Author: Pat Kirby, Charlotte Front and Center
The contributions that women have made to the history of this nation are rarely acknowledged. Most of the children in the country grow up not knowing that women were at the forefront of the anti-slavery movement, civil right, social reform, suffrage, and gay rights. They stood up for others, but few have stood up for them.
The first women’s movement began around 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York when Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and others formed organizations to fight for votes for women. The movement came to fruition in 1919 when the 19th Amendment became part of the Constitution.
The second women’s movement began in the late 1960’s and 70’s with women’s liberation. Its focus was to attain equal rights and equal pay for women, and should have come to fruition in the early 1980’s with the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, but unfortunately, it did not occur.
In my opinion, despite some setback in recent years, I believe that we are now in the third women’s movement. It began in 1985 with the establishment of Emily’s List. This organization gave women the financial resources needed to win seats in Congress. As a result, we have been able to make changes within government, rather than working from the outside as it was done during the first movement. This third movement took hold in the 1992 election, and I feel it has been gaining ground ever since. The culmination of the movement has not come yet, but its progression has led us to where we are now with a woman candidate for President of the United States. We have the power to achieve the ultimate victory for our sister before us who worked so hard to get us to this place, and for future generations of women, who I hope, with the help of this women’s history time line, will have a better understanding or how far we have come…..and how far we have left to go.
As you examine this time line, please consider the following:
1) women have always put others before themselves
2) women have been instrumental in solving the important social issues of this country
3) women are powerful and can do anything, and get the job doneAuthor: Pat Kirby, "Charlotte Front and Center"
1692 Salem (Mass) Witch Trials – 20 women and girls were executed for being witches and using witchcraft. 1740 17 year old Eliza Pinckney manages her father’s plantation in the Carolinas when her father is called back to his post. She was one of many women who took over the responsibility of managing the family property when the males were away due to war, etc.
1776 Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams, uses her influence to remind her husband that women’s right should be incorporated into the work that he was doing at the Continental Congress. “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound to any laws in which we have no voice or Representation.”
1783 New Jersey State statutes authorize voting to “all inhabitants of the state, of full age” if they had at lease 50 pounds. Women who met this qualification were eligible to vote in the state.
1792 Mary Wollstonecraft ( a Brit) published “A Vindication of the Rights of Women.” Considered to be one of the most important documents written on behalf of women, the core of her argument was that education was important is the shaping of character and women had a right to an education. 1833 The Female Anti-Slavery Society of Philadelphia is founded. The group gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures to abolish slavery in the DC area. By 1837, there were 1006 branches with 150,000 members, over half of which were women. Women were instrumental in the mobilization of public opinion calling for the abolition of slavery. Abolition was the issue in the U. S. from 1840-50. Abolition was the first major social and political issue in which women participated. As a result of the connections made while fighting for abolition, women learned the basic procedures used in political mobilization, and took this experience and later applied it to the efforts to fight for their own rights.
1840 Lucretia Mott is denied a seat at the World Anti-Slavery Conference. After 7 years work for the abolition of slavery, and helping to form the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society, Mott is denied hear seat on the basis of her sex, and is only allowed to sit in the gallery. At the conference Mott met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and both were struck by the fact that it was supposed to be a world convention, but half the population of the world was being denied access to the convention. Mott and Stanton realized that they would now need to begin working for women’s rights along with the abolishment of slavery.
1848 Seneca Falls Convention – the first political gathering specifically held to address the rights of women. 240 women attended, and the women drafted the “Declaration of Sentiments,” a feminist model of the Declaration of Independence. Written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, it stated that “all men and women were created equal” and included 18 grievances among them were women’s inability to keep their own wages, women’s inability to obtain an education, and lack of the right to vote.
1850 Harriet Tubman – Tubman escorted Black to freedom 19 times in what became known as the Underground Railroad. Over 300 slaves escaped to the North as a result of her efforts.
1863 National Women’s Loyal League is formed. Organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony, the league passed a resolution to launch a petition campaign urging Congress to vote for emancipation of all slaves.
1869 Suffragists begin organizing. Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Women’s Suffragist Association, while Lucy Stone organized the American Women’s Suffragist Association. The intention was to bring the anti-slavery and women’s right movements together to fight for both simultaneously. Black leaders felt that the two issues should be separate, so Stanton and Anthony broke away with the intention of seeking an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing women the right to vote. Feminists felt that as long as half the population was denied rights, all other issues were secondary.
1869 Territory of Wyoming becomes the first location in the U. S. where women are granted the right to vote.
1872 Victoria Woodhull runs for President of the United States. A free spirit who believed in free love, legalized prostitution, she made women think about their status, pushed societal boundaries, and forced men to acknowledge that women were not included or protected in the rights and privleges provided under the constitution.
