The Virgin Vote: Young Americans in the Age of Popular Politics

Grinspan, Jonathan, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Gallagher, Gary, HIST, University of Virginia

Young people played a central role in nineteenth-century American democracy. From 1840 to 1900, young Americans joined in a boisterous political culture, to guide their nation and announce their identities. Women, minorities, and underage males – usually banned from voting – also followed politics closely, ratcheting up excitement. In an age of extreme partisanship and close elections, political parties sought young men’s “virgin votes,” making voting the central rite of passage of American masculinity. Each stage of youth, from childhood through young adulthood, is explained in a successive chapter, demonstrating the building involvement in public democracy as Americans aged. Finally, when young people lost interest in politics in the 1890s, overall turnout dropped precipitously. This dissertation uses accounts of children, adolescents, first-time voters, and politicians to explore the personal and structural ways young people sustained nineteenth-century democracy.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
History, youth, young, politics, elections, nineteenth-century, jacksonian, civil war, gilded age, antebellum, democracy, america, vote, ballot, victorian, politician, voter, virgin, first-time
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