“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” commented Margaret Mead after a lifetime of observing diversity in cultures from around the world. After 150 years of fighting for equality among the sexes, people today have no idea of the struggle that women went through so that women of future generations could have the same privileges as men. Seven generations have come since the women’s rights movement and the women of these generations have different opportunities in family life, religion, government, employment, and education that women fought for. The Women’s Rights Movement began with a small group of people that questioned why human lives, especially those of women, were unfairly constricted. These women also worked deliberately to create a better world.
The movement marks it’s beginning as July 13, 1848. This movement didn’t just happen because someone thought that it was time for women to have the same rights as men, women of all ages came together at the start of it in order to fight for equality among the sexes. Women have affected changes in laws and human nature by holding meetings, petition drives, lobbying, public speaking, and also by demonstrating nonviolent resistance. Leaders of the movement fought for freedom in family life, government, religion, employment, and education. Over the years, they have successfully gained access to these freedoms and luxuries because a group of women never gave up and fought for the things that they believed in.
As a leader of the Women’s Rights Movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted the “Declaration of Sentiments” which drew its inspiration form the Declaration of Independence. Through this declaration, Stanton enumerated areas of life where women were treated unjustly compared to the treatment of men. By using this writing, Stanton campaigned for women’s rights by paralleling them to the “American Symbol of Liberty.” The most famous arguments from the writing that are heard over and over again throughout the duration of the movement was: “We hold these truths to be self- evident by their Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, a and the pursuit of happiness.”
“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having indirect object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to candid word,” said Stanton of the abuses of women. After having said this, she went into the specific abuses. The offenses included: married women were legally dead in the eyes of the law, women were not allowed to vote, women had to submit to laws when thber had no voice in the in their formation, married women had no property rights, husbands had legal power over women and responsibility for their wives to the extent that they could imprison or beat them with impunity, divorces and child custody favored men and gave no rights to women, women has to pay property taxes even though they could not have any access to property ownership, most occupancies were closed to women but the women who worked earned a fraction of the salary of men, women were not allowed to enter professions, women had no right to and education after high school, women could very rarely partake in any church function, and finally, women were robbed of their self-confidence and self-respect, therefore making them completely dependent on men.
Upon introducing those offenses to other women, Stanton and other leaders of the movement began planning the first Women’s Rights International Convention that was to be held in Seneca Falls, New York, July 19-20, 1848. During the two-days of discussion at the convention, the Declaration of Sentiments and twelve other resolutions received unanimous endorsement. The only resolution that did not pass was the call for women’s enfranchisement. To most, the idea that women should have the right to vote was inconceivable and unheard of.
The suffrage victory drew near in 1919. Around this time, the National American Woman Suffrage Association was in the process of reconfiguring itself into the League of Women Voters. Through this league, members would ensure that women would take their hard-won vote seriously. They would also make sure that women used the privilege wisely.
Shortly after the formation of the League of Women Voters, the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor began in 1920. The purpose for establishing the Bureau was to gather information about the situation of women at work. It also advocated for changes that it saw necessary to society. Many women voters also became actively involved by lobbying for legislation to protect women workers from abuse and unsafe working conditions.
The Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor served as inspiration for Alice Paul, a Women’s Rights Movement leader, to draft the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923. She thought that this would be the wisest step in the fight for equality among the sexes. This Amendment would guarantee that women would be granted the same rights as men. Basically, women would be guaranteed employment of their choice and a higher education if they so desired, regardless of their location.
After women had won the fight for basic freedoms and privileges, a second-wave of the Women’s Rights Movement began rapidly approaching in the sixties. This part of the movement was called the “Birth Control Movement.” A public health nurse, Margaret Sanger, initiated this part of the Women’s Rights Movement. In her opinion, if women had the right to vote and other privileges, then they should have the right to control their own body, especially when it came to their own reproduction and their own sexuality. The goal of this wave was to allow women the privilege of deciding whether they would become mothers or not and if so, when that would happen.
