Betty Friedan wrote that “the only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own.” The message here is that women need more than just a husband, children, and a home to feel fulfilled; women need independence and creative outlets, unrestrained by the pressures of society. Throughout much of history, women have struggled with the limited roles society imposed on them. The belief that women were intellectually inferior, physically weaker, and overemotional has reinforced stereotypes throughout history. In the 1960s, however, women challenged their roles as “the happy little homemakers.” Their story is the story of the Women’s Liberation Movement.
The struggle for women’s rights did not begin in the 1960s. What has come to be called “Women’s Lib” was, in fact, the second wave of a civil rights movement that began in the early 19th century. This first wave revolved around gaining suffrage (the right to vote). Earlier women’s movements to improve the lives of prostitutes, increase wages and employment opportunities for working women, ban alcohol, and abolish slavery inspired and led directly to the organized campaign for women’s suffrage.
The movement towards women’s suffrage began in 1840 when Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton went to London to attend a World Anti-Slavery Society Convention. The were barred from attending and told to sit in a curtained enclosure with other women attendees if they wished to meet. This incident inspired Mott and Stanton to organize the First Women’s Rights Convention which was held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. Three hundred women and some men came. The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, which stressed equality among men and women and also listed grievances, like women’s lack of voting, property, marriage, and education rights, was written at the convention and signed afterwards. This event inspired other conventions, like the first National Women’s Rights Convention in 1850, and the formation of organizations, like the National American Women’s Suffrage Association in 1890, both of which aided the fight for women’s suffrage.
After women got the right to vote in 1920, the most devoted members of the women’s movement focused on gaining other rights for women. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, w...
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...elped them to acquire more positive self-images and more desirable roles in society. This consciousness was a significant aspect and legacy of the Women’s Liberation Movement.
The impact of the Women’s Liberation Movement is still with women today, as is the movement itself. Women have the right to vote in most nations and are being elected to public office at all levels of government. Women defy current stereotypes, and those of past generations, by becoming educated and self-aware. Women raise families by themselves and hold positions in all ranks of the workforce. Despite the many disparities that still exist among women and men in America and the rest of the world, women have come a long way. The Women’s Liberation Movement was, and continues to be, a fight for women’s equality in a world run predominately by men.
Eisenberg, Bonnie and Mary Ruthsdotter. “The National Women’s History Project.” 23 May 2004.
Schultheiss, Katrin. “Women’s Rights.” Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. 23 May 2004.
Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States 1492-Present. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.
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