Womens Rights at the Turn of the Century
Women’s Rights At The Turn Of The Century Elisha Enlow 11/24/2012 “I am woman, hear me roar,” (“Helen reddy -,” ) was definitely not a term known to the American way of life at the turn of the century.Women were nothing more than shadows of their husbands and the housekeeper of the home and children.Fitting for the term “barefoot and pregnant,” as that was the common role of most women.
With many battles before them there were courageous women that would not settle, but laid the foundation that paved the way for women to experience a life beyond the shadow of the husband and the walls of the family home.
A woman’s place would eventually begin to evolve, but this was a long tedious process that took years of stepping out and declaring their own freedom and rights separate of that of their husbands. During the turn of the century there were many things a woman could not legally do. They could not vote, hold public office in any state, have access to higher education and were even excluded in the professional workplace. The law had accepted and established a woman’s place was in the home, and her legal identity was that of her husband. Therefore, she could not sue, or be sued, nor could she make a legal contract or own property.
She was not permitted to control her own wages or gain custody of her children in the event of a separation or divorce (Womans Rights). There were many influential women, even in the late 1700’s that had a vision for more. Catherine Beecher (1800-1878) and Sarah Hale (1788-1879) were part of the first efforts to expand women’s roles through moral influence. Beecher, the eldest sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe, was one of the nation’s most prominent educator’s prior to the civil war. Hale led the successful campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, and also composed the well-known nursery rhyme “Mary had a Little Lamb. Frances Wright (1795-1852), a Scottish born reformer and lecturer spread her radical ideas about birth control, brought divorce laws and legal rights for married women. Then the first women to receive a degree in medicine was Elizabeth Blackwell in 1849. Phoebe Palmer (1807-1874) became a Methodist preacher known through-out the America’s and Canada (Mitz, S. , 2011). It was during the 19th century employment opportunities began to open up more for women. Women began to have fewer children and were not having them so young.
The first half of the 19th century there were many improvements in women’s status, however they still lacked political and economic status when compared to men. A decade into the 21st Century, women’s progress can be seen- and celebrated, across a range of fields. Although we have not arrived yet, certain conclusions are nonetheless clear A statement made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, as she declared a tipping point for women, “When we liberate the economic potential of women, we elevate the economic performance of communities, nations and the world,” she said. There is a simulative and ripple effect that kicks in when women have greater access to jobs and the economic lives of our countries. ” Greater political stability. Fewer military conflicts. More Food. More education opportunities for children. By harnessing the economic potential of all women, we boost opportunity for all people” (Ellison, J. , 2011). World War 1 affected women’s roles with a shortage of men needed to produce the massive amounts of war materials needed. Women were needed to work outside of the home.
All of a sudden women and young girls could make a decent wage doing work normally done by men. This opened up a new world to many women who had lived in the countryside who were now taking jobs in the larger cities, riding buses, trains and even boats to escape poverty, or see new t hings. The war enabled them to test tanks, airplanes, weapons and perform other duties that formally had been male functions (Goodwin, R. , 2008). The 19th Amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote.
Beginning in the mid-19th century, several generations of women’s suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change to the constitution. Few early supporters lived to see final victory in 1920 (www. ourdocument. gov, January 11, 2012). Progress was taking place in many different directions and avenues in the American life. Women struggling to find economic independence, and their place outside of the home proved to be a very long and challenging journey.
