20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (2022)

We still have quite a ways to go before the gender gap is closed entirely, but women's rights have come a long way in the past 100 years or so. When you consider that women couldn't serve on a jury in all 50 states until about 50 years ago and that, for only the past 30 years, women have been able to get a business loan without a male cosigner, you get a sense of some of the huge challenges women have faced until relatively recently. In honor of Women's History Month and how far women's rights have come, we're looking back at some of the things women were not allowed to do until the 20th (and even 21st) century. And for women who've made history in the last half-century, check outAmazing Achievements by Women Every Year for the Last 50 Years.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (1)

Until the 1930s, married couples were issued a joint passport on which only the husband's name appeared along with "and wife" or "accompanied by his wife," according to Craig Robertson'sbook The Passport in America. This was partly because many countries did not yet require a passport to enter (and therefore many couples wouldn't go through the trouble of applying for two) and partly because the idea that a married woman would be traveling alone was so inconceivable that no one bothered to plan for it. But in 1937, the Passport Division of the Department of State issued a memo eliminating the "wife of" requirement, and allowing married women to use their maiden names on their passports.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (2)

During World War I, Loretta Perfectus Walsh became the first American woman to enlist in the military as anything other than a nurse. But it was not until 1948 that Congress passed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, which permitted women to serve as permanent members of the military. Prior to that, they could only serve during times of war. Progress continuedover subsequent decades, as women gained the right to enter U.S. military academies in 1976 and serve in combat in 2013.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (3)

As of 1929, multiple states had laws that prohibited women to take on so-called "dangerous" occupations. Kansas, for example, had a state law prohibiting women from working jobs "under conditions of labor detrimental to their health or welfare," whereas Washington and Michigan had laws that applied to jobs that were potentially hazardous to women's "morals" as well. Michigan's law went so far as to say no woman "shall be given any task disproportionate to her strength, nor shall she be employed in any place detrimental to her morals, her health, or her potential capacity as a mother." Mining was one job women were commonly excluded from participating in by law. And another was bartending. It wasn't until the 1970s that these laws started being overturned. And for more laws you won't believe, check outThe 47 Weirdest Laws from Around the World.

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20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (4)

Due to the coverture, the English common law system that prevented a married women from owning property, entering into contracts, and the like without her husband's say so, married women in the States were also not able to keep their wages. In the late 19th century, some states—like Oregon and New York—started to make strides toward equal property laws in marriages, but as of 1887, a third of U.S. states did not provide statutory protection for a married women to control her earnings. It wasn't until the 20th century that the whole country implemented laws that gave married women the right to keep their wages, instead of handing them over to their husbands.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (5)

Similar to how certain jobs were seen as inappropriate or even dangerous for women, certain shifts were viewed the same way. TheFactory Act of 1948 prohibited women who worked in factories from working outside of the hours between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. But around that same time, these restrictions started loosening in other industries. Apaper published in theMonthly Labor Reviewin 1951 highlights the restrictions in certain industries in 18 states that had such laws, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, and Indiana.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (6)

Until the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, women could be fired for being pregnant. Some states even outright banned women from working during periods of time before and after delivery. For example,schoolteachers were often required to take unpaid maternity leave due to liability concerns and the idea that the pregnancy might distract the children. And for more about how parental leave affects men and women, check out:Nearly a Third of Men Feel Uncomfortable Taking Paid Parental Leave.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (7)

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as of 1927, only 19 states allowed women the right to serve on a jury. It wasn't a nationwide right until 1968 when the final state, Mississippi, relented in its refusal to let women do their civic duty.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (8)

It was not until 1920 that the 19th amendment was ratified and women across the United States were granted the right to vote. The ultimate women's rights win came after a decades-long battle fought by suffragettes such as Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Some of the shockingly sexist reasonsmen gave over the years for banning women from voting, perThe Washington Post, included: "A woman's brain involves emotion rather than intellect"; "The masculine represents judgment… while the feminine represents emotion"; and "Control of the temper makes a happier home than control of elections."

