The Women’s Rights Movement in England: 18th Century and Beyond

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The Women’s Rights Movement in England: 18th Century and Beyond The 18th century was a period of slow change for women’s rights in England. The Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution were coterminous at this point in history and brought the new thoughts about women’s rights to England in the late 1700s. In the 1700s women were not as concerned with voting as they were with divorce, adultery, and child custody rights. However, as the population of single women grew throughout the 18th and 19th century the concern for more rights for women became prevalent (Wolbrink, 4 Nov. 2011). By 1851, 43 percent of women in England were single and began to campaign frequency and sometimes forcibly for their rights (Wolbrink, 4 Nov. 2011). Reformer and feminist, Caroline Norton, sums up the feelings of women in both the 1700s and 1800s in her Letter to the Queen,“I do not ask for my rights. I have no rights. I have only wrongs” (CP 148). Rights movements do not begin abruptly, they are often simmering long before an uprising. The 18th century is one such simmering pot. Women were confined at first by their maternal roles but with the growth in knowledge from the Enlightenment women began to raise into the public sphere as activists and reformers. Many constraints and limitations were placed on women in the 1700s. Women were not allowed to vote in this period and would not amalgamate a movement for the right to vote until the early 1800s. Yet many women were distraught that they, as citizens, could not contribute their opinion to English society. Women could not be members of the House of Commons and could not change the law to let women be representatives because they could not vote (CP 146). English women were considered to be part of th... ... middle of paper ... ...on of thought that threads through all of these mini-movements is that women, for one of the first times in history thought that they could change the world. References DiCaprio, Lisa, et al. Lives and Voices. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001. Print. Stuard, Susan , and Merry Wiesner. "Women in the Enlightenment." Becoming Visible. 3rd Edition ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998. 233-269. Print. Wolbrink, Shelly. Women’s Sufferage. History of European Women. Drury University. Burnham 205, Springfield, MO. 11 Nov. 2011. Lecture. Wolbrink, Shelly. Victorian Age. History of European Women. Drury University. Burnham 205, Springfield, MO. 4 Nov. 2011. Lecture. Wolbrink, Shelly. Coursepacket of Articles, Sources, and Visuals for the Study of History. Drury University. Burnham 205. Springfield. 2008. Print.
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