The Fight for Women’s Rights

Today, women have more liberty to do as they please. There are many positions in companies held by women. There was even a woman who ran for presidency in 1872. Additionally, there are many companies founded and ran by women. These show that home is not the only place for women, and they should not be tied as individuals running the house while their husbands work. The freedom that women have today cannot be possible without the events in the past that gave them identity in a society initially dominated by men. Women in the Past and Their Place in Society
Time and again, people bore this thinking that women were just “a creative source of human life. ” Many people considered them as forever inferior to men, creations that were under the opposite sex. Furthermore, women were constantly referred to as source of temptation. Even in other countries, women were viewed as children, meaning they would still be inferior to men. In Greek mythology, Pandora opened the box and was then responsible for all the unhappiness among mankind. This was the same viewpoint among Christians in the early times. For instance, St. Jerome believed that “Woman is the gate of the devil, the path of wickedness, the sting of the serpent, in a word a perilous object. ” This was agreed by Thomas Aquinas, a Christian theologian who believed that the primary role of women is for conception. He further claimed that in other things, men are better assisted by their fellow men (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1995). The lack of women’s rights has placed women in delicate situations. During the 17th century, some women were believed to be witches, and were executed. The majority, consisting of men, believed that the weaker sex was more likely to be corrupted by the devil.
Interestingly, most of the women charged with witchcraft were brave or stubborn while some were childless, spinsters, or successful. These were the characters that were not in the Puritan idea of femininity (Kendall, 2001, p. 9). Furthermore, the past seen women as domestic partners, tending about the orchard, or making cheese or baking pies. Women were also serving guests and cleaning the house. Aside from numerous household chores, many of these women have many children to feed and take care of. A typical family would have twelve to thirteen children, aside from extended families.

The father was seen to be the head of the family, and this belief was taken from Bible passages which says that man leads the woman. Furthermore, special emphasis was put on the role of women to be submissive on their husbands (Kendall, 2001, p. 10-11). Additionally, books were published which further strengthened the division of labor between man and woman. An author, George Savile, claimed that men were created more intelligent and logical than their counterpart. Thus, men should be the head of families, businesses, and enterprises. Also, Savile emphasized the woman’s need to have a husband.
And for women who were not happy with their married lives, they should just “make the best of it” (Kendall, 2001,p. -11). Many colonies had fewer unmarried women. This was because life was not easy for spinsters, or those unmarried women. For instance, they did not have many opportunities to earn. As a result, their parents or brothers or married sisters provided them with their expenses. When this happened, the unmarried women would help care for their relatives children or clean the house (Kendall, 2001, p. 11) Women also did not have liberty with money.
Laws did not have provisions for women regarding owning a property or making contracts. It was the men who have the liberty to sell their possessions according to his judgment. Further, when a single woman has money, it becomes the property of her husband upon their marriage. Women lacked the legal right to the money they earned. On top of this, her belongings could be seized by creditors when his husband lacked the money to pay his debts. It was also the men’s discretion to leave their properties to anyone upon their death. This power came to be called as “the apron-string hold. The only right that women have was only a one-third of their property after the death of the husband (Kendall, 2001,p. 11-12). Women in the past also did not have rights over their children. Under the law, the children were the property of the husbands. In cases when a couple divorces, the sole custody of the children is to the father. Men also have the right to grant custody of the children to anyone but their wives. In addition, laws also permitted husbands to physically discipline their wives. This means that husbands could whip their wives for as long as they want provided that the whip was not thicker than his thumb.
This was known to be the “rule of thumb. ” However, this was not seen as oppression against women, but instead it was an assertion of the women’s right not to be beaten severely (Kendall, 2001, p. 12). Women were also considered as the weaker sex. They were thought be squeamish and unable to do heavy chores. During the preindustrial times, women were assigned to domestic chores while heavier tasks were done by men. The belief that women were the weaker sex, as seen from the division of labor, forgot to consider that domestic chores, including taking care of children and other tasks, required sustained labor.
However, recent studies showed that women have greater tolerance for pain compared to men, and live longer and more resistant to some diseases (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1995). In opportunities for education, the provision for women came as second to that for men. During the colonial times, girls learned to read and write from dame schools. They could join schools for boys during the summer when boys were working and there were vacant seat in classrooms. Fortunately, changes were in store for the education of both sexes. The late 19th century witnessed the increase in the number of women students.