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And women have been taking full advantage of their right to vote ever since they got it. In every presidential election since 1980, the proportion of eligible women who voted has exceeded the proportion of eligible men who voted, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. And for more on women's right to vote, check out this 2018 article aboutWomen Proudly Covering Susan B. Anthony's Grave in "I Voted" Stickers.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (9)

Technically, women could get divorced throughout the 20th century, but it was such a difficult and messy process that many were dissuaded. Then California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the nation's first no-fault divorce bill in 1969, allowing couples to end their marriages on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Before that, a spouse would have to show evidence of adultery, abuse, or abandonment (not always the easiest things to prove) and women would receive the bulk of the blame for tearing their families apart. And for more on places where divorce is common, check outThese Are the 9 States With the Highest Divorce Rates.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (10)

Per the Expatriation Act of 1907, if an American woman married a non-U.S. citizen between 1907 and 1922, she would immediately lose her U.S. citizenship. The law granted that if that woman's husband later became a naturalized citizen, she could then also go through the naturalization process to regain her citizenship. The law was repealed with the Cable Act of 1922, but it's worthnoting that none of these restrictions applied to men.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (11)

In a number of states, women were required to have their husbands or male relatives cosign for business loans up until the passage of the Women's Business Ownership Act in 1988. The lawgave women equal access to capital in order to start their own businesses, and it no longer required them to enlist a man's help.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (12)

While credit cards were something of a novelty in the 1960s and 1970s, they too had very old-fashioned application policies and often required a husband to cosign for his wife's card. That shifted in 1974 following the passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which made it illegal to discriminate against a person applying for credit based on sex.

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20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (13)

Throughout the 20th century, women's restrooms were often treated as an afterthought since most workplaces still tended to be male-dominated. Women would be required to walk much farther than their male counterparts in order to find a bathroom, and would sometimes be denied jobs because of an office's lack of women's toilets, according toTime.

Even women in the House of Representatives didn't have a bathroom near the Speaker's Lobby until 2011. Before that, the time it would take them to walk to the nearest women's room and back exceeded session break times, according to The Washington Post.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (14)

The 20th century saw a growing number of women entering national office. However, it was not until the early '90s that women were allowed to wear pants on the Senate floor. Prior to that, the norm—enforced by Senate doorkeepers—was for women to wear dresses. That changed in 1993, when Illinois Senator Carol Moseley-Braunwalked into the Senate building wearing her favorite pantsuit, not knowing that pants were forbidden. Shetold a Chicago radio stationin 2016 that "the gasps were audible." "What happened next was that other people started wearing pants. All the women staffers went to their bosses and said, 'If this senator can wear pants, then why can't I?' And so it was the pantsuit revolution," she said.Soon thereafter, a new policy was put in place.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (15)

The first oral contraceptive, Enovid, was approved by the Food & Drug Administration in 1960. But that didn't mean it was automatically available for use. It wasn't until 1965 that the Supreme Court ruled that states could not ban married couples from using oral contraceptives; in 1972, the Supreme Courtlegalized birth control for all citizens, irrespective of their marital status.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (16)

By 1977,three separate court cases ruled in favor of a woman having the right to sue her employer for sexual harassment under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Sexual harassment was later officially defined in 1980 with the help of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

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20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (17)

The concept of "marital rape" was not recognized until the mid-1970s, when many states passed laws defining and banning it. Finally, in 1993, it was criminalized in all 50 states—though, as a 2003 paper inTrauma, Violence, & Abuse notes, dozens of states have either partially or fully repealed these laws since then.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (18)

Some cities across the U.S. prohibited women from smoking in public at the turn of the 20th century, though these laws were generally short-lived. For example, New York City politicianTimothy Sullivan rolled out an ordinance in 1908 banning women from doing so. After just two weeks, though, the mayor repealed the sexist law.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (19)

Technically women could run in the Boston Marathon, but their times were not "officially acknowledged" until 1972. Nina Kuscsik was the first woman to officially cross the finish line, with a time of 3:10:26. Five years earlier in 1967, Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entrant, was famously harassed by a race official who attempted to tear off her bib as she ran past him.

