'The glory of each generation is to set its own precedent': Belva Lockwood and the rhetorical construction of female presidential plausibility.

Author:Paup, Emily Berg
 
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Although the United States came the closest it ever has to electing a female president in 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton fell short of the votes needed to win the Electoral College and thus the presidency. Although commentators have argued a number of reasons for businessman Donald Trump unexpected win, many agree that gender was an important variable in the election (Burleigh, 2016; Tyson and Maniam, 2016; Bush, 2016). Specifically, while a 2015 Suffolk University poll showed that 95% of the country indicated that they were prepared to vote for a "qualified" female candidate, most studies since November of 2016 show that implicit gender bias that associates the presidency with masculinity influences vote choices (Dittmar, 2017; Bialik, 2017). As Mary Stuckey writes, "the presidency is an important site where our national expectations of gender are performed and ritualized" (Stuckey, 2010, p. 44). This study seeks to determine how one of the first female presidential candidates in history negotiated the gendered expectations of the office to promote female presidentiality as both natural and necessary.

During the late nineteenth century, women's participation in partisan politics grew exponentially as more became party leaders, speakers, and even candidates (Freeman, 2000; Dinkin, 1995; DeFiore, 1992; Edwards, 1997; Varon, 1998; Zagarri, 1998; Zboray & Zboray, 2010; Buhle, 1981). The year 1884 was a watershed year, as the Equal Rights Party nominated not one, but two female candidates for national office. Belva Bennett Lockwood was nominated for President of the United States, and Marietta Stow was nominated as her running mate. Both were politically-minded women who played significant roles in Gilded Age politics. (1) As only the second woman to launch a bid for the presidency and the first legally to run a presidential campaign, Lockwood's speeches and writings establish the rhetorical origins of a female presidential candidacy, an important and under-studied part of history.

One's gender dictates access to political culture, making it more difficult for women to occupy space in the political arena. Gender parity in government does not exist, as women currently make up less than 20% of Congress and have never occupied the office of Vice President or President of the United States (Jamieson, 1995, p. 4; "Current Numbers," 2018; Silva, 2016). One reason for this imbalance lies in cultural expectations of what it means to be capable of political leadership, especially in the executive branch. The qualities considered befitting the president of the United States have been and continue to be coded masculine (Stuckey, 2010; Parry Giles & Parry-Giles, 1996). Stuckey (2010) rightfully points out that while "social norms change, it remains clear that there are consistently masculinist norms associated with the office" (p. 44). In a culture that systematically denied women a seat at the political table, Lockwood's attempt to frame the presidency as an office any candidate with "presidential" qualifications should be able to occupy, regardless of one's gender, is noteworthy. Through an analysis of her public communication during her two presidential campaigns, I argue that Lockwood provides an early model of a female presidential candidacy through her use of eikos argument.

Rhetorical eikos, or argument by plausibility, was an important strategy for a woman attempting to be a political leader during a time when women were rarely participants on the political scene. By framing her candidacy as a natural continuation of political history, "befitting" a woman as much as a man, and as an example for future female candidates, I argue that Lockwood used argument by eikos to prove that female political leaders were a natural, expected, and necessary part of Gilded Age political culture. Although there have been a few biographical treatments of Lockwood (Norgren, 2002, 2007; Lashley, 1993), and some mention of her in broader histories of women in politics (Freeman, 2000; Falk, 2008), there has yet to be a thorough study of her rhetoric. This analysis not only fills this void, but also enhances our understanding of eikos itself.

This study focuses on the most complete pieces of communication available from and about Lockwood's (1884) and (1888) campaigns, (2) namely two campaign speeches from 1884, one campaign speech from 1888, two campaign essays from 1888, and one biographical reflective essay about her 1884 campaign that was published in 1903. (3) Lockwood's rhetoric is a study in the potential of eikotic logos to present a female presidential candidacy as innate, and thus logical, legitimate, and essential. As the first woman to run a campaign for President of the United States, Belva Lockwood broke an early glass ceiling in women's quest for political leadership. In essence, Lockwood not only tried to make a woman presidential candidate seem natural and expected in a time when it was not, but she also attempted to force a reconsideration of the very cultural norms themselves.

