This pioneering study redefines women's history in the United States by focusing on civic obligations rather than rights. Looking closely at thirty telling cases from the pages of American legal history, Kerber's analysis reaches from the Revolution, when married women did not have the same obligation as their husbands to be ""patriots,"" up to the present, when men and women, regardless of their marital status, still have different obligations to serve in the Armed Forces.
An original and compelling consideration of American law and culture, No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies emphasizes the dangers of excluding women from other civic responsibilities as well, such as loyalty oaths and jury duty. Exploring the lives of the plaintiffs, the strategies of the lawyers, and the decisions of the courts, Kerber offers readers a convincing argument for equal treatment under the law.
""An immensely pleasurable read as well as an important contribution to American legal history . . . The author is too good a storyteller, however, to lay this all out without drama . . . Few have made the case so cogently or entertainingly.""--Sara L. Mandelbaum, New York Law Journal
""A thoughtful book of formidable research and clear prose . . . Kerber weaves broad constitutional and legal history around fascinating case studies . . . [and] makes a powerful case that, on balance, liberation is the trajectory of history.""--Michael Sherry, The New York Times Book Review
""An ambitious exploration of the history and meaning of women's civic obligations . . . A carefully crafted work that tells its complex and persuasive story at many levels. By its focus on the law of civic obligation, it makes an innovative contribution to the study of citizenship as both a legal and political institution in the United States. By following the 'antique legal tradition' of coverture out of the treatises and into the arena of public law, this book absorbing book also represents a significant expansion of the legal and social history scholarship of that doctrine in America. Its sweeping survey provides a timeline of the status of women as citizens that is a provocative reminder of how much in the past we still live. Informative and accessible, this study will be useful to legal historians and feminist theorists as well as to more general students of American history . . . So full of interesting ideas and thought-provoking questions that it will inspire the research agendas of scholars for years to come.""--Ann F. Thomas, H-Net Book Review
""Combining micronarrative with feminist theorizing, impeccable research with passionate engagement, Linda Kerber reshapes the history of American political development . . . A model study.""--From the Citation for the AHA's 1999 Joan Kelly Memorial Prize
""A capacious mind is at work in this richly textured and imaginative book. Putting obligations rather than rights in the forefront, Linda Kerber sees anew the past, present, and future of women's citizenship in the United States and in doing so illuminates the limits and possibilities of American democracy.""--Nancy Cott, Yale University
""Kerber makes a compelling case for a difficult proposition. This is history as it ought to be written.""--Stan Katz, President Emeritus, American Council of Learned Societies
""Brilliant--a major work.""--Gerda Lerner
""Kerber approaches the subject by a little-used path, and reveals much about how women have been treated and why . . . Startling.""--John B. Saul, The Seattle Times