In the beginning of Anna Clark’s essay, “Manhood, Womanhood, and the Politics of Class in Britain, 1790-1845,” she describes to the reader how the British political system was set up before the Chartists were formed. The upper and middle-classes were the groups with the political authority and the working-class and peasants had nothing politically. The politicians of this time were all men and were looked down upon by the working-class men due to their namby-pamby homogeneous appearance. The working-class men styled themselves as “real men,” hard working, strong men that knew their sexual identity, unlike, it seemed, those in political offices. With all of this manliness being flaunted everywhere, the women of this time were trying to find a niche in the political system along with these working-class men. Eventually both men and women of the working-class came together and were both in the Chartist movement together.
Of course, at this time in history, it was looked down on for a woman to want to be in politics. The woman was supposed to stay in the home and nurture the children, not to meddle in the affairs of politics. Ms. Clark then tells of how the women get into politics because they believe that if politics was the reason why they could not get good food and decent shelter to take care of their families, then it was every woman’s right to be involved in politics. For a while, both Chartist men and women believed in these issues along with the normal political issues of the time, such as suffrage for all people. For one of the first times in history, some men actually supported the right for women suffrage. This was another goal of the Chartists and all women. (Not just the working class, but that wasn’t discussed in this essay ,so…I’m not going to say anything about the Suffragettes in this paper.) After about ten years, the Chartists started to veer away from their grass-roots campaign. The men of the group started fixating their attention upon a narrow view of politics.
No longer did they think of “the People”, they were thinking about the men as a group. So where did this leave the women? They were pretty much back where they had started from over a decade before. The Chartists started thinking in a masculine way once again and seemed to have left the women out of the picture. For a while, it looked like women were going to get their foot in the door of politics. They had men working along side of them for a common goal: the protection of their families and a voice in Parliament. Once the women got that foot in the door, though, the Chartist men slammed the door hard. So, what if women hadn’t been shut out this way? What if the men hadn’t left them out politically? If they weren’t left out, the upper and middle-classes would’ve had nothing to do with them. They still believed that women weren’t equal and wouldn’t give a woman the right to vote, since the woman should be seen and not heard. The woman’s place is in the home not politics was the decree and they wouldn’t change their minds about that during the time period.