Though widely excluded from the male-dominated political parties, fraternal organizations, and trade unions, women found other ways of influencing public policy, making great strides by the first decade of the twentieth century but often at high cost to themselves. Through their own labor organizations, volunteer groups, and pressure groups they won broader and greater rights for working-class women and their children. Drawing on the widely held belief in the moral superiority of women, their wisdom and special responsibility in dealing with family issues, middle-class reformers developed a "maternalist" vision of women's political role. They expanded the nineteenth-century cult of domesticity—the belief that a woman's proper sphere was the home—to legitimize their efforts to influence public-policy issues that affected the family, including prostitution and abuse of the family by male alcoholics, as well as economic...
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