Feminism is a belief in equality between both genders. Feminism is also a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women’s rights. Feminism is mainly focused on women’s issues, but because feminism seeks gender equality, some feminists argue that men’s liberation is therefore a necessary part of feminism, and that men are also harmed by sexism and gender roles. Feminist theory exists in a variety of disciplines, emerging from these feminist movements and including general theories and theories about the origins of inequality, and, in some cases, about the social construction of sex and gender. Feminist activists have campaigned for women’s rights such as in contract, property, and voting while also promoting women’s rights to bodily integrity and autonomy and reproductive rights. They have opposed domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. In economics, they have advocated for workplace rights, including equal pay and opportunities for careers and to start businesses. Some of the earlier forms of feminism have been criticized for being geared towards white, middle-class, educated perspectives. This led to the creation of ethnically-specific or multiculturalist forms of feminism. Feminism is a movement for social justice and human rights. The atmosphere of feminism is one that is conducive to learning and understanding. Do not presume this to indicate a passive environment. Every feminist contributes and every feminist absorbs.
What Is Feminism?
Feminism is a movement to recognize and work to end the oppression of women in any form. Feminism is a political, social, and cultural movement that aims at equal rights for women. Feminism helped women get the vote, obtain equal rights for jobs, made laws to control domestic violence, help women obtain the rights to own property, to divorce, to have access to birth control, and to have possession of their own bodies. Feminism is an ideology that focuses on women being treated as equals to men. There is no sexism in feminism. Feminism is still needed in today’s society.
It is widely known that even in feminism, there are opposing viewpoints. And unfortunately, this is one of the criticisms others hold. Don’t the members of every political group hold multiple stances? This isn’t something that should dissuade you. Rather, it should encourage you to offer your own opinions. The best institutions are those which encompass varying beliefs. This is because only through opposition can one fully understand a subject
as it applies to people of all backgrounds. Don’t allow criticisms to dishearten you from following your instincts about the issues. Feminism is controversial, but that doesn’t mean it is inherently evil. One of the centers of feminist foundation is to contrast the popular belief that women are supposed to be quiet. We have found a platform on which to discuss ourselves, and it is important that we take part and not lose this right.
What Are Feminists?
Feminists are people whose beliefs and behaviors are based on feminism. A feminist is an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women. A feminist is someone who thinks that women deserve the same rights, opportunities and responsibilities as men. Most people would say that they favor equality and gender rights. They believe that men and women should have equal opportunities and the ability to do whatever they want with their lives.
This is the textbook definition of a feminist. Feminism means going beyond the textbook, to a select few people.
1.) Seneca Falls, New York, was the location of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 1848 speech, A Declaration of the Rights of Women, which called for full political and social rights for women.
2.) Margaret Sanger began advocating for women’s reproductive rights in 1912 and is the founder of what is now known as Planned Parenthood.
3.) The National Organization for Women (NOW) was formed in 1966 and is the largest feminist organization in the United States. Betty Friedan was its first president.
4.) In the United States, feminists helped push through Title IX legislation in 1972, which gave young female athletes the same opportunities and access to funding as their male counterparts.
5.) Feminists still hope to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would guarantee protection under the law. The ERA has been before every session of the U.S. Congress since 1982 but has yet to pass.
*1776: Abigail Adams writes to her husband, John, who is attending the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, asking that he and the other men–who were at work on the Declaration of Independence–“Remember the Ladies.” John responds with humor. The Declaration’s wording specifies that “all men are created equal.”
*1820-1880: Evidence from a variety of printed sources published during this period–advice manuals, poetry and literature, sermons, medical texts–reveals that Americans, in general, held highly stereotypical notions about women’s and men’s roles in society. Historians would later term this phenomenon “The Cult of Domesticity.”
*1821: Emma Hart Willard founds the Troy Female Seminary in New York–the first endowed school for girls.
