First Women's Rights Movement - Ohio History Central (2022)

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Lucy Stone was an abolitionist and a prominent leader in the women's rights movement in the nineteenth century.

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In North America, the women's rights movement first gained momentum with the American Revolution.

Some women believed that the men fighting for America's independence from Great Britain were hypocrites. The men claimed that they opposed Great Britain's rule because King George III refused to grant the colonists representation in Parliament, the legislative branch of the British government. The revolutionaries rallied around the cry of, "No taxation without representation." Women pointed out to the men that women also did not have representation; that the men held ultimate and complete power over women just like the British government had complete power over the colonists.

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While the women's rights movement began to grow with the ideas of the American Revolution, women's rights advocates remained small in number throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. Many men opposed women having a life outside of the home, believing that women were to nurture their husbands and to raise virtuous children so that the United States would flourish. This concept, not defined as such until 1976, is known as Republican Motherhood: the idea that the new republic would succeed only if women raised virtuous children. Some women began to play a greater role in the public sphere by participating in various reform movements that arose in the early 1800s, especially the temperance and abolition movements. These women claimed that, if women were responsible for creating virtuous children, women should also play a role in helping those people who have become consumed by immoral acts redeem themselves.

In 1836 Angelina Grimke published An Appeal to Christian Women of the South which was her personal petition for abolition; postmasters burned the pamphlet because women were not allowed to speak publicly. Both Angelina and her sister Sarah opposed the gender restriction by volunteering to give speeches at abolitionist gatherings. Their increasing notoriety caused many men to shun the sisters from society and coerce them into fearful resignation. Angelina and Sarah only hardened in the face of communal pressures, establishing a liberal school where they educated women and minorities. As the abolitionist movement began to garner significant support, many women, especially middle-class white women, began to question their second-class status.

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Numerous Ohio women actively participated in reform movements. Ohio women formed the Ohio Women's Temperance Society and the Female Moral Reform Society to assist other people in living in a more moral manner. Ohioans Lucy Stone and Harriet Beecher Stowe played a vital role in the abolitionist movement through their speeches and writings. It was apparent to the reformers, in Ohio and elsewhere, that women did not enjoy the same opportunities for which they were fighting for other groups. Many women, such as women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, would not stand for this.

The women's rights movement truly blossomed in 1848 with the Seneca Falls Convention. The Seneca Falls Convention took place on July 19 and 20, 1848, at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Seneca Falls, New York. At the meeting, Stanton introduced the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments. This document was a statement of the rights that the participants at the convention felt women deserved. Conference attendees included approximately 260 women and 40 men, among them escaped slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The inequitable state of property rights between the genders, biased educational opportunities, and the lack of women’s suffrage were among the grievances, or “sentiments,” addressed in the document. The preamble of the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments includes the line “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” This phrase was borrowed and modified from the preamble of the Declaration of Independence.

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Every right that Stanton sought for women received unanimous approval from the conventioneers except for granting women the right to vote. Many women, including Lucretia Mott, feared that critics would denounce the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments as being too radical if the document called for women to receive the right to vote. Mott believed that it was better to attain goals by which men would feel less threatened at first. At the urging of Frederick Douglass, this demand remained in the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, but it did not pass unanimously. One hundred women signed the final document. Some of the signers, after they received harsh criticism for their actions, eventually demanded that their names be removed from the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments. Despite the fact that some women wavered under criticism, the women's rights movement finally had a list of the rights that women's rights advocates were seeking from the government.

The Declaration of Rights and Sentiments motivated some Ohio women to become more demonstrative for attaining women's equality with men. Columbus resident Elizabeth Bisbee established a newspaper, the Alliance, to fight for equal rights for women. Many women, including Frances Dana Gage, helped organize women's conferences across Ohio during the early 1850s. Gage presided over one of these meetings, which was held in McConnelsville and did not include any men. This conference, along with others, collected petitions asking the Ohio Constitutional Convention of 1850-1851 to give women the right to vote. Gage led another state convention in Akron on May 29, 1851. At this meeting, Gage and the other women found that the local community was not accepting of their goals. Many men, including several ministers, came to the convention to heckle the speakers. It was at this conference that Sojourner Truth, a former slave, gave her famous "Ain't I a Woman?" speech. In 1852, a number of people met in Massillon, Ohio, at the Women's Rights Convention. Participants voted to establish the Ohio Woman's Rights Association, which held its first statewide meeting in Ravenna on May 25, 1853. The attendees helped to draft a petition to the state legislature, requesting legislation that would grant women more rights.

