150th Anniversary of Feminism
Last year marked the 150th Anniversary of a movement by women to achieve full civil rights in this country. Over the past seven generations, dramatic social and legal changes have been accomplished that are now so accepted that they go unnoticed by people whose lives they have utterly changed. ( Eisenberg 1) Many people who have lived through the recent decades of this process have come to accept what has transpired. And younger people, for the most part, can hardly believe life was ever otherwise.
The staggering changes for women that have come about over those seven generations in family life, in religion, in government, in employment, in education ...view middle of the document...
Married women were considered "civilly dead" in the eyes of the law, and could be imprisoned and beaten by their husbands. Women could not hold office, attend college, or speak in public. They had no right to property or earned wages. They were not permitted to sue or divorce, nor were they granted the custody of their own children. Women could not participate in the elective franchise, yet were required to obey laws in which they had no voice.
Women did not even think of revolting against this unfair way of life because society dictated that to show any rebellion would be unacceptable. Social class was very important in the early years of feminism, and to break the social chain and embarrass your family, especially your husband, was unthinkable.
Many women longed for equality in many areas of their lives, but it took radical leaders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott to take the first step toward equality. Cady Stanton and Mott met in London in 1840 as delegates to the World Anti-Slavery Society. But denied a place on the floor with the other female delegates, Mott and Cady Stanton left the hall and began to discuss the lack of women's rights in general. What was needed, they determined, was a convention for women to discuss how they could secure the same rights as men. It was almost eight years before the two women met again and called for such a convention. They had an advertisement published in The Seneca County Courier, a semi-weekly journal, of July 14, 1848, which read, simply:
WOMAN'S RIGHTS CONVENTION!
"A Convention to discuss the social, civil and religious condition and rights of women, will be held in the Wesleyan Chapel, at Seneca Falls, NY, on Wednesday and Thursday, the 19th and 20th of July, current; commencing at 10 o'clock, A.M."
Seneca Falls, site of the first official women's convention in 1848, became the organizing force to move forward and take action. It was chosen because of the concentration of reformers and abolitionists in the area. They joined forces in calling together this convention and creating a list of grievances towards women's' rights for property, education, employment, marriage and suffrage. Elizabeth Cady Stanton told over three hundred women and men who gathered together on July 19th and 20th that it was time to put the question of the subjugation of women before the public. She announced that "woman herself must do this work, for woman alone can understand the height, the depth, the length and breadth of her degradation." (Komisar, 83) The Seneca Falls declaration, entitled the "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions" was a stirring statement of the deepest feelings of women and a list of the grievances that women suffered in every area of life. It was modeled after the Declaration of Independence and began "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal..". The Declaration of Sentiments ended on...