On Women's Right to Vote

by Susan B. Anthony

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What is significant about Susan B. Anthony’s statements regarding the “oligarchy of sex” in “On Women’s Right to Vote”?

Susan B. Anthony’s statements regarding the “oligarchy of sex” in “On Women’s Right to Vote” are significant because they reveal the patriarchal system to be a subversion of the principles of American democracy and the American republic.

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In her many statements concerning women's rights, Susan B. Anthony was always at pains to make it seem that there was nothing all that radical about what she was advocating; that, on the contrary, the proposals she was putting forward were entirely in keeping with the best traditions of American democracy and the American Republic.

As Anthony makes clear in “On Women's Right to Vote,” it is not the women's movement that is subverting the principles on which American government is based, but rather what she calls “the oligarchy of sex”.

What she means by this is that America is governed by a small clique of men, an elite, wealthy minority who lord it over women and the poor. As far as Anthony is concerned, there's nothing remotely natural about this oligarchy. It represents, in fact, a subversion of the finest traditions of the American system of government, based as it is on the principles of democracy and republicanism.

In support of her argument, Anthony invokes the famous words of the Declaration of Independence, that government derives its powers from the consent of the governed. Yet that doesn't apply to the oligarchy of sex. It has certainly not derived its powers from the consent of women.

They are governed, and have been since the foundation of the United States. Yet at no point have they ever been asked for their consent. As a result, what we're left with is an oligarchical system in which men exercise sovereignty over female subjects, certainly not what a democratic republic should be about.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team