The movement to secure more rights for women is still ongoing, and it has a long and distinguished history to this point. For decades, women in the United States and around the world have been fighting for their own rights. In particular, women have been fighting for their reproductive rights, for economic rights, and for political rights. A few heroes have emerged to lead the movement at different times, leading to a cumulative gain in rights for women today.
The term “feminism” describes the movement to ensure that women have equal rights to men in society. While feminism is a concept that has often been maligned by people who want to suggest that it seeks extra rights for women, real feminists simply believe that the sexes are equal and that because of this equality, women deserve equal treatment. Feminism over time has sought to establish the rights of women to take professional roles. It has sought to destroy the so-called patriarchy, which is a name given to societies that are almost entirely controlled by the men in leadership positions. Ultimately feminism looks to assert the equality of the sexes and seeks to establish the case for equal treatment as a result of that equality.
Suffrage has been an important part of feminism. In the simplest terms, suffrage means the right to vote. There was a movement for women’s suffrage during the beginning of last century. The women’s suffrage movement was begun by women known as “suffragettes.” They were tired of being kept out of the political system in what was supposed to be a democracy. With this in mind, the women started to organize in hopes of getting a political say as early as 1840. It took a very long time from there, after the Seneca Falls Convention, for women to finally win the right to vote. Women were granted incremental voting rights over that time, with some voting opening up in certain parts of the country. Eventually, in 1920, women were granted the right to vote nationally when an amendment to the US Constitution was ratified by the states to this effect.
This is one of a handful of quality developments in feminism and women’s rights during the World War I era. The women got to vote, and they also gained some economic freedom. More women were taking non-domestic jobs, which was a scary proposition for some in society. Shortly after World War I, the flapper girl motif also emerged. These were women who were challenging the social conventions of society by dressing in ways that were outside of the norms then. By dressing these ways and changing the game in Hollywood, these women signaled that they were not going to be controlled by their fathers and husbands any longer.
One of the women who demonstrated the “New Woman” theme was Florence Bascom. She was a PhD holder and one of the smartest women of her time who became very accomplished. Alice Freeman Palmer was the first president of Wellesley, a famous women’s college, and she exhibited the qualities of the New Woman. Mary Heaton Vorse, who was a famous journalist of her time, was also said to have exhibited these qualities.