1874 The Supreme Court rules on Minor v Happersett. This case challenged the 15th amendment that granted former male slaves the right to vote. Women challenged the amendment by acts of civil disobedience and demanding the ability to vote in the election of 1872. Hundreds of women broke the law by attempting to vote in that election. Virginia Minor was an officer of the National Women’s Suffrage Association and attempted to vote in St. Louis. The registrar, Reese Happersett refused to allow her to register, so she brought suit against him. While Minor lost the case at the Supreme Court, women were mobilized to launch an all out state by state effort to change the state constitutions and press for an amendment to the constitution.
1878 Women’s suffrage amendment first submitted to Congress. Penned by Susan B. Anthony, the amendment simply states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied……on account of sex….” Arlen A. Sargent of California introduced the legislation in congress, and it was reintroduced each session of Congress FOR 45 YEARS UNTIL IT FINALLY PASSED IN 1919. 1879 The first woman argues a case before the Supreme Court. Attorney Belva Lockwood petitioned the Supreme Court for permission to plead a case. When denied, she appealed to Congress which passed a bill enabling female attorneys to argue before the highest court in the land.
1889 Jane Addams found Hull House. Hull House provided the poor and immigrant residents of Chicago with assistance. Hull House provided medical service, child care, English classes, legal aid, citizenship classes, vocational training and a host of other services to the poor and immigrant populations of Chicago. Hull House existed at a time when Chicago offered few services to its residents. It spawned a new profession – social work. Jane Addams and her activist supporters became advocates for their constitutes and worked for reforms in child labor, sanitation, housing and working conditions. Addams was the first woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1890 National Women’s Suffrage Assoc. and American Women’s Suffrage join forces becoming the National American Women’s Suffrage Assoc. The focus of the group shifts from a constitutional amendment to advocating change in state constitutions. When the reality sets in that state by state change is more time consuming, they revert back to the plan for constitutional amendment. 1893 Mary Elizabeth Lease runs for U. S. Senate in Kansas.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman publishes “Women and Economics.” The book
examines the effects of industrialization on women and advocates self
sufficiency and equal rights.
The National Women’s Trade Union League is formed to improve the wages
and working conditions for women.
1911 The Triangle Shirtwaist fire occurs in New York City. 146 women perish in the fire because they are locked in the fire and unable to escape. Leaders of the National Women’s Trade Union League petitioned for new laws regulating safety conditions in factories. As a result of these petitions, the most comprehensive factory safety laws and standards were enacted in New York State, and paved the way for future national laws.
1915 The Women’s Peace Party forms. Feminist Leaders of the era such as Jane Addams, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and others formed the party in an effort to avert the U. S. participation in World War I. They requested that President Woodrow Wilson mediate for peace rather than U. S. involvement. Their slogan was “Listen to the women for a change.” After the war, the group merged with its European counterparts forming the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom which still exists today, and is active in trying to resolve conflicts around the world as well as nuclear disarmament.
1916 Jeanette Rankin becomes the first woman elected to the United States Congress. Additionally, Rankin was the only member of Congress to vote against U. S. involvement in WW II. 1919 The 19th Amendment is passed by Congress, giving women the right to vote. All by one of the women who began the campaign in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York lived to see the passage of the Amendment. Elizabeth Cady Stanton passed away in 1902 and Susan B. Anthony in 1906.
1932 Francis Perkins becomes the first woman Cabinet office being appointed Secretary of Labor under FDR. She was instrumental in the passage of the Wagner Act, the Social Security Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act, three of FDR’s most important achievements. She was also responsible for innovative ideas for working people such as unemployment insurance, minimum wage, and maximum hours. 1935 National Council of Negro Women is organized. As a constructive force for Negro women, the group concentrated on the status of African American women in America and pushed for their acceptance into labor unions, government jobs, and the military.
1936 Eleanor Roosevelt transforms the role of the First Lady. Because President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, her husband, was confined to a wheelchair, Mrs. Roosevelt was his eyes and ears, traveling around the country, reporting her findings to him. She was influential in insuring that the New Deal included programs specifically for women, and assured African Americans that New Deal policies addressed their needs and concerns. As a result of her efforts, the African American voting block shifted its loyalty from the Republicans to the Democrats. She was unabashedly committed to equality and civil rights, and when the military doubted the abilities to African Americans to fly planes, she fought stereotyping by flying with Black pilots. She gave women journalist exclusive access to her in an effort to promote their careers. Her connections with women who were in the forefront of the social reform movement at the time was especially important during the depression because she was aware of the efforts made by women to keep families intact during extreme economic difficulties. She is considered to be our most influential First Lady, and many of the programs included in the New Deal can be directly contributed to her efforts.
