Womens feminist movement

A Brief History of Women's Rights Movements

Women's rights movements are primarily concerned with making the political, social, and economic status of women equal to that of men and with establishing legislative safeguards against discrimination on the basis of gender. Women's rights movements have worked in support of these aims for more than two centuries. They date to at least the first feminist publication, in 1792, entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by British writer Mary Wollstonecraft.

Militant political action among women began in Britain in 1903 with the formation of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) for the right to vote. The organization was led by Emmeline Pankhurst. Women of all ages and classes demonstrated on a massive scale; the demonstrators were jailed, locked out of their meeting places, and thrown down the steps of Parliament. National divisiveness ended in a truce at the outbreak of World War I (1914) with the WSPU's decision to support the war effort. The ensuing mobilization by the WSPU of thousands of its members for voluntary participation in the war industries and support services was a highly influential factor in overcoming government resistance to WSPU aims. The right to vote was granted in 1918; it was confined to women age 30 and above. In 1928 the voting age was lowered to 21.

In the United States the first definitive position on women's rights—hitherto intermingled with antislavery issues—was taken in 1848 under the leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton at the Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y. (see Seneca Falls Convention). In 1850 the National Women's Rights Convention was held, led by Lucy Stone, an early activist. Both groups coalesced in the formation (1863) of the Women's National Loyal League, under Susan B. Anthony. Anthony wrote and submitted in 1878 a proposed right-to-vote amendment to the Constitution.

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