The new school of political history that emerged in the 1960's and 1970's sought to go beyond the traditional focus of political historians on leaders and government institutions by examining directly the political practices of ordinary citizens. Like the old approach, however, this new approach excluded women. The very techniques these historians used to uncover mass political behavior in the nineteenth century United States - quantitative analyses of election returns, for example--were useless in analyzing the political activities of women, who were denied the vote until 1920.
By redefining "political activity", historian Paula Baker has developed a political history that includes women. She concludes that among ordinary citizens, political activism by women in the nineteenth century prefigured trends in twentieth century politics. Defining "politics" as "any action taken to affect the course of behavior of government or of the community", Baker concludes that, while voting and holding office were restricted to men, women in the nineteenth century organized themselves into societies committed to social issues such as temperance and poverty. In other words, Baker contends, women activists were early practitioners of nonpartisan, issue oriented politics and thus were more interested in enlisting lawmakers, regardless of their party affiliation, on behalf of certain issues than in ensuring that one party another won an election. In the twentieth century, more men drew closer to women's ideas about politics and took up modes of issue oriented politics that Baker sees women as having pioneered.