20 Women's Rights That Didn't Exist Until the 20th Century — Best Life (20)

Women actually weren't allowed to box in the Olympics until the 21st century. The rules changed for the 2012 Summer Games, making it the first Games in which every sport had both men and women competing. British boxer Nicola Adams took home the history-making gold medal that year.

FAQs

What were women's rights in the 20th century? ›

At the turn of the century, 60 percent of all working women were employed as domestic servants. In the area of politics, women gained the right to control their earnings, own property, and, in the case of divorce, take custody of their children.

What were women's rights in the 1800s? ›

Women couldn't own property, and they had to give any money they made over to their husbands. They also weren't allowed to vote. By the mid-1800s, women started to fight back, demanding suffrage, or the right to vote.

When was the right of a woman invented? ›

In 1791 the French playwright and political activist Olympe de Gouges published the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen, modelled on the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789.

Who fought for women's rights? ›

It commemorates three founders of America's women's suffrage movement: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott.

What were 3 major events in the women's rights movement? ›

Here are just some of the many important events that happened as women gained the right to vote.
  • 1848. First Women's Rights Convention. ...
  • 1849. The First National Women's Rights Convention. ...
  • 1851. “Ain't I a woman?” ...
  • 1861-1865. The Civil War. ...
  • 1866. Formation of the American Equal Rights Association. ...
  • 1867. ...
  • 1868. ...
  • 1870.
10 Nov 2020

What were women's rights in the 1950s? ›

Women in the 1950s were not allowed to make contracts or wills, could not buy or sell property, had little control of their earnings in most situations, and were discouraged from acting politically, such as hold office, even though they could vote. Women's rights were minimal.

What were women's rights in the 1920s? ›

Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote. The 19th amendment legally guarantees American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle—victory took decades of agitation and protest.

What were women's rights in the 1700s? ›

They could not vote or hold any office in government. Women had no political rights and were without political representation. Women often could not speak out, their husbands spoke for them. Men virtually owned their wives as they did their material possessions.

What were women's roles in the late 1800s? ›

Women were expected to remain subservient to their fathers and husbands. Their occupational choices were also extremely limited. Middle- and upper-class women generally remained home, caring for their children and running the household.

Is women's rights still an issue today? ›

Today, gender bias continues to create huge barriers for many women. Ongoing struggles include ensuring equal economic opportunities, educational equity, and an end to gender-based violence.

How did gender equality start? ›

Gender Equality was made part of international human rights law by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948.

What are women's rights in America today? ›

These rights include a woman's constitutional right to reproductive freedom and access to health care, regardless of zip code or income — and the right of every woman and girl to live free from violence, whether online, in the home, at school, or in the workplace.

Who is the most famous female in history? ›

Virgin Mary, 1st-century BC–1st-century AD. The mother of Jesus, Mary is venerated by both Christians and Muslims, and is probably the most famous woman in history.

Who started feminism? ›

Terminology. Mary Wollstonecraft is seen by many as a founder of feminism due to her 1792 book titled A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in which she argues for women's education. Charles Fourier, a utopian socialist and French philosopher, is credited with having coined the word "féminisme" in 1837.

Who is most influential woman? ›

2020
  • Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany.
  • Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank.
  • Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States.
  • Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.
  • Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors.

What were women's rights in the 1960s? ›

Gradually, Americans came to accept some of the basic goals of the Sixties feminists: equal pay for equal work, an end to domestic violence, curtailment of severe limits on women in managerial jobs, an end to sexual harassment, and sharing of responsibility for housework and child rearing. .

What were women's roles in the 1960s? ›

What was the position of women by the early 1960s? traditional role as wives and mothers. There were few career opportunities except in typically 'female' professions such as teaching, nursing or secretarial work.

What were women's roles in the 1980s? ›

-The main focus was on employment equity, financial independence, matrimonial property on divorce and single mother support. -Women held similar job positions as men and were provided the same education.

How did women's rights change in the 1970s? ›

The women's movement was most successful in pushing for gender equality in workplaces and universities. The passage of Title IX in 1972 forbade sex discrimination in any educational program that received federal financial assistance. The amendment had a dramatic affect on leveling the playing field in girl's athletics.

