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Women’s participation in the abolitionist movement allowed them to raise issues of their own natural rights largely because it turned them into activists. It gave them the idea that they could participate in the political arena just as men could.
In the antebellum period, the idea that men and women should inhabit “separate spheres” was quite strong. Women were believed to be less suited to participate in public life than men were. Politics and such public affairs were believed to be too sordid for women to deal in. Women were supposed to stay home and create a home life that was a refuge for men from the less moral public world.
By participating in the abolitionist movement, some women were able to get beyond this idea. They got the idea that they could be political actors just as men could. As they worked hard to promote the idea of African American rights, it occurred to them that they could just as well push for their own rights as well. In this way, the abolitionist movement gave rise to the women’s movement in America.
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