I believe that all people are important for various reasons. However, since March is Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day was on March 8th, the importance of woman is near and dear to my heart. Instead of focusing on one person or even one group of people, I want to focus on the historical progression of woman’s rights in America.
In 1769, women had limited property rights. The colonies declared that women could not own property in their own name or keep any of their own earnings. Years later, in 1848, the first woman’s rights convention was held. Hundreds of activists gathered in New York, to work out a plan to obtain women’s suffrage nationwide. Well-known participants signed the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, modeled after the Declaration of Independence. It called for equal treatment of both genders under the law and voting rights for women.
In 1869, the racial equality problem pared with the arguments and disagreements over Amendments 13 to 15, dividing into two woman’s organizations – the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association. The two came back together in 1890 to form the National American Women’s Suffrage Association. In the same year, the territory of Wyoming passed the first law that give women, over the age of 21, the right to vote. After Wyoming joined the Union, it established itself as the first state to allow a woman the right to vote. In 1872, Congress required federal equal pay for equal work. However, this law was unfortunately not extended to the majority of female employees working for private companies until the adoption of the Equal Pay Act in 1963. Also in 1872, Victoria Woodhull claimed the title for being the first woman to be nominated for president, but ironically no woman was allowed to vote. Woman are reminded of this fact when, later in the year, Susan B. Anthony was arrested for trying to vote and was convicted of “unlawful voting.”
About 30 years later, in 1903, The Women’s Trade Union League was established, unifying women that worked and promoting better pay and working conditions. Nearly twenty years later, in 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified and women were finally able to vote!!!!! In 1963, the Equal Pay act became a federal law for all woman. In 1967, civil rights protections were extended to women. President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11375, which expanded the affirmative action policies of 1965 to cover discrimination based on sex.
A few years later, in 1972, Congress passed, Title IX of the Education Amendments, which required schools receiving federal funds to offer equal admission to educational programs for all genders. This law is credited with the fiery growth of sports for women and girls at the high school, collegiate and professional levels. The law took effect in 1976 after withstanding repeated court challenges. In 1973, the Supreme Court established the abortion right. In and after Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court determined that a woman has the constitutional right to choose whether to have an abortion or carry her pregnancy to term. In the same year, the women-only branches of the U.S. Military eliminated. Women became intergraded into all branches of the U.S Military. Five years after that, in 1978, employment discrimination against pregnant women was banned. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act ensures that employment discrimination on account of pregnancy is treated as unlawful sex-based discrimination. And last but not least, in 2009 the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law. The new law changed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which stated that discrimination complaints must be brought within 180 days of the discriminatory act.
As you can see, woman’s rights have come a long way. It’s good to know and understand the trials and tribulations that those who came before you had to go through for you in order to do the things that you, as a woman can do today. I hope you enjoyed your International Woman’s Month and celebrated how far we have come.
“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman