Just as with the concept of the abolishment of slavery, when I think of the term “women’s rights” I imagine freedom and equality. Throughout time women have not been seen as equals to men. Even since ancient civilization women have not been treated as equals. Women’s rights have grown exceedingly since then, especially in the United States; however, it has taken a long time to get women’s rights to where they are now. Women in the history of the United States has gone from absolute oppression, to finally receiving the vote, to being allowed to wear pants to school, to the ability to be work in the same jobs as men. Although we still do not see complete equality between men and women in the United States, the state of women’s rights has been improved a great deal since antiquity.
Just after the organization of the United States of America, women across the colonies began to form, women began acting in suffrage groups seeking equality for both men and women. In 1919, women were finally given the right to vote after many years of active organizations for equality. However, looking back to where the fight for the right to vote began in the 1800’s, we can observe that it took some time for women to come together and begin a fight for their right to vote.
While the reasons behind why it took so long for women to be seen as equals are apparent, the reason why it took so long for women to act out against the inequality isn’t so clear. We can only speculate as to why the efforts were delayed.
One reason I think it took so long for women to speak out about inequality is the role they held in society at the time. Women’s roles in their families were to stay at home and take care of the children. Women were in charge of raising the kids and maintaining the housework while their husbands were out working various jobs. Women were considered below men, and grew up under the power of their father until they married and became under the power of their husbands. Women did not receive equal opportunity for education as many people felt it was not essential for them to be educated. Women also could not own any property. There was very much female oppression at the time.
After the Second Great Awakening, boundaries that had been in place for ages began to fall. The new freedom of religion spread and inspired many more people to fight for their personal freedoms. Seeing that a change could be made and actions could be taken inspired women to fight for equality and freedom within their gender. Without the example of the Second Great Awakening it is hard to tell how much longer the suffrage movement could have taken to begin.
Furthermore, after the Second Great Awakening, women received more equality within religion. One Reverend, Charles Grandison Finney started to allow women to pray openly in groups with men. This was something that hadn’t been seen prominently before. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also gave more privileges to women when they organized their Relief Society in 1842. This Relief Society was an organization for women ran by women within the LDS Church. Many members of the LDS Relief Society even became the caretakers of their husband’s affairs when their husbands were sent out of LDS Missions across the world. With such groups forming across the nation, women we able to slowly stand up for their rights with the support and examples these groups became.
We can also attribute the organizations of women’s rights groups to the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. At this convention, many women met together to talk about women’s rights and begin more intense movements towards equal rights. After this convention, many actions were set into place to fight for equal rights. Because these women were able to meet together, state their opinions, and realize there were other people who felt the same as they did, they were able to form together and fight for what they all believed in. With a united front and people around you backing up what you all believe, it must have been easier to break away from the social norm of that time.
It is clear that the fight for women’s rights was not easy. It is obvious that it took a long time for women to been seen as something close to equals. We know that the battle for gender equality is something that has been present since the earth began. However, we also know that due to the efforts of many strong women in the 17th and 18th century, women’s rights have grown to be as vast as they are today. I think we can agree that men and women are still not completely equals. Men are often paid better in the work place and there are definitely still specific gender divisions varying between men and women. However, the state of women’s rights has come a very far way. As American’s we live in a time where men and women have equal opportunities and I think as women we need to step back and thank the many women who devoted their lives to make our country what it is today.