In 1776 the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that “all men are created equal,” but for the next two centuries American suffrage laws implicitly limited who counted as a “man.” Voting regulations reflecting beliefs about class, race, gender, and age restricted participation in the American political process. These beliefs were tied to ideas of virtue central to definitions of masculinity, particularly that independent men had a right and a responsibility to participate in public life and community governance through voting. During the twentieth century, however, concepts of masculinity were gradually divorced from definitions of citizenship and suffrage.

During the colonial and Revolutionary periods, suffrage rights were restricted to male landowners on the basis of the eighteenth-century belief that manhood and civic virtue (the ability and willingness to ...

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