On July 4, 1804, a group of young men in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, offered a series of toasts to commemorate the nation's independence. Among their testimonials, they offered one to a cherished ideal:"[To] the rights of men, and the rights of women-. May the former never be infringed, nor the latter curtailed." The men acknowledged, even celebrated, an innovative and controversial idea: women along with men should be regarded as the bearers of rights. But why were women denied to bear their own rights?
"Let the defenders of male despotism answer (if they can) the Rights of Women" Just as the rights of man took on new meanings over time--meanings the American Revolutionaries had not anticipated-so, too, did the rights of woman.("An Essay On the Rights of Woman," National Magazine; (Wash., D.C.,1800) 2:206)
Women during the eighteenth century were acknowledged as nothing more than housewives, and were expected to play that particular role with a smile on their faces. Women were to "find happiness in their chimney corners" (Norton). "Women remained essentially confined to the domestic sphere" (Tindall and Shi). Women's rights were to be nonpolitical in nature, confined to the traditional feminine role of wife and mother. Where is the justice? In the Declaration of Independence, we are granted inherent liberty, yet women, small property owners, endentured servants, slaves, and minorities were not included. Since when does liberty suddenly have a different significance? Where do life, liberty, and property stand. They were granted, but if you were a woman these natural rights were unheard of. Natural rights, more than other kinds of rights, commanded assent because they wer...
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...d that "the tender breasts of ladies were not formed for political convulsion"(Jefferson). How outraging! So once again, women are not heard or even acknowledged basically. "when the crisis is over they are expected or forced to return to less functional roles", in the kitchen, and the men went back to their duties. "The tyranny of man: and the perpetuation of a "male aristocracy" oppressed women in all aspects of their lives, retaining the development of their reason, hindering the growth of their virtue, and preventing them from making a full contribution to society” (Wollstonecraft 188,326).
But not for long would they endure this treatment (Addebury). The feminist movement took place during the Civil War, women who met property qualifications exercised their right for voting and it was not until the early nineteenth century that women were denied access.
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