There were colleges and universities founded for women, and the schools for boys also began to admit women students. By 1870, one-fifth of students from colleges and universities were women. It further increased during the early 1900s (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1995). In addition, the traditional role of women as child-bearers gradually changed. It used to be that people has this stereotypal opinion about women whose place is at home. As times changed, women gained freedom and a voice in choosing contraception or undergoing legalized abortion.
These choices have given them greater control over how many children they wanted to bear. Despite these positive changes, women were still tied to their roles as mothers and wives. Most of them were talented but did not have freedom to pursue studying or other careers (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1995). In place of formal education, many young women learned things from their mothers. They were expected to learn cooking and caring for children as preparation for their future roles. During the 1960s, tests were conducted that showed the scholastic achievement of young girls as higher during the early grades.
The explanation behind this finding was the decline in the girls’ expectations because their families or their teachers did not expect them to prepare for a future different from marriage and motherhood. The good thing was that changes were taking place with regards to this trend (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1995). By the start of the 20th century, women were able to obtain undergraduate college degrees. In 1984, 49% of undergraduate degrees were by women, a sharp increase from just 19% during the onset of the century. Furthermore, more women became interested in taking graduate studies.
This was further improved when, in the mid-1980s, women held 49% of masteral degrees and 33% of doctoral degrees. Moreover, women students in college comprised 53% in 1985 (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1995). Another area where women came as inferiors to men was at work. During the colonial times, women who earned a living were seamstresses or in charged of keeping boardinghouses. There were some women who worked men’s jobs, such as doctors, preachers, writers, and lawyers, among others. At the onset of the 19th century, occupations allowed for women were either factory labor or domestic work.
They were generally excluded from higher professions but were allowed to write and teach (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1995). Several changes took place in the following centuries. Career opportunities such as medical profession have undergone changed attitudes. Anyone could practice medicine, but obstetrics was generally a woman’s domain. Unfortunately, the educational preparation needed for this profession increased, limiting some women to further pursue medical practice. On top of it, racial discrimination began against certain groups of women. For instance, the American Medical Association did not accept females.
They were also barred from medical colleges for men. This changed by 1920s. During this period, a significant number of women attended certain leading medical schools. This was further strengthened when the American Medical Association accepted women members in 1915 (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1995). Women’s Rights It is common knowledge among people that women did not have as much legal rights and other opportunities compared to men. Women were confined in homes, where their major roles were wives and mothers. They could not join in political or social matters, as these were the spheres of men.
Women lacked many rights that in a sense, they were like slaves. Women have been fighting for their rights as early as the 19th century, spearheaded by evangelical groups and volunteer associations among middle women from class and upper class. They have strived to affect changes in the American society whose perspective on women was too limiting (Walter, 2001, p. 184). Rights that women can freely obtain indicates the “understanding of global well-being. ” This issue is something that every country should resolve, and not only those ones where religion is the law (Shah, 2007).
Rights that women should have equal access to include human rights, equality rights, and political rights, among others. The road to these rights was not a smooth one. Women were constantly in battle for equal footing with men. It took almost fifty years before the Equal Rights Amendment was passed to the states for ratification. Women from all races and nationalities united to support and push the ratification of ERA. Rallies, fundraising activities, marches and many other events were conducted to encourage supporters for the amendment. However, many politicians did not see the need to ratify the ERA for women.
They argued that if women were allowed rights, it would destroy families or the women’s credibility. However, these issues that were once debated on now became a part of the society (Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998). Voting rights have also been fought for by brave women. Starting in 1920, women were allowed to vote, although their other political roles were limited (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1995). However, this was a major change in a nation dominated by men who did not believe in allowing women to participate in political matters, including voting.
But certain women, such as Stanton, believed that obtaining voting rights was a start to a greater role for women in the society (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1995). Reproductive rights, under basic human rights, were also fought for many years. These rights would allow women the right to determine how many children they wanted to have. Without these rights, their other rights would have no profound meaning. This was because when they were not granted reproductive rights, they would not be able to fully make decisions about other areas including education and work.
History witnessed the significant decrease in birth rate during the 19th century as women became more educated (Lewis, 2009). Women’s Struggles As women battled for their rights and for an equal place in the society, they were faced with opposition from all sides. They have struggled for equality, for voting rights, and for political power. They have struggled to have an identity in the American society. And they have struggled to be freed from the chains that kept them inferiors for many years. Although many changes took place and women now have more liberty compared to the past, women were still in struggle for equality.