*1833: Oberlin College becomes the first coeducational college in the United States. In 1841, Oberlin awards the first academic degrees to three women. Early graduates include Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown.
*1836: Sarah Grimk begins her speaking career as an abolitionist and a women’s rights advocate. She is eventually silenced by male abolitionists who consider her public speaking liability.
*1837: The first National Female Anti-Slavery Society convention meets in New York City, Eighty-one delegates from twelve states attend.
*1837: Mary Lyon founds Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, eventually the first four-year college exclusively for women in the United States. Mt. Holyoke was followed by Vassar in 1861, and Wellesley and Smith Colleges, both in 1875. In 1873, the School Sisters of Notre Dame found a school in Baltimore, Maryland, which would eventually become the nation’s first college for Catholic women.
*1839: Mississippi passes the first Married Woman’s Property Act.
*1844: Female textile workers in Masssachusetts organize the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association (LFLRA) and demand a 10-hour workday. This was one of the first permanent labor associations for working women in the United States.
*1848: The first women’s rights convention in the United States is held in Seneca Falls, New York. Many participants sign a “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” that outlines the main issues and goals for the emerging women’s movement. Thereafter, women’s meetings are held on a regular basis.
*1849: Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery. Over the next ten years she leads many slaves to freedom by the Underground Railroad
*1850: Amelia Jenks Bloomer launches the dress reform movement with a costume bearing her name. The Bloomer costume was later abandoned by many suffragists who feared it detracted attention from more serious women’s rights issues.
*1851: Former slave Sojourner Truth delivers her “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech before a spellbound audience at a women’s rights convention in Akron, Ohio.
*1852: Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which rapidly becomes a bestseller.
*1859: The successful vulcanization of rubber provides women with reliable condoms for the first time. The birth rate in the United States continues its downward, century-long spiral. By the late 1900’s, women will raise an average of only two to three children, in contrast to five or six children they raised at the beginning of the century.
*1861-1865: The American Civil War disrupts suffrage activity as women, North and South, divert their energies to “war work.” The War itself, however, serves as a “training ground”, as women gain important organizational and occupational skills they will later use in postbellum organizational activity.
*1865-1880: Southern white women create Confederate memorial societies to help preserve the memory of the “Lost Cause.” This activity propels many white Southern women into public sphere for the first time. During this same period, newly emancipated Southern black women from thousands of organizations aimed at “uplifting the race.”
*1866: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form the American Equal Rights Association, an organization for white and black women and men dedicated to the goal of suffrage.
*1868: The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified, which extends to all citizens the protections of the Constitution against unjust state laws. This Amendment was the first to define “citizens” and “voters” as “male.”
*1869: The women’s rights movement splits into two factions as a result of disagreements over the Fourteenth and soon-to-be-passed Fifteenth Amendments. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form the more radical, New York-based National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe organize the more conservative American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), which is centered in Boston. In this same year, the Wyoming territory is organized with a woman suffrage provision. In *1890, Wyoming was admitted to the Union with its suffrage provision intact.
*1870: The Fifteenth Amendment enfranchises black men. NWSA refuses to work for its ratification, arguing, instead, that it be “scrapped” in favor of a Sixteenth Amendment providing universal suffrage. Frederick Douglass breaks with Stanton and Anthony over NWSA’s position.
*1870-1875: Several women–including Virginia Louisa Minor, Victoria Woodhull, and Myra Bradwell–attempt to use the Fourteenth Amendment in the courts to secure the vote (Minor and Woodhull) or the right to practice law (Bradwell). They all are unsuccessful.
*1872: Susan B. Anthony is arrested and brought to trial in Rochester, New York, for attempting to vote for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidental election. At the same time, Sojourner Truth appears at a polling booth in Battle Creek, Michigan, demanding a ballot; she is turned away.
*1874: The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is founded by Annie Wittenmyer. With Frances Willard at its head (1876), the WCTU became an important force in the fight for woman suffrage. Not surprisingly, one of the most vehement opponents to women’s enfranchisement was the liquor lobby, which feared women might use the franchise to prohibit the sale of liquor.
