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Senate candidate Roy Moore had been alive a little more than years ago, no one would be discussing the recent allegations against him or his fitness for office. In fact, there was no crime on the books that he could have violated, because inthe age of consent in Alabama and many other states was Before women had the right to vote, they used the court of public opinion to change attitudes about female sexuality and sought laws that better protected women from sexual violence. This 19th-century campaign launched the long struggle against sexual assault and harassment that the 21st-century metoo campaign continues.

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Both campaigns show that women can secure meaningful legislative changes, even without the ballot or proportional representation as elected officials. But they also demonstrate the limits of legislative change in the absence of corresponding changes in culture and institutions — an important lesson for those seeking to make this moment the start of a more permanent transformation. Efforts to raise the age of consent in the United States were inspired by those in England. InBritish journalist William Stead posed undercover among brothel keepers, where he was shocked to find that men could and often did easily purchase the opportunity to deflower a year-old virgin for about five British pounds.

Such a decisive victory showed leaders of the WCTU that public moral outrage could lead to political change, even if women — the ones victimized and the ones most concerned about the victims — could not yet vote or hold office. Functioning more or less as a political party by and for women, the WCTU which counted nearlymembers by circulated pamphlets and petitions in states across the country to highlight the threat that weak or absent statutory rape laws posed to wives, daughters and the home. Between anda staggering 15 million Americans moved to cities, and fears about how modern urban life might corrupt white womanhood spurred many citizens to action.

By20 states had raised the age of consent to 14, one to 15, nine to 16, and one to Ten states, including Alabama, refused to budge. So reformer Helen Hamilton Gardener implemented a strategy to make public the violence against women that occurred in private. Men feared correctly, as it turned out that the next step after raising the age of Ladies seeking real sex Hamlin would be the outlawing of alcohol.

Debates about consent laws were also about prostitution. Social purity pamphlets detailed how quickly one initial transgression, consensual or otherwise, could lead to a life of prostitution. Reformers concerned themselves mainly with the plight of white women.

Few made the connection between the sexual violence that enslaved women and girls endured for generations, and continued to endure post-emancipation, and the new Progressive-era efforts to raise the age of sexual consent. They hoped that raising the age of consent would lay bare the hypocrisies of the sexual double standard and be the first step toward establishing a single sexual standard by which both men and women abided.

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Byonly two states had succeeded in raising the age of consent to 18 — Wyoming and Kansas. Not incidentally, these were two states in which women could vote. Bythanks to the reformist zeal of the Progressive era and the tireless efforts of thousands of women whose names have mostly been lost to history, nearly every state in the United States, including Alabama, had raised the age of sexual consent to A few Western states, where women could vote and hold office, increased it to This is the public reckoning we now face. History also shows us that when women have a say in making and enforcing laws, violence against women decreases — something Willard and Hamilton Gardener knew all along.

Today, women do have a voice in the law, but we do not yet have something even approximating equality when it comes to holding positions of power — in business, in politics, in entertainment, in media and in the academy — positions where women can make policies, build institutional structures and shape culture. The real revolution will come when we do. Search Input Search Sections Menu.

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