History has witnessed women’s struggle against oppression, as commenced in 1857 in textile factories, to stop racial segregation. They have also demanded to be paid equally with that of their male co-workers. Furthermore, women struggled to push their rights through movements and marches. Many people were firmly opposed to this that some women who participated in these events were jailed or, in remote cases, tortured (TamilCanadian, 1999). The importance of a women’s liberation struggle cannot be emphasized enough.
Women should be given the freedom from oppression in any form, from discrimination and from their economic dependence on men. Although women have come a long way in their struggles, and now have many rights, there were still some women who faced oppression and in many forms. Sexual harassment is prevalent in some places, especially at work where women’s jobs are considered inferior to that of men’s. Furthermore, women faced challenges with regards to shared responsibilities between them and their working husbands. On top of these, there is still the segregation of jobs between sexes (TamilCanadian, 1999).
In addition, an article in 1999 reported that women in jails were especially susceptible to oppression in the form of sexual abuse and slavery to male prisoners (TamilCanadian, 1999). The Amnesty International reported that women in jails around the world are always victims of human rights violations due to their gender and vulnerability. Women have been the victims of sexual violence, including torture and rape. Furthermore, many of these women were not given proper health care and were instead targeted for punishments and discrimination (Amnesty International, 1999).
Even today, women’s struggles are still prevalent in the society. Young women struggle for their own equality and democracy. It was claimed that young women have been the targets or victims in many instances. Equal pay for equal work was pushed ahead despite the trying times during the Bush administration. Young women have struggled for reproductive rights, welfare reinstatement, criminalization, violence against them, and better access to public education. In addition, further claims were made regarding the exploitation of young women by capitalists and the structures that they control.
This was especially true among young women of color, who are more likely to be the subject of sharper racist edge (Wheeler, 2001). Furthermore, women have experienced being paid less compared to men doing the same job. They have also gone through the lack of job security in the retail/sales industry. Aside from this, women have to submit to restrictions on hours rendered for work. Also, many of these industries do not allow workers to organize. And the worst thing is that immigrant women fall prey to the most despicable working conditions. Between work and families, young women continue to struggle to attend to both.
A 2000 census showed that more than 12 million families are led by single parent who also manage the household. Furthermore, 2. 4 million of these families are below the poverty line (Wheeler, 2001). Women’s Rights Movement As women became more aware of the importance of obtaining their rights, the Women’s Right Movement was put into action in 1848. No one thought that a small group of dedicated women could change the course of history to be able to achieve full rights in America. Women’s fight for changes within the family life, employment, government, and education have been notable. These changes did not just happen overnight.
Women of different races from different places all desired to affect changes by conducting meetings, nonviolent resistance, and public speaking (Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998). According to past historical accounts, the birth of the agitation for women’s rights was brought about by Frances Wright, a Scotchwoman who visited the United States in 1820. She was popularly known as an intellect on matters regarding politics and social reform. She would live from one place to another, always encouraging both men and women to think differently on traditional beliefs including slavery and the degradation of women in the society.
Eventually, Wright succeeded in her efforts, evidenced by literature written by various women. The articles that women wrote talked about the status of women. Furthermore, there were lectures conducted, although some women were bannished for doing so (Hecker, 2004, p. 81). These events have led women to question women’s rights, especially among those who were against slavery. Further inquiry into the validity of slavery caused these women to investigate the enforced status of women in the society. Meeting were conducted to address these issues.
However, the women, including Angelina and Sarah Gimke, often faced hostility in meetings where there were men. In fact, during a meeting of the Anti-Slavery Association in 1840, men did not take part in committees where there were women involved. This was despite women held a larger contribution to uphold the cause (Hecker, 2004, p. 81). These affairs reached London during the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention. Some alti-slavery organizations sent women as their delegates. Unfortunately, the English members refused to allow these women to take part in the proceedings due in part to the opposition of the clergy.
The latter believed that St. Paul did not permit women to teach. Thus, delegates Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, the first president of the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Philadelphia, decided to start a women’s rights convention upon returning to the United States. The World’s Anti-Slavery Convention caused a larger cause to exist (Hecker, 2004, p. 81). July 13, 1848 is the birth of the movement in New York during a tea party. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a housewife and mother, along with four friends, was in attendance. During their conversation, the topic turned to the situation of women.
Stanton made known of her discontent about the limitations enforced on women in the America’s new democracy. Despite the American Revolution which was fought 70 years earlier, women still lacked freedom. Stanton believed that the society could benefit more if women were given active roles. This was something that Stanton’s friends agreed with, and thus they carried out a large-scale program (Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998). Days after this conversation, they set a date and location for their first convention. It was held on July 19-20, 1848, at Seneca Falls, New York.
