William Howard Taft was the first sitting U.S. president to speak before the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Taft appropriated some of the most problematic tropes of the woman suffrage movement to express opposition to suffrage, forwarding three intersecting images of conditional citizenship: white, earned, and patriarchal citizenship. Analysis of Taft’s speech in the context of suffrage advocacy can help explain the incomplete citizenship that emerged even after the Nineteenth Amendment passed; woman suffrage depended on conditional understandings of citizenship that were easily appropriated by their opposition. This case illustrates how arguments used by social movements can be deployed against those same movements. In particular, conditional understandings of citizenship are always a double-edged sword.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.