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Even though they made up more than half of the population of the colonies at the time of the Revolution, women exercised just about zero percent of the direct political power. They did have social and economic influence, which are evident in the letter in which Abigail Adams asks her Founding-Father husband, future second president John Adams, to "remember the ladies" when proposing rights for the new nation.

Women got their first higher education in the 1830s and began to get together in the gatherings of the Second Great Awakening. The Seneca Falls Conference of 1848 started the women's movement. Women put their own cause on hold to campaign for the abolition of slavery before the Civil War. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, feminist organization grew until the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 gave women the right to vote. Women joined the work force temporarily during World War II and permanently starting in the 1960s. By the 1990s, they were a regular part of the armed forces, and by early 2012, 90 congresswomen were in the Capitol.


Blacks, almost all of them slaves, made up 15 percent of the U.S. population at the time of the Revolution. The next largest minority from a non-English-speaking area was German; German Americans made up 7 percent of the population. As the United States grew other significant ethnic groups were the Irish, Hispanics, Polish, Jewish, Chinese, and Japanese. Each of these groups has been subject to discrimination that was in part proportional to their self-identification as a special group within America. As groups have mixed in American society, prejudice has declined.

Blacks gained freedom from slavery after the Civil War but were still subject to Jim Crow laws until the 1960s. The Chinese and Japanese were excluded from immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but have since become an affluent part of the country. In 2010, 11 percent of the largest counties in the United States were minority majority, meaning that no one race or ethnic group formed a majority of their population. That number is expected to grow to 18 percent of U.S. counties by 2020. Currently, four whole states are minority majority: California, Hawaii, Texas, and New Mexico. Culture, population centers, group membership, and even families have begun to blend across ethnic groups since the 1970s.

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