Brenda R. Dople
HIS 204: American History Since 1865
October 7, 2012
As a woman myself, it is hard to imagine a time when I would not have been allowed to attend college, let alone be writing this paper. As children most of us heard stories from our grandparent’s about what life was like they were young. I can remember laughing at the thought of “walking up hill both ways” to get to school. With the liberties American Women have today, it is easy to take for granted everything the women before us fought so hard for. It is easy to forget the treatment they suffered in their struggle to bring us to today. In this paper we will examine the lives, struggles, and small victories of women that have led us to today. We will begin in the latter half of the 19th century when the first women’s rights convention took place. Then we will journey into the early 20th century and discuss the 19th Amendment and birth control. Next, we will move forward to the late 20th century to examine women’s job and pay equality. Finally, we will discuss women of the 21st century.
Women made their first stride toward equal rights in 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York when the first women’s rights convention took place. This convention was headed by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and resulted in the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments for women, a document declaring men and women to be equals. This document, drafted by Stanton, was 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). In 1890, Stanton along with Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony formed the organization National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA). “Stanton, and others like Susan B. Anthony, labored through the late 19th century to achieve victory, but by the time of their deaths in 1902 and 1906, they still were not welcome at the ballot box” (Bowles, 2011).
At the beginning of the 20th century the American household painted a very different landscape than the households of today. During this time women experienced limitations. There were places women could and could not go and jobs that women were not permitted to hold. The few employment opportunities that women were allowed to obtain were that of a teacher, nurse, social worker or clerical work. “Catholic women had an option of joining a convent and becoming a nun. For many, the vow of poverty and a life of religious service was a welcome professional and spiritual path” (Bowles, 2011). While there were some women’s colleges and coeducational colleges, women were still not allowed to attend notable institutions, such as Yale and Harvard. “Even for women who did attain a diploma, there was little that they could do with it professionally once they graduated, unless they had basic clerical skills or sought work as a teacher” (Bowles, 2011). It was during this time skirts and hair styles began to get shorter and women began to wear makeup. It was also during this time that women began smoking. “Typically, the only women who smoked worked in brothels, but by the second decade of the 20th century, smoking represented an act of defiance and freedom for many women” (Bowles, 2011). These are not the only things that began to change. “Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League (ABCL) on November 10, 1921 at the First American Birth Control Conference in New York City” (American, 2010). “This let women explore their sexuality without having to concern themselves with unwanted babies” (Bowles, 2011). ”It was Sanger who actually coined the phrase “birth control” (Spooner, 2005). “She established the ABCL to offer an ambitious program of education, legislative reform, and research. Her goal was to build a truly national organization with representation in every region of the country” (American, 2010). There were many who protested and fought to pass...