boxing matches in the White House. There was no doubt that the 26th president was a "man’s man."
But there was more to Teddy than testosterone. As a senior at Harvard, he wrote passionately about equal rights for women. As an assemblyman in New York, he pushed corporal punishment for men who abused their wives. And in 1912, while campaigning on the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party ticket, he became the first presidential candidate to support women’s suffrage.
Teddy Roosevelt and the fight for women's suffrage:
- Disillusioned with his Republican successor, William Howard Taft, Roosevelt ran for a third term with the Progressive Party. Their platform advocated women's suffrage, welfare assistance for women and children, farm relief, banking reform, health insurance, and worker's compensation.
- Jane Addams of Hull House fame seconded Roosevelt’s 1912 nomination. In a sign of the times, Charles W. Eliot, former president of Harvard, disapproved: “It was a spectacular proceeding, but in exceedingly bad taste because a woman has no place in a political convention,” he opined.
- The women’s suffrage movement began in the mid-1800s, during a time when America’s founding promise of freedom from oppression didn’t include women. They didn’t have the right to vote, and once married, their husbands held complete legal power over them. American women finally gained the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
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