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History of Women's Rights

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A history of women's rights -- women (and some men) have asserted women's equality and the rights of women since ancient times, but without much success until the 19th and 20th century women's rights movements.
  1. Woman Suffrage
  2. Women Who Worked for Suffrage
  3. Second Wave Feminism: 1960s and 1970s
  4. Reproductive Rights
  5. Equality Beyond Voting

Woman Suffrage

Women in New York, 1917

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the battle for women's vote has followed the development of democracies in which public power depended on the outcome of voting. The struggle in the United States was not the only suffrage campaign, but the American and British woman suffrage campaigns are the best-known and were influential in winning the vote elsewhere.

Women Who Worked for Suffrage

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Women who worked for the right of women to vote came from different backgrounds, had very different lives, and often disagreed among themselves over the best tactics for winning the vote. Here are a few of the key characters in the women's suffrage movements in America and England.

Second Wave Feminism: 1960s and 1970s

Feminist Gloria Steinem

In the 1960s and 1970s, a new wave of feminism arrived. With ties to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the new women's movement took on a wider agenda than the women's suffrage movement had focused on. From mainstream to radicals, this feminism movement fought for equal rights and a new way of looking at gender rules.

Reproductive Rights

Pro-choice and pro-life signs at 2005 march in Washington, DC.

Reproductive rights address women's ability and right to control when and whether to be pregnant. Without the ability to control pregnancy, women's rights in other areas may be less meaningful, as women will not be able to fully make choices about education, work, and marriage. In the 19th century in America, the birth rate fell precipitously from the beginning of the century to the end, and around the world, the birth rate falls as women become better educated or have economic opportunities. Here are some resources about women's rights to reproductive choices, including some of the women key to the controversies.

Equality Beyond Voting

Mary Wollstonecraft, Judith Sargent Murray, and Margaret Fuller were early writers who maintained that women should have rights, and be considered the equals of men. The Seneca Falls Declaration (1848) was concerned with many rights, not just voting rights. Whether it's the right to own property in her own name, or the right to equal pay, women's economic rights have been slowly changing over the last few centuries. The Equal Rights Amendment has been a source of considerable controversy.

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