American feminist movement

Where did early suffragists ever get the idea that women should have the same rights as men?

"One day, a [Native American] woman gave away a fine quality horse.” The audience of women’s rights activists listened attentively as ethnographer Alice Fletcher addressed the first International Council of Women. The scene was Washington, D.C. The date was March 1888. “Will your husband like to have you give the horse away?” Fletcher recalled asking the woman, shocked. The Native woman’s “eyes danced, ” Fletcher told the suffragists and, “breaking into a peal of laughter, she hastened to tell the story to the others gathered in her tent, and I became the target of many merry eyes. Laughter and contempt met my explanation of the white man’s hold upon his wife’s property.”

Fletcher had forgotten just for a moment that she was with Native, not white women. No white woman would dare give away her family’s horse. In fact, married white women had no legal right to their own possessions or property in most states, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Far beyond simply lacking rights, married American women had no legal identity. They couldn’t vote, have guardianship of their own children, or have autonomy over their own bodies. A wife and mother didn’t exist in the eyes of the law; she became one with her husband the moment they were joined in matrimony. In fact, husbands were legally within their rights to beat their wives if they chose. Yet for most women, getting married was the only way to support oneself. Most jobs were closed to them and the few available ones paid half (or less) of the wages that men were paid for the same work.NAW The founding document of America’s women’s movement, the 1848 “Declaration of Sentiments, ” summed it up well: “He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.”

Haudenosaunee women grinding corn or dried berries, with infant on cradleboard in background

Women’s second-class position in Western society had been in place for centuries. Even in the 1800s, most white people were still guided by the Biblical notion that God made Adam first, then Eve as a helpmate. When she was disobedient in Genesis 3:16, the text stated that Eve and all women after her would be under the authority of men as punishment. “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, ” The Bible said, “and he shall rule over thee.”


What was the impact of the feminist movement on american society?

The feminist movement has effected change in Western society, including women's suffrage; greater access to education; more equitable pay with men and the right to initiate divorce proceedings. Viva la

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