What were gender roles in the 1950s? ›

During the 1950s, gender roles dictated that men were the head of the household and the sole provider, while women were expected to be the homemaker who cared for the children.

What were women's rights in the 1930s? ›

Women had the vote, education and divorce reforms and at least the right to be lawyers and MPs. Skirts got shorter and so did hair. Women smoked cigarettes, danced the jitterbug and – those who could afford it – drove motor cars.

What were women's roles in the 1930s? ›

Employers were reluctant to hire women for jobs traditionally held by men, so women's options were mostly limited to stereotypical female jobs like cleaning, cooking, child care, retail and food service. Women with postsecondary education worked as nurses, teachers or secretaries until they found a husband.

What are 20 flappers girls? ›

Flappers of the 1920s were young women known for their energetic freedom, embracing a lifestyle viewed by many at the time as outrageous, immoral or downright dangerous. Now considered the first generation of independent American women, flappers pushed barriers in economic, political and sexual freedom for women.

What happened in 1890 for women's rights? ›

1890 After several years of negotiations, the NWSA and the AWSA merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone as officers. Wyoming joins the union as the first state with voting rights for women.

What was life like for girls in the 1900s? ›

If married, they stayed at home to look after the children while their husband worked and brought in a weekly wage. If single, they did work which usually involved some form of service such as working as a waitress, cooking etc. Many young women were simply expected to get married and have children.

What were women's roles in the 19th century? ›

Women and work in the 19th century

They worked either in factories, or in domestic service for richer households or in family businesses. Many women also carried out home-based work such as finishing garments and shoes for factories, laundry, or preparation of snacks to sell in the market or streets.

How has the role of a woman changed over time? ›

Women are now getting power even in rural areas. In many countries now women are the head of the state. Education has made women independent and they are no longer dependent on men to lead their lives. Business laws have changed to allow more women in the workplace and giving them a comfortable environment to work in.

What are the main women's rights? ›

These rights include the right to live free from violence, slavery, and discrimination; to be educated; to own property; to vote; and to earn a fair and equal wage. As the now-famous saying goes, “women's rights are human rights.” That is to say, women are entitled to all of these rights.

What is the woman's problem *? ›

The fact that the burdens of childbearing fall unequally upon families and individuals has much to do with the “woman problem.” A family with numerous children may need more income, while a childless couple, both employed, may need less than they receive.

How many genders are there in world? ›

There are many different gender identities, including male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none or a combination of these.

What gender inequalities still exist today? ›

Here are 10 causes of gender inequality:
  • #1. Uneven access to education. ...
  • #2. Lack of employment equality. ...
  • #3. Job segregation. ...
  • #4. Lack of legal protections. ...
  • #5. Lack of bodily autonomy. ...
  • #6. Poor medical care. ...
  • #7. Lack of religious freedom. ...
  • #8. Lack of political representation.

What does sexist mean? ›

sexism, prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender, especially against women and girls.

Why is women's history important? ›

For girls, knowing women's achievements expands their sense of what is possible. For all of us, knowledge of women's strengths and contributions builds respect and nourishes self esteem — crucial to all children and adults now, and in the years to come. Educators are willing, often eager, to introduce women's history.

Who is the first woman born in the world? ›

EVA, EVE is the first woman. There are two stories of the creation of Eve and Adam.

Who is a strong woman in history? ›

1. Sybil Ludington: The Female Paul Revere. On the night of April 26, 1777, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington rode nearly 40 miles to warn some 400 militiamen that the British troops were coming. Much like the ride of Paul Revere, Ludington's message helped Patriot leaders prepare for battle.

What are the 4 types of feminism? ›

Feminism is a political movement; it exists to rectify sexual inequalities, although strategies for social change vary enormously. There are four types of Feminism – Radical, Marxist, Liberal, and Difference.

Who is a famous feminist? ›

17 Famous Feminists That Changed Women's Rights
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an author, academic, and one of the figureheads of the women's rights movement in the mid- and late-1800s. ...
  • Rose Scott. ...
  • Simone de Beauvoir. ...
  • Grace Lee Boggs. ...
  • Gloria Steinem. ...
  • Angela Davis. ...
  • Bell Hooks. ...
  • Audre Lorde.
3 Nov 2020

Who was the very first feminist? ›

In late 14th- and early 15th-century France, the first feminist philosopher, Christine de Pisan, challenged prevailing attitudes toward women with a bold call for female education.

