Date of Award

5-1-1977

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Department of Political Science

First Advisor

Shelby F. Lewis

Abstract

Scholarly work on William Edward Burghardt DuBois makes only tangential references to his concerns about the social, economic, and political conditions of women. Using his writings, speeches, correspondence, activism, and the recollections of some women who knew him, this dissertation attempts an exploratory study of DuBois’ views on women’s rights. A sketch of DuBois' views on women’s rights was developed by noting, on the one hand, the convergences of the rights of African-American women and all other women, and on the other hand, the chasms between African-American women and their compatriots in the Women’s Rights Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. The chasms are the result of the racism of White women and the sexism of African-American men. DuBois' life and work were divided into three periods. These periods and his expressed belief in the equality of all peoples provide a basis for analyzing his views on women's rights within the context in which they were produced. They also make it easier to identify growth, trends, and continuity, or the absence of these qualities, in those views. During the first period, 1883-1909, DuBois emerges as a factor in the Civil Rights and Women's Rights Movements. The second period, 1910-1934, is dominated by the Women's Suffrage Movement and some general concerns about women's rights. The third and final period, 1935-1963, is marked by an interfacing of women's issues and international issues. An analysis of the views DuBois expressed and acted upon during his long lifetime indicate growth and consistency. Sufficient evidence was found to show that DuBois was an advocate of the legal equality of women and men, with attention to the special needs of women due to the maternal, or childbearing function. Also, it was found that he recognized the unique experience of African-American women as members of two oppressed groups, African-Americans and women. A summary of the findings is presented in the final chapter as DuBoisian Tenets on women's rights. These principles provide a preliminary familiarity with another aspect of DuBois' work and raise questions regarding the issue of women's rights in the work and ideas of other men. Hence, suggestions for further study include a proposed examination of other noted Black men's views on women's rights.

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