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The gender-segregated signatures on this anti-slavery petition (image 1), sent to the 25th Congress from upstate New York, illustrate the “separate spheres” of household life in antebellum America. The work done by study co-author Daniel Carpenter (image 2), points to a trove of petitions now languishing in state and national archives. Another example (image 3) is a “Petition from Ladies of Marshfield, Massachusetts, 1835.”

Foreshadowing feminism

Petitioning against a congressional gag rule on slavery before the Civil War spurred generations of activists

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