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Carrie Chapman Catt and the Evolutionary Politics of Sex and Race, 1885-1940

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 68, Number 2, April 2007
pp. 305-328 | 10.1353/jhi.2007.0009


Carrie Chapman Catt's engagement of race remains controversial. This article argues that there are two elements to Catt's career-long use of evolutionary arguments to map questions of sex and race. For Catt, evolutionary change instantiated (macroevolutionary) progress, but this progress depended on sex and race as linked categories of (microevolutionary) differentiation. In her arguments, the sexes always participate together in the same trajectory of evolutionary progress. Race, however, is a contingent category: different races can, but also may not, participate together in the progress narrative. Women of color thus had a doubly contingent position in her rhetoric.

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