What is a female best man called? ›

When the groom wishes to give this honor to a woman, she may be termed the best woman or best person, or may still be referred to as the 'best man'. The bride's equivalent of the best man is the maid or matron of honour. A gender-neutral term is honor attendant.

What is the most beautiful age of a woman? ›

Women and men are considered to be at their most attractive in their thirties, a US survey of 2,000 people has found. The study, carried out by Allure magazine, found women are considered most beautiful at 30, show signs of ageing at 41, stop looking 'sexy' at 53 and are thought of as 'old' at 55.

How did women's role change in the 20th century? ›

Throughout most of history women generally have had fewer legal rights and career opportunities than men. Wifehood and motherhood were regarded as women's most significant professions. In the 20th century, however, women in most nations won the right to vote and increased their educational and job opportunities.

How successful was the women's rights movement in the 20th century? ›

After World War II, women's struggle for equality achieved a mixed record of success. The women's rights movement won equal opportunities in higher education and employment relatively quickly in the 1940s and 1950s.

What was the feminist movement in the 20th century? ›

Feminist movements were also known as women's liberation movements. They were a series of political campaigns for reforms on issues of reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leaves, equal pay, women's suffrage, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.

How did women's roles change in the 21st century? ›

There is advancement in every field. We have developed advanced missiles, nuclear power, machines and techniques. The role of women has also changed in the 21st century. They are no more restricted to cooking, washing clothes, doing household works and looking after their children and family.

What was life like for girls in the 1900s? ›

If married, they stayed at home to look after the children while their husband worked and brought in a weekly wage. If single, they did work which usually involved some form of service such as working as a waitress, cooking etc. Many young women were simply expected to get married and have children.

How has women's role in society changed? ›

Education has made women independent and they are no longer dependent on men to lead their lives. Business laws have changed to allow more women in the workplace and giving them a comfortable environment to work in. Women can now stand tall like men and get equal opportunities in everything.

What were women's roles in the past? ›

Throughout history, women have been healers and caretakers, playing multiple roles as pharmacists, nurses, midwives, abortionists, counselors, physicians, and 'wise women,' as well as witches. As early as 4000 BC, there were women who studied, taught, and practiced medicine.

What were some successes of the women's rights movement? ›

Divorce laws were liberalized; employers were barred from firing pregnant women; and women's studies programs were created in colleges and universities. Record numbers of women ran for—and started winning—political office.

What were women's roles in the 1960s? ›

What was the position of women by the early 1960s? traditional role as wives and mothers. There were few career opportunities except in typically 'female' professions such as teaching, nursing or secretarial work.

Why did the women's movement fail? ›

In summary, the women's movement did not succeed in finding equality as the movement produced discrimination toward minority groups, created an unforgettable backlash of radical feminism as a whole and caused women to fix the inequalities that the movement created by opening the doors for liberal feminism.

Is women's rights still an issue today? ›

Today, gender bias continues to create huge barriers for many women. Ongoing struggles include ensuring equal economic opportunities, educational equity, and an end to gender-based violence.

What are the biggest issues in feminism? ›

Main navigation
  • Leadership and political participation.
  • Economic empowerment.
  • Ending violence against women.
  • Peace and security.
  • Humanitarian action.
  • Governance and national planning.
  • Youth.
  • Women and girls with disabilities.
17 Jul 2020

What are the 3 feminist waves? ›

Three main types of feminism emerged: mainstream/liberal, radical, and cultural.

What is like to be a woman in 21st century? ›

Women are Socially Accepted Now.

During the 21st century, women are strong and independent when compared to historical times because they can do what they want to do. Modern women enjoy having their strength, even after marriage and having children.

What is gender in 21st century? ›

In the current generation of 21st Century, gender is often misunderstood as promotion of women who have taken more active role in different sectors and careers despite some traditions still hold women inferior in their society like numerous cases reported in Indian cultures women still come from traditional strict ...

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