During the early 1800's, it was widely believed in the United States that the divine purpose of America was to be the example of republican virtue to the world. This concept of the nation having a unique mission reinforced the idea of a national destiny and generated an American idealism that included an element of moral perfection. The combination of this social idealism and religious beliefs would be the driving force for many reforms and advances for human rights in America, including that of women's suffrage.
While the moral perfection ideals of the time initially led to start of the reform movement, it was the rise of the urban middle class, and their financial prosperity that provided the people to lead the reform movements. Most of those leading the reform movement were women. Due to the increased affluence of the urban middle class, women of this class had the means to hire domestic help. Without the burden of having to perform the daily chores associated with running a household, these middle class women now had both time and money donate to charities and lead reform movements.
The status of women up to the 1840's had changed very little since colonial times. Not having the right to vote was only one of the inequalities that women suffered as compared to their white male counterparts. Women also were not allowed to legally control property they owned if they were married, were denied the opportunity to pursue most professional careers, and if married, could not sign legal documents such as wills, lawsuits, or any type of contract without the permission of her husband. As time went on, however, more women began to complain about their status (Tindall & Shi, 2010).
The organized movement for women's rights began in 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott invited a group of abolitionist activists (mostly women, but some men) to a convention in Seneca Falls, New York to discuss the issue of women's rights. The...
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