The beginning of the women’s movement began in 1848. That’s when Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton called a women’s rights convention to be held in Seneca Falls, New York. The purpose was “to discuss the social, civil, and religious rights of women.” At the convention, a “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, “stating that “all men and women are created equal” and defining the goals of the women’s movement was signed.
Over the years, disputes arose among the women’s movement dividing it in 1869 into the more conservative American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) and the more radical National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA).
Susan B. Anthony, of the more radical group, registered and voted in Rochester, New York, in the 1872 presidential election. She was arrested several days later and taken to trial. During that same election, Sojourner Truth was denied the right to vote in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after she demanded a ballot.
Four years later, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an ally of Anthony, wrote a Declaration and Protest of the Women of the United States and requested to present it at Philadelphia’s centennial celebration. Stanton’s request was denied. But Anthony and four other suffragists, unwilling to hold their silence, boldly rushed to the speaker’s platform and forcefully handed over the document.
Not long after, in 1878, a Woman Suffrage Amendment was introduced to the United States Congress granting women the right to vote. The Nineteenth Amendment, however, would take over 40 years to pass both houses. In 1920, a year following its passage, the Amendment was ratified, marking a new era for women.
In 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment was proposed. Its purpose: to eliminate gender discrimination. In 1972, nearly 50 years following its proposal, Congress passed the Amendment. It still fell short of three states for ratification, and in 1982, was defeated. Its deadline for ratification had expired.
Still, the years between saw a significant change. In 1936, birth control was ruled legal for preventing pregnancy. The ability of women to limit their family size began with the introduction of reliable condoms in 1859. It played a crucial role in women gaining equality, as they were no longer forced into roles of lifelong child rearing. In 1960, the FDA approved birth control pills. Finally, in 1973, the landmark Roe v. Wade case established a woman’s right to abortion, giving women complete control over their reproduction.
Many accomplishments marked the 1960s and 1970s. In 1963, the Equal Pay Act was passed prohibiting discriminatory compensation in federal jobs. The Civil Rights Act, which passed the following year, banned discrimination based on gender and race.
In 1966, the National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded. Its purpose was to promote the Equal Rights Amendment, abortion rights, and childcare for working mothers.
Massive marches marked the next couple of decades with NOW leading the way to women’s reform. One of those marches, in 1973, was to voice outrage over violence against women. Twenty-four years later, the Violence Against Women Act was passed to protect battered women.
Today, feminists are still striving for total equality in areas such as healthcare and equal pay. At the same time, they continue to fight measures that undermine women’s reproductive rights and protections against spousal abuse.
PIONEERS OF WOMEN’S EQUALITY
Many women today and throughout history have taken risks to bring us independence. The following are just a few who championed women’s rights.