The early women movement

Introduction

Women’s movement refers to the series of campaigns concerning issues such as; reproductive rights, equal remuneration, sexual harassment, domestic violence and sexual violence. The achievements of the movement vary from country to country.

The history of women movement has been categorized into three groups. Each tends to deal with different aspects of feminist issues. The first wave involves feminist movement during the 19th and 20th centuries and it dealt with suffrage movement. The second wave was concerned with the inequality of laws along with the implementation of these laws. The last movement was regarded as both continuation and response to what the second wave failed to achieve.[1]

Early Women Movements

The period of feminist activity in the 19th and 20th century, in the United Kingdom as well as United States is what is referred to as the first-wave of feminism. Feminism died in the US in the 1920s. Primarily, it involved gaining the rights of women’s suffrage.

In Britain, suffragettes had campaigned for women’s vote and this was eventually granted mainly because of the part played by British women during the First World War. Leaders of this movement includes; Elizabeth Cady Stanton as well as Susan B Anthony who really campaigned towards the abolition of the slavery before the championing of the women’s rights to vote.[2]

A wide range of women were involved in the American first-wave feminism Some were from conservative Christian groups while others resembled diversity and radicalism of second-wave feminism. The first-wave feminism ended with the passage of the nineteenth amendment of the United States constitution and this granted women right to vote.[3]

The second feminist wave began in the early 1960s and lasted till the late 1980s. The second wave was triggered by the book written by Betty Friedan. Friedan wrote as a mother and house wife where she described the dissatisfaction of educated middleclass wives who looking at their nice homes and families who had to wonder guiltily whether that was all to life. The second movement helped women to understand the aspects concerning women to personal lives which were deeply politicized and were reflective of sexiest structure of power. While the first-wave of feminism focused upon rights such as suffrage, the second-wave of feminism mainly involved other issues of equality like the end to discrimination.[4]

The second-wave had women’s political and cultural inequalities inextricably linked and this encouraged woman decipher the facets of their personal lives deeply politicized and reflecting sexist power structure. During the early 1990s a movement arose due to the failures of feminism and this was referred to as the third wave. It also gave a description of the backlash against the initiatives and movements which were created by second-wave feminism[5].

Feminism leaders who were rooted in this wave like bell hooks, Cherrie Moraga and Audrey Lorde called for a new subjectivity in feminist voice. They were determined to negotiate prominent space for the consideration of race related subjectivities within the feminist thought. This intersection between gender and race remained of great concern through the Hill-Thomas hearings. The will to register voters within the poor minority communities created rhetoric that made a focus on rallying young feminists. The rallying of the young has been emphasized within the third wave feminism.

After the vote was worn back in 1920, the women rights movement continued to lobby in different directions. The majority of women petitioned, marched and lobbied as the woman suffrage looked no further, the minority deciphered that the quest for women’s rights would be a continuous struggle that was not satisfied but only advanced by vote. In 1919, while the suffrage victory drew nearby, national American Women suffrage association (NAWSA) formed league of women voters which ensured that women would have their hard-won vote and use it seriously.

Later on, women’s bureau attached to the department of labor was established to collect information involving situation of women at work and also to advocate for changes it found were crucial. Majority of suffrages were pro-actively involved in lobbying for legislation so as to give protection to women workers against abuse and unsafe conditions.

In 1923, the leader of the National Women’s Party took the subsequent crucial step where she drafted an equal rights amendment for the United States constitution. There were claims that the federal laws would ensure men and women have equal rights in United States. It was argued that the constitutional amendment for the United States would be uniform despite where a person lived.[6]

The second wing of post-suffrage movement was not anticipated in the Seneca Falls “declaration of sentiments”. It was regarded as the birth control movement which was started by public health nurse, just as the suffrage drive was at the verge of its victory. The thought of woman’s right to control her body, mainly her own reproduction and sexuality ushered in a new dimension to the feelings of women’s emancipation. This movement did not only endorse the idea of educating women about birth control methods but also lead to the spread of conviction that freedom for modern women meant that they must be able to make decisions for themselves whether to become mothers and at what age. For decades, Margaret Sanger along with her supporters’ encountered zealously enforced laws which denied women this right.[7]

In 1936, there was a supreme decision which declassified birth control information obscene. Married couples in United States could legally get contraceptives not until 1965.Elements of the re-emerging women’s rights movement worked along with a wide spectrum of issues. Groups of women in hundreds of communities had worked on grassroots projects such as establishment of women’s newspapers, bookstores and also the cafes. They came-up with women battered shelters as well as rape crisis hotlines so as to care for the victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse[8]. They came together to create child care centers so that women can be able to work outside their homes to earn a living. Professionals in women health care came up with clinics to offer birth control and family planning counseling and abortion services for the low- income women. These clinics acted as a safe haven to discuss a wide spectrum of health concerns and to experiment with the alternative forms of treatment[9].

When the title IX was included in the education code of 1972, there was equity to higher education and to professional schools. The number of women lawyers, engineers, doctors’, architects and other professionals doubled and redoubled as quotas which limited women enrolment in graduate schools became outlawed. The most hotly contested area of title IX has been athletics and it has been one of the areas which has got a massive improvement. This has been manifested by the rise of the number of girls and women who participates in athletics.

