In T.M. Roberts' Distant Revolutions: 1848 and the challenge to American Exceptionalism it's said briefly (on p. 92 and without a citation/reference) that:

In 1848 Emma Willard, the director of the seminary that educated Stanton, sent a public letter to the French government appealing for women’s suffrage.

Wikipedia's page on Willard however states that

Despite her reputation today in women's history, Willard was not a supporter of the women's suffrage movement during the mid-19th century. Willard believed that women's education was a much more important matter.

These two claims seem (at least a bit) at odds with each other. So did Willard (really) send such a letter to the French government in 1848?

1 Answer 1


Willard did indeed send a letter to the French government in 1848, which can be found here: Letter to Dupont de l'Eure on the Political Position of Women. However, she does not ask for universal suffrage, but for the establishment of a separate female legislative council in addition to the main legislature, which would stay male-only:

Suppose, [...] the French convention should invite the women of France to meet and choose delegates [...] to assemble in Paris, as a female body invested with powers to act for the sex. Suppose your convention [...] shall accord to them those advisory powers which in the family properly belong to the mother and the mistress. These will find no place where commerce, war and foreign relations are the subject of your deliberations. [...]

There are portions of public duties which I would desire to see in the hands of women [...]

She then suggests giving the female legislative council the authority to decide on particular subjects, namely

1st The care of the schools for the young children of the community [...]

2d The care of the poor [...]

3d The care of the public morals, especially in so far as their own sex are concerned [...]

4th The care of female education beyond primary schools [...]

So while Willard supported women's involvement in politics, she was not a supporter of women's suffrage in its modern definition.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .