Hannah Mather Crocker was the leading American political theorist between 1800 and 1820 to engage the controversial question of sex equality. In the wake of the postrevolutionary backlash against political radicalism, she became a subtle rhetorician of women's rights. She accepted how her cultural context placed limits on the realization of women's rights, yet she did not analytically conflate these temporal limits with women's capacities to contribute to their polity. She sought to normatively defend and gently extend American women's ongoing informal political participation in the postrevolutionary era and challenged the separate spheres discourse that aimed to restrict it. Through the first comprehensive study of Crocker's oeuvre, this article provides new insight into the political role and rhetorical style of women's rights discourse and women's activism in the early republic and uncovers Crocker's philosophical legacies for scholars who seek to reconcile the standpoints of equality and difference feminism.
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