Newspapers attributed the organization of the event to the “divorced wives, childless women, and sour old maids,” referring to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mrs. McClintock and other brave women who attended to their domestic lives and to their children. This first convention attracted a large crowd which reached 300 (Hecker, 2004, p. 81). During the convention, the women presented and signed the Declaration of Sentiments and Declaration of Resolutions mainly based on Declaration of Independence. These include the objectives of the women’s rights movement.
After this convention, many others were held for the following years (Adams, 2003, pp. 7-8). As Stanton herself expected, newspapers and certain people backlashed them. This was because newspapers believed that the Declaration of Sentiments was shameless, most especially the demand for women to vote. They attacked women on all sides. Fuirthermore, the newspapers published the document, along with the signatures of women who supported it. As a result, many of the women from the Convention had doubts and even withdrew their signatures from the document. Despite being embarrassed, some women were steadfast in what they believed in.
Fortunately, something happened which favored the women upon the publishing of the document. The negative articles that editors published became widespread that even the people from isolated towns were informed to the issues. As a result, many people became involved in the heated debate regarding the women’s rights in the society (Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998). The push for women’s rights was further supported by two factions of the movement in 1869. One was the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) and the other, the National Woman Suffrage Assocation (NWSA).
AWSA was organized in Boston by Lucy Stone, a woman popular for advocating anti-slavery and for lobbying the women’s rights. NWSA, on the other hand, was organized by Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. The organization aimed to change federal law and passionately opposed the 15th Amendment as it excluded provisions for women (Women in Congress, n. d. ).. The two factions could not unite because the supporters of AWSA believed that their rival was “racially divisive and organized… to continue a national reform at the state level” (Women in Congress, n. d. ).
Furthermore, NWSA did not include alternative arguments and strategies. The NWSA founders also ignored other women groups, including organizations ran by laborers, civic reformers and farmers (Buhle, M. J. , Buhle, P. , & Stanton, 2005, p. xix). With the delicate balance between these factions, the AWSA and the NWSA strived to maintain momentum. The latter attracted recruits from the public speaking activities of both Stanton and Anthony. AWSA, on the other hand, did not have the wide reach that the rival organization enjoyed, but it was better funded and larger.
However, the factions were not able to attract broad support from women. They did not even encourage male politicians to allow women to vote (Women in Congress, n. d. ). Between the 1880s and the onset of 1890s, a surge of volunteerism swept the nation. Many of these volunteers came from middle-class women, most of whom were members of clubs and professional societies, supporters of progressive causes, and members of charity organizations. The surge of volunteerism was brought about by these women’s desire to “expand their sphere of activities further outside the home.
Thus, the suffrage movement was further strengthened, and both the AWSA and the NWSA gained momentum. Finally, the two factions united in 1890 as they took advantage of the “constituency” brought about by the event. AWSA and NWSA united and formed the National Americal Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), led by Stanton and, later, by Anthony. The new organization drew support from various organizations ran by women, including the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the National Consumer’s League, and the Women’s Trade Union League (Women in Congress, n. . ). The new organization aimed to gain votes in states and went through some challenges. Finally, in 1869, Wyoming became the first state to allow women full voting rights. Afterwards, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho followed suit. These were the only states which allowed women to vote. The period covering 1910 to 1914, the NAWSA furthered its efforts to encourage other states to do the same thing. Consequently, the states Washington, California, Kansas, Arizona, and Oregon extended voting rights to women.
In 1913, the Illinois followed suit, and the state’s future congresswoman, Ruth Hanna McCormick, helped advance the fight for suffrage. In 1914, Montana joined the states, mainly due to the efforts of its future Congresswoman, Jeannette Rankin (Women in Congress, n. d. ). Women’s fight to obtain full rights like those of men’s is not finished yet. There are still cases of oppression and violence against women. Women are still struggling to rise to be able to obtain a strong identity in the American society. The liberty and rights that women have today became impossible due to events in the past that put women in the frontline.
The Women’s Rights Movement have enabled women to obtain voting rights and, consequently, human rights and equality rights. The selfless efforts of several notable women opened the eyes of all women regarding their place in the society. In the past, the only place for women was the home. They lacked basic rights and were mainly inferior to their husbands or to men in general. However, times have changed. In most places, women now stand side by side and in equality with men. The efforts of women to push forward a better life full of opportunities for all women brough forth these fruits.

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