feminism what it is and isn't

Feminism: What It Is & What It Isn’t

According to Britannica, the word Feminism is defined as “the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes. Although largely originating in the West, feminism is manifested worldwide and is represented by various institutions committed to activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.”

Unfortunately, too many people are under the impression that if a woman is a feminist, she hates and loathes men. Many also believe that all feminists are women! Both of these impressions are incorrect. A feminist is simply a person who supports feminism, also known as women’s rights. There is still a good percentage of men that believe a feminist must be a man-hating lesbian.

At one time, women didn’t have the right to vote, and their voices and opinions didn’t matter much. It was in the 1800s that women banded together, organizing, picketing, and petitioning for the right to vote. It took decades for them to be recognized. The 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote, but it was not until August 18th, 1920, that ratification occurred. We have come a long way, ladies!

Feminism is fighting to be equal because we are! Why should we not have the same rights as a man? Feminism is taking a stand in a world that is still full of preconceived ideas about a woman’s place in a man’s world. I hate to break it to you, but we are indeed equals. Consider this; it takes both a man and a woman to create life. Once the deed is done, the man can move on. The woman carries this life inside of her for nine months before giving birth. Once that is considered, how equal is it after all?

Feminism is a movement that began moving back in the late 1700s and is still rolling today. There was a time that women were expected to stay at home, care for the children, cook all of the food, clean, do the laundry, and remain a homemaker. Going out to enjoy public events was more of a man’s scene. It did make sense for the mother to be home with a child because a man couldn’t breastfeed, and formula didn’t exist. The times have since changed in a very big way.

Many historians have described two waves of feminism in our history. The first wave began in the 19th century, growing out from the anti-slavery movement. The second wave was in the 1960s and 1970s. Let’s look at a timeline regarding the Women’s Rights Movement in the U.S. I’m only going to cover the timeline up to 1984; if you’d like to see an extended list, you can find more in-depth details and further dates on U.S. News which is where I found this information.

  • 1769 ~Women were not allowed to own property in their names or keep their earnings

  • 1777 ~Women’s right to vote was taken away by all states

  • 1809 ~Mary Kies is the very first woman to receive a patent on something

  • 1839 ~Mississippi became the first state to grant women the right to hold property in their name (yay!) with permission from their husband (boo!)

  • 1848 ~In Seneca Falls, NY, 300 women, and men signed the Declaration of Sentiment – a plea to end discrimination against women

  • 1866 ~The 14th Amendment was passed – with the words “citizens” and “voters” defined as males

  • 1869 ~Arabella Mansfield was granted permission to practice law in Iowa leading to her becoming the first female lawyer. Ada H. Kepley became the first woman in the U.S. to graduate from law school

  • 1872 ~Nominated by the National Radical Reformers, Victoria Claflin Woodhull became the first female presidential candidate in the United States.

    • Female federal employees except for private-sector workers were guaranteed equal pay for equal work by law.

    • Susan B. Anthony cast her first vote to test whether the 14th Amendment would be interpreted widely to guarantee women the right to vote. Unfortunately, she was convicted of “unlawful voting”

  • 1873 ~The Supreme Court passed a ruling that a state has the right to exclude a married woman from practicing law

  • 1887 ~Susanna Medora Salter became the first woman to be elected mayor of a U.S. town, in Argonia, Kansas

  • 1890 ~Wyoming became the first state granting women the right to vote in ALL elections

  • 1900 ~Finally, married women were granted the right to own property in their name and keep their wages

  • 1916 ~Jeanette Rankin, of Montana, became the first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives

  • 1918 ~Margaret Sanger opened a birth control clinic in Brooklyn, NY in 1916, two years later she won her suit in New York allowing doctors to advise married couples about birth control. In 1942 the clinic became known as Planned Parenthood

  • 1920 ~Women received the right to vote due to the 19th Amendment being ratified

  • 1923 ~The very first version of an Equal Rights Amendment was introduced

  • 1932 ~Hattie Wyatt Caraway, of Arkansas, became the first woman elected into the U.S. Senate

  • 1933 ~The National Recovery Act led to many women losing their jobs because the act was made to forbid more than one family member from holding a government job

  • 1953 ~Jerrie Cobb was the first woman in the U.S. to undergo astronaut testing. However, NASA canceled the women’s program in 1963

  • 1963 ~Congress passed the Equal Pay Act 

  • 1964 ~Title IV of the Civil Rights Act was passed prohibiting sex discrimination in employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was created

  • 1965 ~The Supreme Court establishes the right of married couples to use contraception

  • 1968 ~President Lyndon B. Johnson signed an executive order prohibiting sex discrimination by government contractors

  • 1969 ~The state of California adopted the nation’s very first, “no-fault” divorce law, which allowed divorce by mutual consent

  • 1972 ~Title IX of the Education Amendments prohibits sex discrimination in every aspect of education programs the received federal support

  • 1973 ~Abortion became legal. Sex-segregation was banned in “help wanted” advertising

  • 1974 ~Housing discrimination based on sex and credit discrimination was outlawed by congress

  • 1975 ~The Supreme Court denies all states the right to exclude women from juries

  • 1978 ~The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination against pregnant women

  • 1980 ~Paula Hawkins became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate without following the lead of her father or husband

  • 1981 ~Lady Diana Spencer broke tradition by deleting the vow to “obey” her husband when she was marrying Prince Charles

  • 1983 ~Dr. Sally K. Ride became the first American woman sent to outer space

  • 1984 ~Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman nominated to become the vice president on a major ticket

As you can see, all the way back to 1769 life was much different for a woman, and that’s what feminism is! Women began this movement hundreds of years ago, but if you go check out that list I shared, you’ll see that huge changes are still being made. It’s the voice of many, where there once seemed like none and there are men in this movement as well! Feminism is all about fairness and equality for everyone, not just men or women!

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