In America’s early history, women were not afforded the same rights as men. In fact, women had basically no rights to speak of. As the country grew and changed, American women began to demand rights of their own, and the Women’s Rights Movement in the US was launched.
Prior to the Women’s Rights Movement in the US, women were not allowed to participate in politics in any way. Women could not vote or hold political office. Getting a college education was also out of the question for a woman. Women were under the control of their fathers until they married, and then they became little more than their husband’s property. Divorce was not an option for women in the early days of America’s history, no matter how bad the marriage was. Having an abusive husband was not even a reason for divorce. Women were expected to know their place and stay in it.
In July of 1848, two women named Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the first Women’s Rights Movement convention in the US. The event was held in New York, and was attended by several hundred people. Some of the attendees signed their names to a document called the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, which listed several aspects of life in which women did not have equal rights but should. With this convention, the Women’s Rights Movement in the US was born.
The Women’s Rights Movement in the US suffered a setback when the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified in 1868. This amendment specifically identified voters and citizens as male. The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870, was also viewed as a loss for women. This amendment franchised black men, and women’s rights activists had fought unsuccessfully to have it worded to extend Constitutional rights to all US citizens, including women.
After the setbacks of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, change began coming about slowly. Colleges for women were established, so that women could finally get a higher education if they chose to do so. But the Women’s Rights Movement in the US got its first huge victory in 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified. This amendment granted women the right to vote in all political elections.
Women became even more independent during World War Two, when many men were drafted into service. These men left job openings behind that had to be filled by someone, and women stepped in. After the war was over, the men returned to their jobs and the women returned to their homes. Women began slowly returning to jobs outside the home over the next two decades. In 1964 the Women’s Rights Movement in the US gave rise to a new movement called NOW, the National Organization of Women. NOW is still an active group today, with hundreds of thousands of members.
Since the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, the Women’s Rights Movement in the US has won several victories in American politics. Some legislature that has been passed is hotly debated and not considered a victory by everyone. Roe vs. Wade in 1973, granting women the right to obtain an abortion, is one such case. Other cases have won increased protection for women from domestic violence and discrimination, and these cases are generally regarded by all as actual victories.
The Women’s Rights Movement in the US is still going strong to this day. Many members will never consider the fight for equal rights to be over, and others will only rest when a Constitutional Amendment specifically granting women equal rights is passed. Until that time, American women are reaping the benefits of past struggles by women’s rights activists every day.