Though there was some break-through with a few women receiving education and prestige, the doors were still not open to all. Let’s look at a timeline of a few events that had taken place that helped the movement of women’s suffrage into present date: * 1833 Oberlin College became the first co-educational college in the United States; 1841 Oberlin awards first academic degree to three women. * 1839 Mississippi passes first Married Women’s Property Act. * 1844 Female textile workers in Massachusetts organize the Lowell Female Labor Reform Act. 1848 The first women’s rights convention in the US is held in Seneca Falls, NY. Many participants sign a ‘Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions’ outlining main issues and goals for the emerging women’s movement. * 1849 Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery and over the next ten years she leads many slaves to freedom by the Underground Railroad. * 1859 The successful vaccination of rubber provides women with reliable condoms for birth control. * 1868 Fourteenth Amendment is ratified * 1911 (NAOWS) the National Association Opposed to Women’s Suffrage is organized. 1912 Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party (Bull moose/Rep) becomes the first National political party to adopt a women’s suffrage plan * 1916 Jeanette Rankin of Montana becomes the first American woman elected to represent her state in the United States House of Representatives. * 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 (E. Susan. B. ,2011). In 1940 Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about the progress of women’s suffrage. In her own words will read the thoughts of that time. In the old day’s men always said that politics was too rough-and-tumble a business for women; but that idea is gradually wearing away. There is more truth in the statement that men have a different attitude toward politics than women. They play politics a little more like a game. With the men, it becomes a serious occupation for a few weeks before election; whereas women look upon it as a serious matter year in and year out. It is associated with their patriotism and their duty to their country. This country is no matriarchy, nor are we in any danger of being governed by women.
I repeat here what I have so often said in answer to the question: “Can a women be President of the United States? ” At present the answer is emphatically “No. ” It will be a long time before a woman will have any chance of nomination or election. As things stand today, even if an emotional wave swept a woman into this office, her election would be valueless, as she could never hold her following long enough to put over her program. It is hard enough for a man to do that, with all the traditional schooling men have had; for a woman, it would be impossible because of the age-old prejudice.
In government, in business, and in the professions there may be a day when women will be looked upon as persons. We are, however, far from that day as yet (Roosevelt, E. , 1940). In the business and professional world women have made great advances. In many fields there is opportunity for them to work with men on an equal footing. To be sure, sometimes prejudice on the score of sex will be unfair and a woman will have to prove her ability and do better work than a man to gain the same recognition. If you will look at the picture of Mrs.
Bloomer, made a hundred years ago, and think of the women today in factories, offices, executive positions, and professions, that picture alone will symbolize for you the distance women have traveled in less than a century (Roosevelt, E. , 1940). As the end of the 19th Century was drawing nigh, the accomplishments of women was growing like never before. Perhaps technology was to help with this as more and more families were finding access. With the radio and TV industry, it was bringing opportunities to women that were new and unique. Women were cast in TV shows, and becoming household names.
Radio waves were being taken over by upcoming female voices that wanted to be heard. Life was changing indeed. Was this a slow change? Yes, but it was a change that would impact the shape of America from here on. Today’s generation can only read about the suffrage of women, and I know they find it hard to believe or comprehend just how far women have traveled in America to be known. From the shadows of man (their husbands) that women once hid behind, found their identity in, and trusted to make every decision for them to the twentieth century were it is only deemed odd to not see a woman involved in just about every aspect of life.
From the centers of the home and shadows of the man have emerged beautiful, intelligent, powerful women who have shaped our country and helped to make it a better place. Whether it be teachers, business professionals, athletes, war hero’s, state offices, government, lawyers, doctors, astronauts, rabbi’s, preachers, airplane pilots, musicians, artist, rodeo, it is definite true that- women have made their mark on the fingerprints of the United States and are not going anywhere. I am woman- hear me roar!
Here is to all woman of the past, the present and future generations. Be confident and bold and walk in such a way that you know where you’ve come from and even better,you know where you are going. There is nothing that can stop you now, if you set your mind to it. Gone are the days of no right’s and hiding in the shadows finding identity in the husband. Embrace the value you have and press on…there is no way to go but forward! References Mintz, S. (2011, 12 03). Digital history. Retrieved from http://www. digitalhistory. uh. du/database/article_display. cfm? HHID=630 Godwin, R. (Janu). Helium. Retrieved from http://www. helium. com/items/785688-a-look-at-1900s-men-and-women-roles Gillett, F. H. (2008). Retrieved from NARA website: http://www. ourdocuments. gov/doc. php? flash=true&doc=63 Barber, E. S. (1998). National american woman suffrage association. In Library of Congress. Retrieved from http://memory. loc. gov/ammem/naw/nawstime. html Helen reddy – i am woman lyrics. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. lyricstime. com/helen-reddy-i-am-woman-lyrics. html