Belva Bennett Lockwood's presidential campaign

Belva Bennett Lockwood was an attorney, a lobbyist, a suffragist, and a politician. Widowed at a young age and fascinated by politics, she moved with her daughter to Washington, D.C. in 1866, during the height of Reconstruction. She often sat in the recently opened "Ladies Gallery" in the Senate and observed the Reconstruction Debates (Norgren, 2007, pp. 14-16). This experience helped her to understand the world of politics, which would prove useful in her later lobbying efforts. (4) After becoming involved in the temperance and suffrage movements, Lockwood founded the Universal Franchise Association (UFA) with Josephine Griffing and Julia Archibald Holmes in 1867. She served as President of the UFA in 1870, and also became a member of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (Norgren, 2007, pp. 19-26). After years of struggle to receive her diploma and be admitted to various bar associations, Lockwood became the first woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court. (5)

Lockwood was the first woman to run for President of the United States legally. (6) In 1884, California women's rights activists Marietta Stow and Clara Foltz nominated Lockwood for President for the Equal Rights Party. Lockwood had attended the Republican Party Convention that year and was one of many suffragists rebuffed when they asked if the party would draft a resolution to support woman suffrage. Lockwood then wrote a letter to the editor in Stow's Woman's Herald of Industry, expressing her concern over the current state of political affairs and the need for a female candidate. In it she wrote, "If women in the states are not permitted to vote, there is no law against their being voted for," and encouraged people, saying that, "it is quite time that we had our own party; our own platform, and our own nominee" (Lockwood, 1903, p.729). It was after writing this letter that the Equal Rights Party nominated her for the presidency. Although when recalling the election of 1884 Foltz suggested that she and Stow nominated Lockwood in jest, she described in detail how they secured funds for the campaign, spoke to the media, organized a convention, and drafted a platform for the Equal Rights Party (Foltz, 1918, pp. 27-28).

Lockwood set up campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C., with her daughter, Lura McNall Ormes, serving as campaign manager. Having campaign experience from traveling with Horace Greeley as a newspaper columnist a decade earlier, Lockwood ran a strategic campaign. Her biographer explains that Lockwood understood the importance of public attention in law and politics when she writes, "As an engineer of reform, she understood the importance of political theater and willingly participated in noteworthy and attention-getting occasions" (Norgren, 2007, p. 107). She wrote essays for a few literary magazines, distributed pamphlets and the Equal Rights Party platform, and had an official campaign portrait circulated ("A Women's Candidate for President," 1884, p.l). She also traveled nationally delivering campaign speeches, often procuring speaker's fees for her appearances in order to fund her campaign. She even boasted to reporters after the 1884 campaign that she had been able to cover her expenses and come out $125.00 ahead ("Mrs. Lockwood's Campaign Closed," 1884). She also invited her fellow candidates to a debate--but received no reply (Norgren, 2007, p. 135-136).

Her 1884 campaign received a decent amount of press coverage, both positive and negative. The Washington, D.C. daily newspaper The Evening Star published a few accounts of her campaign events, and the literary magazine Frank Leslie's Illustrated published a full-page article featuring Lockwood and highlighting "women's contribution to the political life of the country" (Norgren, 2007, p. 134; "Woman in Politics," 1884, p. 72-75). There were a few articles published in the New York Times about the campaign, all of which highlighted gender stereotypes of the time. One was a lengthy biography, in which Lockwood was described mostly as caring and pure. The other was an article titled, "The Divided Skirt Question," which coupled her candidacy with a discussion of whether women should wear culottes. There were articles that claimed that her back hair was not her original hair, her underpants were "cardinal red," and discussed at length the propriety of her riding a bicycle ("Another Scandal," 1884, p. 8). Almost every article written about her mentioned her attire or her complexion. The Boston Globe even published an article called, "Belva in the White House: A Cabinet Meeting of the Period When Women Shall Steer the Ship of State," which was a satirical depiction of a cabinet meeting run by Lockwood. In it, she was described as being late for the meeting because she could not choose what to wear...

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