Twenty-five years ago one in twenty-seven high school girls played sports but one in three do that today. During the last few Olympic Games, measuring the astonishing number of gold, bronze and silver medals, the whole world saw how much the American women could achieve. This was another palpable result of the title IX. [10]

In the society as whole, the women rights movement has brought considerable changes either. In 1972, 26% of women and men claimed that they would not vote for a woman as a president. The nation had dipped to just over 5% for women and to 8% for men in 1996. Also the average age of women when they first get married had declined from twenty to twenty four during the same period[11]. However, probably the most dramatic effect, of the women’s rights movement of the last few decades has been the women’s financial liberation[12]. Just Twenty-five years ago married women were not entitled to credit cards in their own names, they could not get a bank loan without a male co-signer and women working full time earned fifty-nine cents to every dollar that is carried by men.[13]

National organization for women (NOW) had to fight all way to the Supreme Court so as to allow today for a woman to hold a job for which she is qualified. And that is why we now see women in thousands of professions which would have not been possible a single generation ago. Such occupations include; Bus drivers, dentists and phone installers, just to mention a few.[14]

Majority of these changes emanates from legislation and court cases endorsed by women’s organization. However, a lot of advances women acquired in the 1960s and 70s were utterly personal. Such advances includes; getting husbands to help with house work, taking responsibilities for family meals as well as getting a long-deserved promotion at work.

Conclusion

Currently, young women have a pride calling themselves the “third wave” confronting thorny issues. Though, many women may still be reluctant to call themselves feminist due to present backlash, few can give up the legacy of personal freedoms and the inflated opportunities women have attained over the last 150years. Whatever choices we come up with for our lives, most of us tend to envisage a world for our daughters, granddaughters and nieces where all girls and women will have a window of opportunity to develop skills and talents which are unique so that they can be able to realize their dreams.[15]

So much has been accomplished, but a lot still remains to be done. A massive barrier to the full equality of American women stands before our freedom so that a nation can be regarded as complete. Women rights movement has been successful in an attempt to change the circumstances and hopes of women. The rest of injustices are being dealt with in courts and conference rooms, workplaces, the homes and organizations.[16]

Bibliography:

Barbour Christine Diana, Gerald C. Wright: Keeping the Republic: Power

            And Citizenship in American Politics .ISBN 0618162151; Houghton Mifflin

             Co, 2001.

Cott F. Nancy :No Small Courage: A History of Women in the United States; Oxford University Press US;ISBN 0195173236;Oxford University Press US,2004.

Cunningham A. Patricia: Reforming Women’s Fashion, 1850-1920: Politics,

             Health and Art. ISBN 0873387422; Kent State University Press, 2002.

Degler N. Carl: Out of Our Past: The Forces that Shaped Modern

             America: ISBN 0061319856; Harper & Row, 1984.

Digby Anne, Stewart John: Gender, Health and Welfare; ISBN

            0415187001. Routledge, 1998.

Howard Zinn: A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present; ISBN

            0060528427. HarperCollins, 2003.

Miriam Dixson: The Real Matilda: Woman and Identity in Australia, 1788

               To the Present. ISBN 0868407372 ; UNSW Press, 1999.

Nicholas Cary Susan, Alice M. Price, and Rachel Rubin: Rights

             And Wrongs: Women’s Struggle for Legal Equality. ISBN

             0935312420 Feminist Presses, 1986.

Talhami Ghada Hashem: The Mobilization of Muslim Women in Egypt; ISBN

            0813014298. University Press of Florida, 1996.

Rupp J.Leila, Verta A. Taylor: Survival in the Doldrums: The American

           Women’s Rights Movement, 1945 to 1960s. ISBN 0195049381; Oxford University Press, 1987.

[1] Ghada Hashem Talhami: The Mobilization of Muslim Women in Egypt; ISBN 0813014298. University Press of Florida, 1996 p. 83.

[2] Ibid
[3]Zinn Howard: A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present; ISBN 0060528427. HarperCollins, 2003 p. 48.

[4] Ibid p.124
[5] Anne Digby, Stewart John: Gender, Health and Welfare; ISBN 0415187001. Rutledge, 1998.p54

[6] Carl N Degler.: Out of Our Past: The Forces that Shaped Modern America: ISBN 0061319856; Harper & Row, 1984.p48
[7] Dixson Miriam: The Real Matilda: Woman and Identity in Australia, 1788  To the Present .ISBN 0868407372 ; UNSW Press, 1999.p68

[8].Leila J Rupp, Verta A. Taylor: Survival in the Doldrums: The American Women’s Rights Movement, 1945 to 1960s. ISBN 0195049381; Oxford University Press, 1987.p64

[9]Nicholas Cary Susan Cary Nicholas, Alice M. Price, and Rachel Rubin: Rights And Wrongs: Women’s Struggle for Legal Equality. ISBN  0935312420 Feminist Presses, 1986.p54

[10] Nicholas Cary Susan Cary Nicholas, Alice M. Price, and Rachel Rubin: Rights and Wrongs: Women’s Struggle for Legal Equality. ISBN 0935312420 Feminist Presses, 1986.p56

[11] Ibid.p96
[12]Nicholas Cary Susan, Alice M. Price, and Rachel Rubin: Rights and Wrongs: Women’s Struggle for Legal Equality. ISBN 0935312420 Feminist Presses, 1986.

[13] Barbour Christine Diana, Gerald C. Wright: Keeping the Republic: Power and Citizenship in American Politics .ISBN 0618162151; Houghton Mifflin Co, 2001 p.78.
[14]Cunningham A. Patricia: Reforming Women’s Fashion, 1850-1920: Politics, Health and Art. ISBN 0873387422: Kent State University Press, 2002.

[15] Patricia Cunningham A: Reforming Women’s Fashion, 1850-1920: Politics, Health and Art. ISBN 0873387422; Kent State University Press, 2002 p. 65.

[16] Leila Rupp J., Verta A. Taylor: Survival in the Doldrums: The American Women’s Rights Movement, 1945 to 1960s. ISBN 0195049381; Oxford University Press, 1987.

 

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