Most people agree that the first women’s rights movement began in 1792 with Mary Wollstonecraft’s publication entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Since that time women rights movements have been concerned with the social, political, and economic status of women in comparison to men. These movements have worked to establish safeguards against discrimination on the basis of gender for over two hundred years (“Women’s rights,” 2014). The purpose of this paper is to review and briefly discuss the history of the women’s rights movement.
In the United States, the women’s movement can be divided into three phases: (1) the feminism of equal rights from the 1820s to the 1870s; (2) the feminism of fear from the 1870s to 1900; and (3) the feminism of personal development from 1900 to 1920 (Marilley & Judson, 1999). In 1848, the first women’s rights movement was led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Seneca Falls, New York where 68 women and 32 men signed a Declaration of Sentiments which set the agenda for the women’s rights movement. This declaration was modeled after the Declaration of Independence and included 12 resolutions that called for the equal treatment of men and women (Cohen, 1996). In 1850, the first National Rights Convention led by Lucy Stone took place in Worcester, Massachusetts. Both groups merged in 1863 to form the Women’s National Loyal League under the direction of Susan B. Anthony (“Women’s rights,” 2014).
Between 1867 and 1899, the most popular topics used by anti-suffrage women were issues such as family welfare, female character, and domestic roles. These topics changed from 1913 to 1921 to political issues, female influence, women as unqualified voters, and threats to national strength ((Marilley & Judson, 1999). The first women’s suffrage law was passed in the Wyoming Territory in 1869 and by the following year women were allowed to serve on juries. In 1878, Anthony submitted a women’s right to vote amendment to the United States Constitution. By 1890 two women’s groups united to form the National Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). NAWSA was initially led by Stanton then followed by Anthony. For twenty years, NAWSA focused on gaining the right to vote for women in the states. Prior to 1910 only four states allowed women to vote: Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah. By 1915, several more states granted women the right to vote. Finally in 1920, Susan B. Anthony’s 1878 amendment was ratified as the 19th amendment and women in every state were granted the right to vote (“Women’s rights,” 2014).
Globally between 1890 and 1994, 96% of all nation-states provided women the right to vote and seek public office (Ramirez, Soysal, & Shanahan, 1997). In 1945, the preamble to the United Nations Charter referred to the equal rights for women. The UN Commission on the Status of Women was established in 1948. The force of the women’s rights movement helped ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution in 1964. Since 1980, the women’s right movement has focused on reproductive rights, sexual harassment, and the glass ceiling. In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro became the first to be nominated for Vice-President of the United States and in 2008 Hillary Clinton was the first woman to run for President of the United States. In 2016, she became the first woman to be nominated as a political parties’ nomine. Many other women have been the first to serve in Congress, the Supreme Court, and other political offices.
This paper has provided a brief review of the history of women’s rights. Through the courage of such women as Mary Wollsstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Standton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony, the women’s movement has been a long and difficult track. Their success did not stop with the 19th amendment, but has continued to 2017 as women have become very successful world leaders, business owners, business executives, and military leaders. Their influence has also reached other countries as women have become influential all over the world.