1941 World War II increases the need for Women Workers. As a result of the U. S. entrance into WWII, and the vast number of men who entered the military, more opportunities for employment were available to women in industries that had been previously prohibited to women. Between 1940 and 1945, women in the work force rose from 12 to 19 million. Barriers to employment like age and marital status were lifted and women were able to work in industries such as plane manufacturing to support the war effort. Known as “Rosie the Riveter,” documentary films have shown their enthusiastic efforts as they became skilled laborers in factories doing jobs previously held by men. Additionally, women were able to fill jobs in government, teaching and other industries that previously excluded women. African American women were afforded the opportunity to leave low paying domestic service positions and obtain higher paying jobs in defense factories. One half of the domestic worker population quit to take the more lucrative and higher status jobs that were available. Married women also returned to work to assist in the war effort, often becoming the breadwinners of the family. These women, many for the first time in their lives, were now responsible for the distribution of their paychecks, giving them a newfound independence.
1955 Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery Alabama. This act of defiance launched a year long boycott of the bus system in Montgomery. Spurred on by Parks’ defiance, JoAnn Robinson, a profess or at Alabama State College, distributed flyers to help establish the boycott. Primary support for the boycott came from women, many of whom walked to work. Finally, in 1956, the Supreme Court ruled in Browder v Gayle that Alabama’s bus segregation policy was unconstitutional.
1962 Dolores Huerta helps found the United Farm Workers Union. She was the chief negotiator on the first contract drawn with grape growers, and remained the negotiator for the next 5 years. Women were the primary proponents of the policy of non-violence during the strike.
1963 Congress passes the Equal Pay Act of 1963. As a result of the recommendation from the Presidents Commission on the Status of Women, Congress passed the equal pay act which was the first national legislation for women since the progressive era of the 1920’s. Its intent was to remove pay disparity, and provide equal pay for men and women in jobs of equal skills, responsibility and effort. Because of exceptions made for seniority, merit, quantity and quality of work, it was difficult to enforce the law. Recently, a former female physician at UCLA Medical Center won a law suit after she discovered that she was making $50,000 less than her male counterparts. Disparity still exists today despite the law making it illegal.
1964 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits Sex Discrimination. Within this act is Title VII which states that employment discrimination based on race or sex is prohibited. This law established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which is responsible for enforcing the provisions of Title VII.
1966 The National Organization of Women (NOW) is founded. Its purpose is to advance the rights of woman.
1968 Shirley Chisholm is elected to Congress. She was the first African American congresswoman. 1971 The National Women’s Caucus is founded. Its purpose was to encourage more women to participate in politics.
1972 Congress passes the Equal Rights Amendment. Included in the passage was a provision that limited the amount of time allowed for ratification by the states. With the first year, 28 states had ratified, leaving 10 states needed for the Constitutional amendment ratification. Opponents launched a major offensive, claiming that women would be subjected to the draft if there was ratification, driving a wedge between working women and homemakers. By 1977, 35 states had ratified, leaving only 3 more needed. Opponents dug in and managed to prevent ratification before time ran out in 1982. 1973 Roe V Wade – the landmark Supreme Court case that states that women have a constitutional right to make decisions regarding pregnancy, and the government has no right to interfere. The case was argued by two Texas attorneys, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee. Weddington was 26 years old at the time.
1976 Women admitted to the U. S. Service Academies. Congress passes legislation that mandated the acceptance of women into institutions such as West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy.
1978 The first woman is elected to the Senate in her own right. Nancy Kassebaum was the first woman elected who was not the widow of a congressman. She served in the Senate from 1978-1997. 1984 Geraldine Ferraro becomes the Democratic Vice-Presidential Candidate 1981 Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court. She remained the only woman until Bill Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993.
1985 Emily’s List is founded. Its function is to assist in funding women candidates to congress. The acronym stands for “Early Money is like Yeast” (it raises doughs), and it created a donor network that raises funds for pro-choice Democratic women running for governors, Senators, and the House of Representatives. It is the largest single financial resource for women candidates in the nation.
1989 Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) becomes the first Hispanic woman elected to the U. S. House of Representatives 1992 Women are elected to Congress in record numbers. Dubbed the “Year of the Woman”, 24 women were elected to the House of Representatives, and 6 women to the Senate (5 of the 6 still remain). California becomes the first state to elect two women to the Senate – Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. For the first time, women account for 10 percent of the membership in Congress. By 2005 the percentage grows to 15%. Carol Mosley Braun (IL) becomes the first African American woman elected to the Senate.
1993 Janet Reno becomes the first woman to serve as Attorney General 1997 Madeleine Albright becomes the first woman to serve as the Secretary of State, making her the highest ranking woman in government.
2001 Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes the first First Lady to be elected to a national office. 2005 21 members of the California congressional delegation in Washington are women, and they comprise 38% of the state’s total representation on Congress. Condoleeza Rice becomes the first African American woman to become Secretary of State.