The changing roles of women since 1865
During colonial America women’s roles were that of maintaining the household, birthing and minding the children, and a supportive role to the man of the house. This role changed little over time until 1848 when the women’s rights movement started at the Seneca Falls Convention. It was at the convention when Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave a Declaration of Sentiments; she demanded equal rights including the right to vote for women. “Signed by 68 women and 32 men, it was a powerful symbol and the beginning of a long struggle for legal, professional, educational, and voting rights.
(Bowles, 2011, Chapter 2) Even though women were treated as secondary citizens, starting with no rights to presently nothing holding women back and all freedoms granted, because women never gave up, they worked hard to prove their point, and they maintained strength and grace through the hard years. While there were many events that guided the path of women I will focus on a few in my opinion key events; from the Suffrage movement, to military women of World War 1 and World War 2, women entering the political realm, the push for equal pay for equal work, the women’s strike, and the 1973 case of Roe vs Wade.
The disfranchisement of twelve millions of people, who are citizens of the United States, should command from us immediate action. Since the women of this country are unjustly deprived of a right… common justice requires that we should submit the proposition for a change in the fundamental law to the State legislatures, where the correction can be made. ”(Jeydel, 2000) The above quote was taken from an excerpt from a report in the U. S. House of Representatives from January 13, 1890.
It was the first and last quote from the majority report until 1918. In 1870 activist were angered that the 15th amendment did not include women. The NWSA or National Woman Suffrage Association was formed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, under the purpose to secure a Constitutional amendment that would give woman the right to vote. In 1872 Susan B. Anthony cast a ballot on the November 5th election illegally. Two weeks after the ballot was cast there was a warrant for Susan B.
Anthony, the warrant was for voting in a federal election “without having a lawful right to vote and in violation of section 19 of an act of Congress” enacted in 1870, commonly called The Enforcement Act. The Enforcement Act carried a maximum penalty of $500 or three years imprisonment. After a lengthy court trail Susan B. Anthony was found guilty and ordered to pay a fine of $100 and the costs of the prosecution. (Linder, 2001) In Susan’s speech after her sentence was handed out, she swore that she would not pay one penny towards her fine, and she never did. Susan B.
Anthony worked and partnered with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the fight for women’s equality. Elizabeth was a well-educated woman for her time; she fought actively against slavery as well as for women’s rights. Her views towards women’s rights span farther than just the right to vote; she also wanted custody rights and parental rights for mothers, employment and property rights, as well as spoke on the subject of birth control. Elizabeth was married to Henry Stanton in 1840; she requested that the phrase “promise to obey” be removed from the wedding vows saying that in an equal partnership she refused to obey.
“The general discontent I felt with woman’s portion as wife, housekeeper, physician, and spiritual guide, the chaotic conditions into which everything fell without her constant supervision, and the wearied, anxious look of the majority of women, impressed me with a strong feeling that some active measures should be taken to remedy the wrongs of society in general, and of women in particular. My experience at the World Anti-slavery Convention, all I had read of the legal status of women, and the oppression I saw everywhere, together swept across my soul, intensified now by many personal experiences.
It seemed as if all the elements had conspired to impel me to some onward step. I could not see what to do or where to begin—my only thought was a public meeting for protest and discussion. ” (Stanton, 1898) There was also the American Women Suffrage Association commonly referred to as AWSA formed by Lucy Stone and her husband Henry Blackwell, the goal was also to gain the right for women to vote. (Farrell, 2006) The American Women Suffrage Association was formed as a result in a difference in philosophy, goals and the tactics used by the National Woman Suffrage Association.
The American Woman Suffrage Association was considered more conservative and even supported the Republican Party and held males as officers within the association. Working to change things from the local and state point of view was the way that the American Women Suffrage Association worked. Women’s suffrage lasted till women crossed the rooms to the ballot boxes in November 1920. The struggle for voting was part of the path to the modern stronger willed woman who was not afraid to stand up for herself, even when faced with opposition even such as war.
Women were used to a background role, staying home and minding the household and children within. However in World War One commonly referred to as WWI women were needed in the work places to ensure that production of war machines wasn’t hindered with the men gone. Many women even worked heavy labor including ship building and furnace stoking; jobs like this had excluded women prior to the war however could not have maintained war time production standards without the extra bodies to continue the work. Many women entered the Navy and Marine Corps as nurses.(Daniels, 1993) In 1942 the military even established women’s branches in the military service. Deborah Sampson paved a small portion of the way for women in the military, being the first recorded female back during the Revolutionary War. She had enlisted to fight for the Continental side under the name of Robert Shurtliff, and fought for three years under the name Robert. At the end of the war she was discovered but was given an honorable discharge by order of President George Washington. (Paterson, 1898) World War II was the first time that women had been able to serve in the United States military in an official capability.
Women also managed to maintain households and make sure life ran smooth as possible for them and the families that they cared for. The perseverance through the war time efforts was a factor when it came time for voting right to be given to women, who were no longer seen as weak and fragile and intern seen as productive members of society. There were several branches of military created for women serving these included; Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, Women Air force Service Pilots, and Women Accepted for Volunteer Military Services.
Women were also able to serve in the Marines in a branch of the Coast Guard called SPARS. For the most part women held the clerical jobs which freed the men from those jobs and sent the men to jobs closer to the front lines. Women were not to fight on the front lines but were close to the front when they were in the medical field. On June 12, 1948 President Truman signed The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, granting women a permanent place in all branches of the military. The act made the military one of the first employers to guarantee women equal pay to men in all jobs that women were allowed to hold.
