Prostitution, Motherhood, and Full Equality

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Prostitution, Motherhood, and Full Equality

Just as the needs of individuals change over time, so do the needs of social movements. Leaders come and go. Tactics change from time to time. But the goal always remains the same. While the movement to secure equal rights for the American Negro needed different leaders and different tactics at different times during its history, so it was with the women's movement in America. While the movement initially sought equal treatment for women in everything, the struggle required changes in both leadership and in tactics before the goal was achieved.

Early in the history of the movement there was Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Starting with a relative handful of elitist, well-educated female activists, they declared that the right to vote was necessary to make men and women equal under the law and in every facet of daily life. Later, when alliance with other political and social reform movements was made necessary to further the goals of the movement, there was Jane Addams. The argument changed to one of the American woman needing the vote in order to better the daily lives of their families, their friends, and their society. But the goal was always the same: equality for men and women. Equality eventually symbolized by the right to vote.

The early women's movement was dominated by an uncompromising attitude of right versus wrong. This attitude came from the involvement of this same segment of society in the abolitionist movement. While intellectually appealing, in "Not Wards of the Nation: The Struggle for Women's Suffrage," William H. Chafe tells us that early women's rights advocates "were generally dismissed as a 'class of wild enthusiasts and visionaries' and received little popular support (Oates 153). One of the founders of this movement was Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

At Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, Stanton helped draft a Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions. In it, the advocates of women's rights accused "mankind" of "repeated injuries and usurpations" toward women. They said that men had "oppressed them on all sides." And they demanded equal access to education, the trades, professions, and an end to the double standards that existed for men and women. Only by doing away with laws that "restricted women's freedom or placed her in a position inferior to men" could women achieve equality (153).

The daughter of a judge, Stanton had first hand knowledge of the plight of women in the judicial system of the United States.
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