The Women's Right's Movement
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Author: Sabine Mann
Women have been fighting for equality as long as people can remember. In most of the world women still have no rights and have to submit to men. There are still countries in which women are not allowed to do anything without the permission of a man. These women are kept in slave-like conditions or worse. In Afghanistan for example, up until recently, women were not even allowed to show their faces when they went outside the home. They had to cover up their entire body. Fortunately, women in America are experiencing a different fate. It was and still is a long road ahead for total equality but we have come a very long way.
When John Adams went to Philadelphia to work on the Declaration of Independence, his wife Abigail asked him to ‘Remember the Ladies'. (1). However, as we all know, the Declaration of Independence states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (2). Unfortunately, Mr. Adams did not consider his wife's request and neither did any of the other men who signed the Declaration of Independence. This set the stage for an ongoing struggle for women in America.
Thanks to the relentless efforts of some very courageous women, we, the modern American women, have rights and privileges that were unheard or unsought of in the beginning days of the United States of America. A woman was the property of her husband, much like slaves. The difference between women of wealthy husbands and slaves was that the wealthy woman did not have to work in the house or the fields. She was pampered, and her sole purpose was to make sure the household was running smoothly, the man was satisfied, and the children were attended. A poor woman had to work hard in the house and on the fields as well as satisfy her husband. Women, for a very long time, had no rights at all and they were at the mercy of their man or men in general, if they did not have a husband.
Fortunately, there were some courageous women from the beginning in the United States. Many women tried to work their ‘magic' in the background, like Abigail Adams. Others were more forthcoming. Women like, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and many more. These women laid the groundwork and the basis for all the women that followed in their footsteps and carry on their work today. These women gave all women in America a voice and showed them that they do have rights as well. They also showed the other women ways to make their voices heard. Conventions and protests have been held throughout the years and slowly but surely, things are changing for the better.
Today, we take our rights for granted and until recently, I never gave a thought to all those brave women who fought for my rights. Now, I catch myself many times wondering how life would be if things would not have changed. Chances are I would still not have the privilege to go to college and struggle over a research paper. Most likely, I would not even have the advanced high school education I was fortunate to attain. Just the thought of having to cater to a man's every whim sends chills down my spine. It is just very hard for me to imagine not being able to speak my mind and not be able to do almost anything I want, when I want. Guaranteed, I would have gotten my husband and myself in a lot of trouble.
Maybe certain things have not changed that much after all. A few years back, he was still a young Buck-Sergeant, he was told by our stairwell coordinator:' Sergeant, you need to control your wife!' When my husband informed me of this, I laughed a bit louder than he did. I am very fortunate to have a very open and understanding man by my side. Unfortunately, there are still so many men out there, who would love to have the old ways back. Fortunately, for us women, things are still improving.
The right to vote is the most important right in a democracy. It took nearly one hundred years for the black man to gain this right and almost one hundred and fifty years for women after the Declaration of Independence was signed. The territory of Wyoming granted women suffrage in 1869. (3). More states followed suit but it took until 1920 for all of the United States to grant women suffrage by passing the 19th amendment to the Constitution. Unfortunately, too many women take this right for granted and do not make use of it. I do believe that if more women would exercise their right to vote, they could make a huge difference in all areas. Women are still treated as second-class citizens in most aspects of life.
To this day, women are paid a lower salary for the same work as their male counter part. Granted, it has improved but as long as there are differences, will the struggle go on. Men are expected to go to work and provide for the family. That is it. Unfortunately, most families cannot survive with one income and the woman is forced to work as well. Now, the husband comes home from work and is tired. More times than not, he plants himself in front of the TV or the computer to relax. He wants the house clean and his dinner cooked. The wife comes home from work but does not have the luxury to do the same as her man. It is expected for her to clean the house, cook dinner and make sure the kids are taken care of. Fortunately, for me and many other women, not all men are like that.
It is the ‘Neanderthal'-thinking, still installed in many men, that needs to change in order for women to be treated totally equally. Why is it that nobody looks at an obese man with the same nose crinkle and disgust as they look at obese women? Obese is obese. It happened to me so many times. I was treated as a second- or third-class citizen because I am woman and I was super obese. It is interesting for me to see the difference in how people look at me and treat me, now that I have lost all that weight. I am however, still a woman and that alone puts me in a disadvantage. A friend of mine is a single mom with two older children (11 and 15). She applied for a leadership position but was not hired. She was told they hired a single, younger male because he was more reliable. How would they know?