Nevertheless, women were not allowed to hold a rank higher than lieutenant colonel, had to leave the military when they had kids, they could not make up more than 2% of the overall military. Currently women serve in all capacities of the military from clerical, to flying combat missions in war, to loading bombs onto the aircraft while serving integrated aboard naval aircraft carriers. Following the advances into the military women wanted to partake in government, and be a part of the changes in the country. In 1866 Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first woman to run for the U. S.
House of Representatives, even though she was not eligible to vote. She ran as an Independent from New York State, and even received 24 votes of 12,000 that were cast. Susan B. Anthony registered in 1872 to vote, she was thrown in jail for ten days for her actions. Jeannette Rankin of Montana is the first woman elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in 1917. Jeannette was quoted saying that “I may be the first woman member of Congress but I won’t be the last. ” She was also the only member to vote against going to war with Japan after the assault on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
In 1924 Nellie Tayloe Ross is elected the first female governor of a state, in Wyoming after the death of her husband who held the office prior to here. Nettie was also a strong supporter of prohibition in the 1920’s, who also became the director of the U. S. Mint after her term as Wyoming’s governor where she is still the only woman to hold that office. Farther in history we have Margaret Chase Smith becomes the first female nominated for the presidency by a major party in 1964. Margaret was also an avid supporter of the military and made a point to be involved with foreign policy and the policies of the U.S. military. She also was the first and only female to have cruised on a Navy ship during World War II. In 2007 Nancy Pelosi becomes the first female Speaker of the House.
This is the highest-ranking leadership position ever held by a woman, and the third highest-ranking position in the country behind the president and vice president. (“THE HISTORY OF WOMEN IN POLITICS. ,” 2007) Nancy self admittedly has been around politics for most of her life she was in attendance at John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address as President in January 1961. Nancy has become awell-respected female role model for the younger generations, by being an educated, strong, smart and political powerhouse in her field. Working the way through the ranks of the political ring has been a major achievement in the history of women. Many women fought for years over the rights just to vote, being a powerhouse in the realm of politics shows the feminine adaptability to whatever challenge is in the way. John F. Kennedy commissioned “The Equal Pay Act (1963) provides that employers may not pay workers of one sex at rates lower than they pay employees of the opposite sex employed in the same establishment for equal work.
“I AM delighted today to approve the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits arbitrary discrimination against women in the payment of wages. This act represents many years of effort by labor, management, and several private organizations unassociated with labor or management, to call attention to the unconscionable practice of paying female employees less wages than male employees for the same job. This measure adds to our laws another structure basic to democracy. It will add protection at the working place to the women, the same rights at the working place in a sense that they have enjoyed at the polling place.
It applies to jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility and that are performed under similar working conditions” (“Equal Pay Act of 1963,” 2011) After receiving the right to vote now women were know able to receive a fair pay. This was a huge step in being seen as equals to the men as well as a change in the role of women. Now at the time women who worked would receive the same amount of money as a man, things started to look more equal in our society.
This victory leads to the idea that women could change more aspects of their daily lives. On the fiftieth anniversary of receiving the right to vote an astounding 20,000 plus women gathered in New York City for the start of a new movement. This was the start of the women’s strike that begins on August 26, 1970, the main objective of this movement was three parts; first objective was the repeal of antiabortion laws, second objective was establishment of child-care centers, and the third objective was equal opportunity in jobs and education.
Prior to the actual march, there was a banner that was hung on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal that read “Women of the World Unite” to advertise the upcoming march later in the month. This single event on August 26 stirred 42 other states to join the cause and hold events in 90 other cities. There were trashcans that were brought to events to burn make up, bras, curling irons, and aprons, as signs of oppression. The movement was started from an organization called NOW also known as the National Organization for Women. Betty Friedan was the president of NOW who called for the strike was retiring and had set the gears in motion for the rally.
She was quoted saying “The women who are doing menial chores in the offices as secretaries put the covers on their typewriters and close their notebooks and the telephone operators unplug their switchboards, the waitresses stop waiting, cleaning women stop cleaning and everyone who is doing a job for which a man would be paid more stop … And when it begins to get dark, instead of cooking dinner or making love, we will assemble and we will carry candles alight in every city to converge the visible power of women at city hall … Women will occupy for the night the political decision-making arena and sacrifice a night of love to make the political meaning clear.
Sacrifice of a night of love also leads towards my sixth and final topic on the changing roles of women, the right to control her own body in regards to abortion. In 1973 the United States Court ruled in the case Roe vs. Wade, the courts made the decision that an abortion during the first three months of a women’s pregnancy was a matter for the woman and her doctor. This was significant for all women whether they were for or against abortion; the courts had given what was a public matter over to the privacy of a woman and the doctor of her choice. (Hansen, 1980) Abortion has long been a major debate even now this topic is debated.
Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life the right for a woman to make that decision for herself was monumental. Women throughout history have been secondary to men. Through the years women have been able to gain the right to vote, rights over their own bodies, even job opportunities that used to just be available for men. Currently women are CEO’s of companies, high ranked military leaders, political tycoons; women no longer stand in the shadow of men. The roles that women were given as homemaker and mother have been broken and challenged. Now leaders in the world, military, and political circles there is little that stands in the way of American women because they were unafraid of the challenge and rose to the occasion to better themselves.