Throughout this time, women began to advocate for women’s reproductive rights and surrogate motherhood. They also began to fight for protection from pornography and sexual harassment. In the fight for women’s reproductive rights, women fought for the right to terminate pregnancy through abortion or prevent pregnancy through birth control pills. For the surrogate motherhood issue, some women argued that it was the free right of women to “rent” out their womb. In other words, they thought that it was their right to have children for the women who couldn’t bare children. In the struggle for protection from pornography, women argued that it could be potentially dangerous for women and that it was degrading to them. Some women also said that pornography was a free speech issue and that women could choose for themselves what they wanted because of the First Amendment. In the debate over sexual harassment, women wanted more protection and punishment from sex offenders because of the trauma that rape puts women through. In their defense, it also causes oftentimes-serious medical problems as well as emotional trauma. In the fight for reproductive rights, sexual harassment also alluded towards abortion. One of the topics brought up was that if a woman was raped and she got pregnant from the offender, she should have the right to abort the pregnancy because it was unwanted. Thus, these topics brought about the most serious and controversial issue that is still being debated over today: abortion.
Abortion is often considered one of the most controversial issues of the post-suffrage movement. Abortion is a surgical procedure in which the fetus is killed in many different ways. The most “popular” form is by partial- birth abortion in which the doctor delivers almost the entire unborn baby except for the head. Once the body is out, the doctor then drills a hole in the baby’s head and sticks a catheter inside the baby to suction out the brain. This cause the baby’s heads to collapse and in turn kills the baby.
The issue of abortion was first brought up in front of the Supreme Court in 1973 when t6he Roe vs. Wade case was introduced. This case legalized all abortions. The courts decided that it was the right of women to decide whether they wanted to have a child if they were to get pregnant.
Although abortion is a very emotional and controversial subject, it is also something that women have to decide for themselves. Many of the rights that women have won because of the Women’s Rights Movement are based on opinions. Women can either take advantage of their freedoms and privileges, or they can just not do anything about it. For instance, it is basically up to a woman if she decides to vote or not.
The women’s rights controversy does not only exist in the United States. In many other parts of the world, such as India, women suffer from discrimination because of their gender. They suffer from many grievances that women from previous generations suffered from before they started the Women’s rights Movement.
“Women and men will enjoy, in practice, equal rights, equal access to and control over productive resources, education, health, land, other forms of property, shelter, credit, information, knowledge, skills, technology and markets by adoption of affirmative action wherever necessary, and by the removing identified impediments.” This was an excerpt from India’s country paper at the Fourth United Nations Conference that dealt with women’s rights. Many of the inequalities that women suffer from in India are rooted in the traditions of its communities and are both social and cultural in nature.
Under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, India is legally obligated to protect women’s rights. Also, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees that women’s political and civil rights will be protected by the Indian government. Both of these state that all states parties will take all appropriate measures that will eliminate discrimination against women in all aspects of Indian culture. The CEDAW also ensures that parties will modify all social and cultural patterns in the conduct of men and women. In doing this, superiority will not be placed on men and will be shared equally among men and women.
In India, women are looked down on because they are supposedly not as capable as men. In some cases, abortions are performed in India once the mother and father find out whether their unborn baby is supposed to be a girl or boy. Mothers choose to do this because girls are not considered to be as fit as boys. They also do this to avoid paying large dowries on the marriage of their daughter. The beliefs that girls are not as fit as boys have to do with the social and cultural beliefs. In India, having a girl means many different things from bad luck to financial ruin and extreme hardship.
Women in India also have to worry about the threat of rape. Rape is often targeted more towards women belonging to lower castes and tribal women. This is because women of lower castes and tribal women are very rarely acknowledged because of social and cultural norms. As in other countries all over the world, rape is extremely common in India.
Regardless of where you live, what country you go to visit, there is going to be discriminations placed on women because of gender. Unfortunately, in some countries, women would be arrested for standing up for what they believe in. Women in the United States stood up for what they believed in without being punished for it in most cases because of the First Amendment. Women in other countries are often sometimes afraid to voice their opinions because of the consequences of doing so. In some countries, the standard for criminal offenses are very different from that of the United States and the punishment terms are often very different.
So in conclusion, regardless of where you go, equality among the sexes is an ongoing battle for women. They fight for the basic rights of humans while fighting against traditions and social and cultural norms. Women today are faced with so many more opportunities than women of previous generations. However, many women are held back from these opportunities because of the belief of men that they are superior to women. Basically, no matter what women do, there will always be discrimination against women whether it is for employment opportunities or educational opportunities. In today’s world, women have won many more privileges because of how much times have changed since the start of the Women’s Rights Movement. As stated before, the struggle is an ongoing battle that will most likely never end.
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