The women’s rights movement came in waves in the U.S., starting in full swing in the 1840s. Building on their platform as abolitionists, women spoke publicly about the need for women’s rights and held the Seneca Falls Convention in NY in 1848. The women and men present at this conference (organized by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton) signed the Declaration of Sentiments , modeled after the Declaration of Independence, detailing specific rights they felt that women deserved.
It wasn’t until 1920 that women received the right to vote, after a long and sometimes violent battle. Since the inception of the United States, female citizens voiced their desire to speak their minds through the ballot (for example, First Lady Abigail Adams, who wrote to her husband reminding him to “remember the ladies”). Women donned the popular “Votes for Women” banners, consistently pestered the government, and educated the public on the need for women’s suffrage. “Forward out of darkness, forward into light,” goes the slogan of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and it paid off.
Jump ahead to the 1960s and 1970s when the women’s movement took the country by storm. Male-bashing, sexual liberation, anti-discrimination, workers, political, and reproductive rights along with organizations such as NOW took center stage. Crazy protests such as crowning a sheep Miss America in 1969 terrified the general public. Most women were lumped into one of two categories: the submissive housewife or the radical feminist. Feminists of the ‘60s and ‘70s pushed for legislation to ensure their equal rights and openly displayed their cause.
Check out Sara Evans' Born for Liberty for a good overview of U.S. women's history. Also, the LOC has a pretty good timeline of women's history in America.
Stay tuned for a discussion of how this history has contributed to what feminism is today…