First wave of feminism in American

First Wave Feminism: The Movement That is Taken For Granted

First wave feminists spent hundreds of years in activism, writing, protesting and working for the betterment and equality of their sex and gender. First wave feminists worked not only for suffrage, or the right to vote, but also for the right to an education, the right to work, the right to work safely, the right to the money they earned when they worked, the right to a divorce, the right to their children and the right to themselves and their own bodies.

Rights for women can be traced back to the Middle Ages in the Middle East when early reforms under Islam gave women greater rights in marriage, divorce and inheritance. Women in other cultures were not afforded such rights until centuries later. Further improvements of the status of Arab women included things such as the prohibition of female infanticide and recognizing women’s full personhood.

The things mentioned above are necessary, and were necessary, and in some case, came at the end of long efforts.

The earliest signs of feminism in the west came in the 14th century when women lead the Peasants’ Revolt against British Serfdom. Notably was Johanna Ferrour who ordered the violent beheading of Lord Chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury Simon of Sudbury. The women who were involved in this rebellion had a stake in it, as the poll tax that was the center of the rebellion was much tougher on married women. Unlike the poll tax you may be used to hearing about in relation to voting, this poll tax was a tax to support the Hundred Year War and it tripled from a groat, which was a currency at the time, to three groats in a period of three years.

In the 14th and 15th centuries women writers began to take up their pens in defense of their sex. These writers include Simone de Beauvoir and Christine de Pizan. But what women were advocating against was a mindset, an entire system of socialization, even then, and then (as some would argue to this day), women were socialized, both in their minds and in the minds of men, that their sole role in society was reproduction.

First wave feminists had to work against this impression, and they had to work against the society that allowed an unmarried woman to be property of her father and a married woman to be property of her husband.

The 17th century saw the continuance of feminist writers, including Marie de Gournay who wrote The Equality of Men and Women. But probably the most popular 17th century writer and advocate of female education as a means to not only equality, but to a better society, was Mary Wollstonecraft with her treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

But being an educated woman was dangerous at the time, Anne Askew, a Quaker and a feminist, was burned at the stake for heresy. It is said she died ‘for her implicit or explicit challenge to the patriarchal order.’


What is first wave feminism.

First wave feminism was mostly focused on women gaining the right to vote and took place in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Since there has been second wave feminism which focused on breaking traditional women's roles and gaining rights such as equal pay and abortion. Third wave feminism began in the 1990s and focused on rape and sexual assault and more issues beneath the surface like women being objectified in the mainstream media. Riot Grrl was also a part of this movement.

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