Feminism is the belief in equal rights and opportunities, in organized activity, in support of women’s rights and interests, and also in the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes (Merriam-Webster). Typically, the word “feminism” has a negative connotation associated with it and feminists are stereotyped as closed minded, man hating, ugly, and whiny, among many other things. However, these stereotypes are much exaggerated and while they may be true of some feminists, most are normal women who could not be picked out from a crowd. Modern day feminists are following in the footsteps of their ancestors who starting in the late 1800’s have participated in three major feminist movements (Stockton).
The first of these movements occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The goal of the first wave was to open more opportunity doors for women with a main focus on suffrage. The wave officially began at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 (Stockton). Here, over 300 men and women rallied for the equality of women (Ruether). In its early stages, feminism was often related to temperance and abolitionist movements. This first wave of feminism movements if often referred to as the “Suffrage Movement” (Gender Press). This movement helped give voice to many early stage feminist advocates who are famous today, some of which include Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. These women fought for the right to vote, a privilege that was reserved for men (Stockton). This movement transformed into something much larger when the National Women’s Rights Convention was formed a few years later. This movement led to the 19th Amendment being passed in 1920. The 19th Amendment outlawed gender- biased voting restrictions. They also fought for the right to an equal education and health care, the right to enter and practice in the professions, and to enter and shape the public sphere.
Before the first feminist movement women were legally not allowed to: own property, execute wills or sign legal documents, serve on juries (even if the defendant was a woman), vote in elections (or even local meetings), refuse to have sex with their husbands, attend university (or depending on race, class, and region, attend school at all), have legal custody of their children (both wives and children were legally owned by husbands), or divorce their husbands (Gender Press).
Though the first wave of feminism helped open many doors for some women, it left other women out. It granted more freedoms and right to women who were married, not single or widowed. Also, black women, immigrants, and sometimes men were denied the ability to participate in meetings and presentations on the topic of African-American women being able to vote. Most of the women who benefited from the first wave were white women who were middle or upper-class and had a slight education. Also, most of the women who advocated at the time were mothers and they believed that...