Woman-Thought, Social Capital, and the Generative State: Mary Austin and the Integrative Civic Ideal in Progressive Thought


  • I would like to thank Carol Nackenoff, John T. Scott, Helene Meyers, Hector Amaya, and the anonymous referees for strengthening my work with their insightful comments. I am grateful for the support of Eric Selbin through the Brown Working Papers in the Arts and Sciences and the Cullen Faculty Development Program at Southwestern University. I would also like to thank the Huntington Library for their generous assistance and permission to quote the Austin Collection.

Teena Gabrielson is assistant professor of political science, Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX 78627 (gabrielt@southwestern.edu).


This essay explicates Mary Austin's theory of citizenship and demonstrates her contribution to the larger literature on social democratic citizenship emerging in the early twentieth century. The primary text considered is her monograph,The Young Woman Citizen (1918). In this piece, Austin reimagines the spatial and gender ordering of the polity to create an integrative and inclusive civic ideal. She employs the concepts of society and mind as a means of blurring the boundaries between the public and private and integrating the polity, while she turns to woman-thought, social capital, and the generative state to secure women's inclusion. Austin's work combines a unique form of the gender-difference argument for suffrage with progressive political philosophies in an effort to construct a model of the polity in which women share sovereignty with men, socially, culturally, and institutionally.