Women’s rights movement Essay
The problem of women’s place in the society has been studied for several centuries, and it is still relevant at the beginning of the 21st century. The history of the XX century shows us an important example of women’s rights movement, which managed to make great changes in the role and place of women in the life of the society. In the XX century there was a dramatic change in the role of women, as she has firmly taken a significant role in the economy, politics, culture and other spheres of life. The long struggle of women for equality has led to certain changes of social consciousness in the views on the socio-political role of women, but despite that, the full equality has not been achieved.
The relevance of the problem of women’s rights movement in the 21 century is due to the following:
Firstly, life in the modern civil society assumes a substantial increase in the social life of new “nontraditional” elements of the political system leads to increased importance of various social organizations, associations, institutions, among which is considered the women’s rights movement, having an increasing impact on society.
Second, despite the fact that both international and national legislation are based on the principle of equality, in practice women do not have equality in public life and activities. There is a contradiction between the new realities and lack of opportunities in the community to meet them: while consciousness of women increases, they are no longer satisfied with the imposed stereotype of social roles, where the family and motherhood are the only values and roles for them.
From all of the said above raises the need to consider the nature, objectives and achievements of the women’s movement for rights in the 20 century, and in particular in the USA.
The history of the women’s rights movement and the change of role of women in the society
The beginning of the women’s rights movement is considered to be the end of the War of Independence, in which American colonists fought for political rights, and more than half the American population were denied them. Many of them were women, also there were no rights in slaves, servants and poor contracts. It is considered that the abolitionist movement, which peak was in the middle of the XIX century, has had a significant influence on the rise of women’s movement. It is in the First World anti-slavery convention, which was held in 1840 in London, two future founders of women’s rights movement – Elizabeth Cade Stanton and Lucretia Mott decided to be active after they undergone considerable gender discrimination during the conference.
The starting point of the long struggle for rights of women in the U.S. is considered to the year 1848, when in the town of Seneca Falls took place a congress, where about three hundred men and women complained and made a list of necessary actions. Elizabeth Stanton made the “Declaration of Sentiments”, which is sometimes called the “Declaration of Rights and Sentiments”, and which was signed during the Congress. As the basis of the document was taken the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and Stanton accordingly approved that “all men and women were created equal”. (Flexner, 1996)
The main activists Elizabeth Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony (Susan B. Anthony) fought for the adoption of constitutional amendments that would have given the rights for both women and blacks. They even founded the American Equal Rights Association in 1866, and its chairman was elected Lucretia Mott. When 14 and 15 amendments were adopted, which expanded the rights of blacks and men, but did not include the relevant paragraphs on the rights of women, Stanton and Anthony created a National Woman Suffrage Association, which opposed the 15 amendment and took only women in their numbers. But also there was another group, the American Woman Suffrage Association, which supported the 15th amendment and considered it a necessary step to expand voting rights. (Hartmann 1998)
By the beginning of the XX century there were numerous women rights organizations: suffragette were active in the struggle for political and legal equality of women; socialist groups defended the idea of equal pay for women’s labor, participation of women in trade unions; radical feminists promoted ideas of conscious motherhood and birth control, and women’s charities. All of these trends, each in its own way, helped the woman, anyway, to get used to her new role in the society.
By the nature of the goals and objectives, including protecting the specific interests of women, women’s societies and unions are divided into charitable, social, political, religious, professional, moral and ethical. Socio-political set immediate objectives of the struggle for female suffrage, the equality with men. Professional (such as numerous groups of mutual help of women doctors, teachers, midwives, office workers, etc.) promoted the advancement of conditions and wages, financial aid, protection of the rights of hired workers and employees. Women’s organizations of moral and ethical direction highlighted the guardianship of the young mothers, young women, protection of the moral foundations of the American society. Among the forms of charitable activity that had a significant impact on the social status of women, stood out: the struggle for women’s education, the movement of employment assistance, child care, care of elderly women, support of students.
The social composition of women’s organizations were also very diverse: for example, representatives of the higher strata of society participated in women’s unions of national patriotic direction, and many charitable organizations; industrial workers and women of unskilled professional work, participated in the female workers’ clubs. Part of the society, acting within the scope of the liberal-democratic direction, expressed the interests of representatives of the intelligentsia. All these women were united by the main interest of self-development, the need to achieve equality and protection of their rights, the desire for self-employment, improvement of financial situation. Historical merit of these women is that they brought to the masses the ideas of gender equality, initiated numerous civic initiatives, rallied women and by their example promoted an independent way of life. (Flexner 1996)
Thus, during the XXth century, women’s movements have been one of the most important social movements of democratic orientation, coordinating their activities internationally. Depending on their political orientation women’s organizations defend economic interests, social needs and political rights of women. Moreover, in conjunction with the trade union, youth, environmental, pacifist and other social movements, women’s organizations have contributed greatly to the struggle of peoples for social progress, social justice, democracy, the statement of humanist principles in human relations.
As a result of slow gains at the end of XIX – first half of XX century, women have managed to win the right to education, to equality with men to work and get wages; and later they got the right to vote and be elected, the right to participate in the trade unions and political parties, the right to divorce, in some places the right on the use of contraceptives and right to abortion, the right to public assistance and maternity leave, on leave for child care, etc. So, slowly and gradually began shifts in social relations of gender, the conquest of women’s rights, and then of their right to power.
But despite all the positive changes that brought feminism, very often the equality was only on paper, but it was necessary to change attitudes towards women in people’s minds. “Awakening”, or “female revival” began in the 60’s with its epicenter in the United States, where in those years there was an intensification of the democratic processes aimed at eliminating various forms of discrimination. The women’s movement found new, more radical forms, which reflected in its title “women’s liberation movement”. (Freeman 1975)
In the 1980 and 1990-s feminism as a movement in the U.S. went into decline. Development of feminism at the state level, the growth of antifeminism, the focus on sexuality, body, to the specifics and differences of women, development of alternative women’s subculture – all that indicated a new stage of rethinking of the status of the sexes in contemporary society. Not by chance in the 1980 – 1990-s of it was spoken about the era of post-feminism. (Humm 1992)
In conclusion it is possible to say that for one and a half of century of its existence, the women’s movement has become a noticeable phenomenon in social life, has accumulated much experience in reducing discrimination against women, improved their social status. Thus, if we compare the lives of modern women to women of previous centuries, we will see that women today live much better, their conditions of life do not go to any comparison with conditions in which our ancestors had to live. Women in our time have the unprecedented freedom and great opportunities. Consequently, there is no reason to ensure that women did not experience happiness in our time! History shows us through what pain and suffering were going women before us, and many of them fought to gain the freedom that we have today. Some have even sacrificed their lives for us, and that is why women of the XXI century must always remember what a high price was paid to get a chance for woman to live a happy life today.