*1878: A Woman Suffrage Amendment is introduced in the United States Congress. The wording is unchanged in 1919, when the amendment finally passes both houses.
*1887: For the first and only time in this century, the US Senate votes on woman suffrage. It loses, 34 to 16. Twenty-five Senators do not bother to participate.
*1890: The NWSA and the AWSA are reunited as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) under the leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. During this same year, Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr found Hull House, a settlement house project in Chicago’s 19th Ward. Within one year, there are more than a hundred settlement houses–largely operated by women–throughout the United States. The settlement house movement and the Progressive campaign of which it was a part propelled thousands of college-educated white women and a number of women of color into lifetime careers in social work. It also made women an important voice to be reckoned with in American politics.
*1891: Ida B. Wells launches her nation-wide anti-lynching campaign after the murder of three black businessmen in Memphis, Tennessee.
*1893: Hannah Greenbaum Solomon founds the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) after a meeting of the Jewish Women’s Congress at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. In that same year, Colorado becomes the first state to adopt a state amendment enfranchising women.
*1895: Elizabeth Cady Stanton publishes The Women’s Bible. After its publication NAWSA moves to distance itself from this venerable suffrage pioneer because many conservative suffragists considered her to be too radical and, thus, potentially damaging to the suffrage campaign. From this time, Stanton–who had resigned as NAWSA president in 1892–was no longer invited to sit on the stage at NAWSA conventions.
1896: Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Margaret Murray Washington, Fanny Jackson Coppin, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Charlotte Forten Grimk, and former slave Harriet Tubman meet in Washington, D.C. to form the National Association of Colored Women (NACW).
*1900: Two-thirds of divorce cases are initiated by the wife; a century earlier, most women lacked the right to sue and were hopelessly locked into bad marriages.
1903: Mary Dreier, Rheta Childe Dorr, Leonora O’Reilly, and others form the Women’s Trade Union League of New York, an organization of middle- and working-class women dedicated to unionization for working women and to woman suffrage. This group later became a nucleus of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU).
*1911: The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS) is organized. Led by Mrs. Arthur Dodge, its members included wealthy, influential women and some Catholic clergymen–including Cardinal Gibbons who, in 1916, sent an address to NAOWS’s convention in Washington, D.C. In addition to the distillers and brewers, who worked largely behind the scenes, the “antis” also drew support from urban political machines, Southern congressmen, and corporate capitalists–like railroad magnates and meatpackers–who supported the “antis” by contributing to their “war chests.”
*1912: Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive (Bull Moose/Republican) Party becomes the first national political party to adopt a woman suffrage plank.
*1913: Alice Paul and Lucy Burns organize the Congressional Union, later known as the National Women’s Party (1916). Borrowing the tactics of the radical, militant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in England, members of the Woman’s Party participate in hunger strikes, picket the White House, and engage in other forms of civil disobedience to publicize the suffrage cause.
*1914: The National Federation of Women’s Clubs–which by this time included more than two million white women and women of color throughout the United States–formally endorses the suffrage campaign.
*1914: Margaret Sanger calls for legalization of contraceptives in her new, feminist publication, The Woman Rebel, which the Post Office bans from the mails.
*1916: NAWSA president Carrie Chapman Catt unveils her “winning plan” for suffrage victory at a convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Catt’s plan required the coordination of activities by a vast cadre of suffrage workers in both state and local associations.
*1916: Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the first American woman elected represent her state in the U.S. House of Representatives.
*1918-1920: The Great War (World War I) intervenes to slow down the suffrage campaign as some–but not all–suffragists decide to shelve their suffrage activism in favor of “war work.” In the long run, however, this decision proves to be a prudent one as it adds yet another reason to why women deserve the vote.
*August 26, 1920: The Nineteenth Amendment is ratified. Its victory accomplished, NAWSA ceases to exist, but its organization becomes the nucleus of the League of Women Voters.
