Democracy in America

The American Woman and Democratic Society in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America

In his survey of American society in the early 1800's, Alexis de Tocqueville spares a few chapters to describe the American woman as he sees her. Obviously, from our more modern view, Tocqueville's claim that women and men in America enjoy a certain equality clashes with the reality of the conditions at that time, and Tocqueville cannot give enough evidence to convince us to the contrary. More interesting, however, is the parallel between the “little society of husband and wife” and the “great political society” (574) that he describes. With that as a starting point, we can see that the requirement for a particular type of education for democracy to be feasible parallels with Tocqueville's description of the education of the American woman. Even more notable is that the situation of the American woman parallels the tyranny of the majority - or the mild despotism Tocqueville describes as a fearsome possibility of democracy. That said, Tocqueville is noticeably inconsistent in his views toward such a despotism as it applies to women.

Tocqueville’s argument that women enjoy a certain equality with men is hardly convincing, especially given the lack of supporting evidence. In America, he claims, women and men enjoy...

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