Womens Movement

“To have drunkards, idiots, horse racing rum-selling rowdies, ignorant foreigners, and silly boys fully recognized, while we ourselves are thrust out from all the rights that belong to citizens, is too grossly insulting to be longer quietly submitted to. The right is ours. We must have it” (Rynder 3). This quote from one of Cady Stanton’s speeches shows what great injustices women had to suffer. Stanton is saying that even the scum of the earth had more rights than highly cultured women. In many aspects of life, women’s rights were dramatically less than those of men.

Women were not allowed to vote, yet they had to pay taxes. Women were subjects of their husbands, and expected to do all of the house work. The fight for women’s rights, also known as the women’s movement, changed women’s civil rights, social rights, and opened doors for generations of women to come. The most important civil right that women were denied of was the right to vote. When the United States became a country, women were never included in which people had the right to vote. The right to vote in our country was restricted to white men that owned property. Women wanted this right.

The women’s movement was already in action before the civil war. Women were fighting for suffrage, the right to vote, and prohibition, which would outlaw alcohol. During the war, women’s attentions were diverted to war issues, but the movement was strong again after the war. In the United States, individual states decided who was allowed to vote. In the western frontier states men and women had to work equally hard to survive, and men recognized this. In light of this fact, women were given the privilege of voting. When the civil war ended, all of the slaves were free.

This was also the time when women strove their hardest to pass an amendment that would give women the right to vote (Sigerman 3). With all the slaves free, the men and women would want suffrage, and they joined in the fight. One of the women that stands out in history as being a leader in the women’s movement was Susan B. Anthony. When Anthony voted in the election of 1872, she did so illegally. As a result of her action, Anthony and 16 other women were arrested. They were then released on bail and were ordered to appear before a grand jury.

Susan was found guilty and given a sentence to pay $100 and the cost of persecution. She was never forced to pay. Before this, the women’s movement had suffered its largest blow on February 3, 1870 when the 15th amendment was passed. The amendment stopped states from denying citizens the right to vote “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” but said nothing about not discriminating based on sex. In this amendment, men were saying that the African-American men they had enslaved were of higher stature than their own wives (Stevenson 54).

Despite this setback women continued to work for suffrage. Stanton and other wrote the Sentiments and Resolution 9 in order to get more people to join in the fight. Many women worked hard to achieve suffrage, and finally they got it. In 1920 the 19th amendment was finally passed giving women the most important civil right, the right to vote. Beside not having the right to vote, women did not have the basic civil right of owning property. When a women entered into marriage, it was believed that the husband and wife became one unit. The husband was considered the head of that unit.

If a women owned any property, when she was married, it would legally become her husbands. Besides owning plain property, women were not allowed to own businesses either. It was believed that it was the husband’s duty to make money for the family. A women may have been able to sell a few goods out of her home, but that was the extend of it. Over time women were given more freedom from their husbands. They were allowed to receive some possessions in a divorce, and women started opening their own businesses. Today women have the same opportunities to own property as men (Chafe 53).

Along with civil rights, women’s social rights were not equal to those of men. Women were to be submissive to their husbands. As wives, women’s were expected to perform all of the household duties. They were expected to cook, clean, and take care of the children (Chafe 67). As the women’s movement went on, new methods of performing these duties became available. Catherine Beeches wrote The New Housekeeper’s Manual. showing women how to lay out their homes in order to save time, and create a cleaner, more comfortable home (Rydner 2).

New appliances such as toasters and washing machines started becoming available to aid women with their chores. Today men and women do housework, and our society has a lot of new technology that helps with housework. Before about 1900, were still not able to control their own bodies, and were not allowed to use birth control. A woman was bound by law to her husband. She was forced to consent to his wishes. If she did not, it was legal for him to beat her as punishment (Rydner 34). A women was not allowed to control whether or not she wanted children.

Before 1873 women could learn about birth control through advertisements in women’s magazines. This right was taken away from women in 1873 when Congress passed the Comstock Act after Mr. Comstock’s prodding. This law prohibited selling distributing, or mailing obscene literature and defined contraceptive devices and any information about them as obscene. The new form of birth control was “voluntary motherhood” (Rydner 37). Supporters of this form stated that if women were able to have children when they wanted to, the women would have happier, healthier children because they were wanted.

In order to use this form of birth control, women needed the right to say no to their husbands. Some religions encouraged this practice because it prevented “sexual excess. ” It is not known to what extent this method worked, but from 1800 to 1900 the birthrate among American women declined by about one half (Ryder 39). Today, women are allowed to use birth control, and in some cases, are encouraged to do so. Different religions say different things on what to use for birth control, and every women has to decide for herself what is best. Material is made widely available for women to research and find answers to their questions.

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