*1921: Margaret Sanger organizes the American Birth Control League, which becomes Federation of Planned Parenthood in 1942.
*1923: The National Women’s Party first proposes the Equal Rights Amendment to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender. It has never been ratified.
*1933: Frances Perkins, the first woman ni a Presidential cabinet, serves as Secretary of Labor during the entire Roosevelt presidency.
*1941: A massive government and industry media campaign persuades women to take jobs during the war. Almost 7 million women respond, 2 million as industrial “Rosie the Riveters” and 400,000 join the military.
*1945: Women industrial workers begin to lose their jobs in large numbers to returning service men, although surveys show 80% want to continue working.
*1957: The number of women and men voting is approximately equal for the first time.
*1960: The Food and Drug Administration approves birth control pills.
*1960: Women now earn only 60 cents for every dollar earned by men, a decline since 1955. Women of color earn only 42 cents.
*1963: The Equal Pay Act, proposed twenty years earlier, establishes equal pay for men and women performing the same job duties. It does not cover domestics, agricultural workers, executives, administrators, or professionals.
*1963: Betty Friedan’s best-seller “The Feminine Mystique”, detailed the “problem that has no name”. Five million copies are sold by 1970, laying the groundwork for the modern feminist movement.
*1964: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars employment discrimination by private employers, employment agencies, and unions based on race, sex, and other grounds. To investigate complaints and enforce penalties, it establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which receives 50,000 complaints of gender discrimination in the first five years.
*1966: In response to EEOC inaction on employment discrimination complaints, twenty-eight women found the National Organization for Women to function as a civil rights organization for women.
*1968: New York Radical Women garner media attention to the women’s movement when they protest the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City.
*1968: The first national women’s liberation conference is held in Chicago.
*1968: The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) is founded.
*1968: National Welfare Rights Organization is formed by activists such as Johnnie Tillmon and Etta Horm. They have 22,000 members by 1969, but are unable to survive as an organization past 1975.
*1968: Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) is the first Black woman elected to the US Congress.
*1970: Women’s wages fall to 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. Although nonwhite women earn even less, the gap is closing between white women and women of color.
*1970: The Equal Rights Amendment is reintroduced into Congress.
*1973: Billie Jean King scores an enormous victory for female athletes when she beats Bobby Riggs in “The tennis tournament watched by nearly 48,000,000 people.”
*1973: The first battered women’s shelters open in the US, in Tucson, Arizona and St. Paul, Minnesota.
*1973: In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court establishes a woman’s right to abortion, effectively canceling the anti-abortion laws of 46 states.
*1974: MANA, the Mexican-American Women’s National Association organizes as feminist activist organization. By 1990, MANA chapters operate in 16 states; members in 36.
*1974: Hundreds of colleges are offering women’s studies courses. Additionally, 230 women’s centers on college campuses provide support services for women students.
*1975: The first women’s bank opens, in New York City.
*1978: For the first time in history, more women than men enter college.
*1981: At the request of women’s organizations, President Carter proclaims the first “National Women’s History Week”, incorporating March 8th, as International Women’s Day.
*1981: Sandra Day O’Connor is the first woman ever appointed to the US Supreme Court. In 1993, she is joined by Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
*1984: Geraldine Ferraro is the first woman vice-presidential candidate of a major political party (Democratic Party).
*1990: The number of Black women in elective office has increased from 131 in 1970 to 1,950 in 1990.
*1992: Women are now paid 71 cents for every dollar paid to men. The range is from 64 cents for working-class women to 77 cents for professional women with doctorates. Black women earned 65 cents, Latinas 54 cents.
*1993: Take Our Daughters to Work Day debuts, designed to build girls self-esteem and open their eyes to a variety of careers.
*1996: US women’s spectacular success in the Summer Olympics (19 gold medals, 10 silver, 9 bronze) is the result of large numbers of girls and women active in sports since the passage of Title IX.