The Women's Liberation Movement
Since the beginning of time, women had been working to advance their place in society. From the Stone Age through the twentieth century, individuals and organized groups had felt that women were treated unequally, and they vowed to do something about it. Perhaps the peak of this movement occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Women's Liberation Movement was recognized as an organized effort to gain equality of women.
Beginning in ancient times, women of the Prehistoric Age were first considered inferior through division of labor. The men were sent to hunt, and the women stayed at home gathering vegetables while taking care of the children. This creation of sexually depicted roles implied that women were too fragile and weak to go out hunting with the men (Sinclair 184). The New Stone Age, or Neolithic Age, kept women's status inferior to that of men. They were still in charge of gathering and farming, which led them to many technological advances in the fields of plowing and cooking. Although the contributions of women were unmatched by most men in this era, the male race still reigned supreme (Sinclair 186). In later years, renowned scientist Sigmond Freud drew some astounding conclusions about humans through his research. He found that the development of boys and girls were similar until the age of five where the phallic stage begins. From there, each sex takes an interest in their own genitals. It is here where he states that females develop a complex known as penis envy. He says that from then on, females feel that they are lacking as people because they do not have male genitals (Sinclair 16). "According to Freud, woman is passive, masochistic, and narcissistic. Woman's inferiority is anatomically based. She is an incomplete 'maimed' man because she lacks a penis" (Sinclair 15). This conclusion is the basis for the feeling of inferiority placed upon women from Freud's time until the present.
It was in the mid-1800s when the first signs of the feminist movement came about. In 1861, a man named John Stuart Mill wrote The Subjection of Women, which was said to have spawned the ideology of the Women's Rights Movement (Ryan 11). He discussed the role of women is society during that time, pointing out how the patriarchy placed such an intense limit on what women could do. Patriarchy is the system in which the male race governs societal views, and this practice has been in existence since the dawn of time. This work raised the consciousness of many women, but the first hints of an organized movement did not come about until the approach of the twentieth century. It has been said the Black Abolition Movement was the encouragement that women needed to go after what they believed in (Ryan 10). In 1898 came the beginnings of Women's Suffrage, which was the movement intended to allow women the right to vote. During this time, over 500 separate campaigns were launched with the goal of attaining this right. Females such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony spoke all over the country on women's rights and suffrage, gaining many supporters along the way (Ryan 9). The National American Women's Suffrage Association (NAWSA) was soon formed, and Stanton was its first president. She helped to begin extensive mobilizing efforts and put a strong foot forward in the suffrage movement (Ryan 22). When the Nineteenth Amendment was passed, women nationwide rejoiced at their accomplishment with the feeling that they had made a difference, and their feeling of inferiority had subsided.
During the Jazz Age of the 1920s, the women's movement declined, and the patriarchy ran its course. In the 1930s, women were driven into the labor force by the horrible conditions caused by the Great Depression. Soon after, World War II caused an influx of women to join the work force to take the place of the enormous number of men that went into the military (Salper 185). Just as women were beginning to get a...
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