In the 1950's, family was glorified. The ‘ideal' couple was to marry young and have children. The fertility rate rose and the goal of every woman was to be home and be a good housewife and mom. Movies emphasized what a woman's role was supposed to be. Magazines also ‘brainwashed' the women, starting at a young age. (4) My mother-in-law did get married in the 50's and she told me that she very much was one of the ‘good' wives of the time. She married at age 18 and started having babies. Overall, she had three children. When my husband and I had our first child, I called her for advice on breastfeeding. To my surprise, she informed me that she only bottle-fed her kids. Of course, I did ask her why and she told me that her husband did not want her to breast feed. To my question as to why he did not want her to, she answered: ‘he just told me he does not want me to and that was that'. She further told me that back then, he was the man of the house and she and the children pretty much had to submit to him. When she told us that, my husband looked at me and suggested we should do the same in our house from now on. Fortunately, he had a big grin in his face when he suggested that. We both had to laugh at the thought. I am sure, deep down he would not mind, but luckily, he knows me better and we have a great understanding. We are both equals in our decision making and racing the kids.
With the FDA approval of the birth control pill came more freedom for a woman's sexuality. The ‘pill' prevented many women from getting pregnant and therefore dropping the numbers of unwanted pregnancies. This was a big step forward. I remember the first time I got the ‘pill'. I felt so grown up and very empowered. It did give me peace of mind. The ‘pill' prevented many unwanted pregnancies. Still, abortion was illegal until 1973. Until then, many women had abortion illegally and in unsafe conditions. The Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade affirmed a woman's right to a legal first term abortion. (3)
Now, more women are seeking a higher education. Thanks to the passage of Title IX, of the Education Amendments in 1972. It states that' No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.' Title IX increased the participation of women in college, sports programs and increased the number of women with medical degrees. (5)
The other day, I received an e-mail and although I was not able to verify the content, I have no trouble believing it. According to this, an English professor wrote the words: ‘WOMAN WITHOUT HER MAN IS NOTHING" on the blackboard, and directed the students to punctuate it correctly. The men wrote, "Woman, without her man, is nothing!" and the women wrote "Woman! Without her, man is nothing!" True or not, men still like to think of themselves a superior to women. Fortunately, there are also men who have no trouble, accepting women as equals. There are also many women how think they are superior to men. The proverb: "Behind every great man, is a greater woman", comes to mind.
There are many women throughout history, who have accomplished great things and have become the role model for many. Emilia Erhart, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton and many more, past and present, are great inspirations to many. These women have changed and still are changing the lives of many women. Some of these women are proof that it is possible for women to succeed in the ‘Man's World'. However, until there is equality on all fronts, the struggle will continue. Yes, women have come a very long way and the women's rights movement in the United States has paved the way for many women in many different countries. There are still numerous countries where women struggle just for the very basic rights, that we all take for granted. I know I am a very fortunate woman to live in this day and age and I thank all those women who have fought for my rights, and all those who are fighting for me and generations to come. It is not just men, who need to change their thinking. It is women as well.
As long as there are women submitting to men and believing men are superior, the struggle will go on longer than, in my opinion, necessary.
(1) Barber, E. S. "One Hundred Years toward Suffrage: An Overview." National
American Woman Suffrage Association Collection Home Page. 19 Oct. 1998.
Library of Congress. Mar. 2005
(2) Declaration of Independence. 4 July 1776.
(3) Imbornoni, A.-M. "Timeline of Key Events in the American Women's Rights
Movement". Women's History Month. Mar. 2005. Infoplease. Mar. 2005
(4) Boyer, Paul S., et al. "Togetherness and the Baby Boom, Domesticity." The Enduring
Vision: A History of the American People. Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
(5) Title IX: 25 Years of Progress, U.S. Department of Education. 1997. WEEA Equity
Resource Center. Mar. 2005.
About the Author
As the mother of two awesome teenage sons and the wife of one of the best soldiers in the U.S. Army, my life had to endure many challenges. Growing up in a physically and mantally abusive home was just the beginning... In 2004 I underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost 180 lbs along with the emotional baggage that had accumulated. My positive attitude and the ability to look at situations from different perspectives has helped me make it through it all. Not only did I "make" it through, but I am still smiling and standing strong. Through my years as a military spouse, I have had the priviledge to talk to, inspire, and empower so many people. It just continues on and I am happy to be able to share and help empower people through positive thinking to see different perspectives.
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