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Despite their efforts, women's rights supporters in Ohio gained few successes by the end of the American Civil War. The Ohio Constitution of 1851 denied women the right to vote. In 1852, the Ohio legislature did pass a law to protect women working outside of the home, however, state authorities refused to enforce it. In 1861, married women, assuming that their husbands no longer lived with them, received the right to own property and to make contracts. Prior to this law, all property when a couple married became the exclusive property of the husband. While these legislative acts were improvements for women living in Ohio, men still retained tremendous power over women by the Civil War's conclusion. Many women remained determined to attain equality, and a second women's rights movement would blossom in the late nineteenth century.

See Also

  • Elizabeth Bisbee
  • Lucy Stone
  • Sojourner Truth
  • American Revolution
  • Seneca Falls Convention
  • Temperance Movement
  • Female Moral Reform Society
  • Abolitionists
  • Ohio Women's Temperance Society
  • Harriet B. Stowe
  • Declaration of Independence
  • Akron, Ohio
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Frances D. Gage
  • Ohio Constitutional Convention of 1850-1851
  • Ohio Women's Rights Association
  • American Civil War
  • Ohio Constitution of 1851
  • McConnelsville, Ohio
  • Ravenna, Ohio
  • Wesleyan Methodist Church
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References

  1. Geary, Linda L. Balanced in the Wind: A Biography of Betsey Mix Cowles. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1989.
  2. Isenberg, Nancy. Isenberg, Nancy. Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998. . Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
  3. McMillan, Sally. Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women's Rights Movement. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2008.

FAQs

What was the first women's rights movement? ›

The 1848 Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention marked the beginning of the women's rights movement in the United States.

What was the 1st women's movement in the United States? ›

The first attempt to organize a national movement for women's rights occurred in Seneca Falls, New York, in July 1848.

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

Why did the women's right movement start? ›

The movement for woman suffrage started in the early 19th century during the agitation against slavery. Women such as Lucretia Mott showed a keen interest in the antislavery movement and proved to be admirable public speakers.

Who was the first woman to fight women's rights? ›

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1815-1902

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the foremost women's-rights activists and philosophers of the 19th century.

Who started the women's movement? ›

The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) was formed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in May of 1869 – they opposed the 15th amendment because it excluded women.

What did the women's rights movement do? ›

In the early years of the women's rights movement, the agenda included much more than just the right to vote. Their broad goals included equal access to education and employment, equality within marriage, and a married woman's right to her own property and wages, custody over her children and control over her own body.

Why was the women's rights movement important? ›

The woman's suffrage movement is important because it resulted in passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which finally allowed women the right to vote.

What were the goals of the women's right movement? ›

women's rights movement, also called women's liberation movement, diverse social movement, largely based in the United States, that in the 1960s and '70s sought equal rights and opportunities and greater personal freedom for women.

What was one effect of the women's movement on society? ›

The most important result of the women's movement was the acquisition of the right to vote. In the United States, this was achieved in 1920. Women's suffrage then lead to further development in the women's movement. For example, there was a gradual increase in the number of women who held political office.

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 pushed for women's right to vote? ›

Women in America first collectively organized in 1848 at the First Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY to fight for suffrage (or voting rights). Organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, the convention sparked the women's suffrage movement.

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 was the first female activist? ›

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (November 12, 1815 – October 26, 1902) was an American writer and activist who was a leader of the women's rights movement in the U.S. during the mid- to late-19th century.
...
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
BornNovember 12, 1815 Johnstown, New York, U.S.
DiedOctober 26, 1902 (aged 86) New York City, U.S.
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Who is responsible for women's rights? ›

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association. The primary goal of the organization is to achieve voting rights for women by means of a Congressional amendment to the Constitution.

Where did the women's movement start? ›

Seneca Falls Convention

In 1848, a group of abolitionist activists—mostly women, but some men—gathered in Seneca Falls, New York to discuss the problem of women's rights. They were invited there by the reformers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.

How do you fight women's rights? ›

8 ways to change the course for women's rights
  1. Raise your voice. ...
  2. Volunteer. ...
  3. Start a fundraiser. ...
  4. Attend marches and protests. ...
  5. Donate to women's movements and organisations. ...
  6. Shop smartly. ...
  7. Challenge events. ...
  8. Become a corporate sponsor.
16 Apr 2019

What are the basic women's rights? ›

Women's rights are human rights!

These include the right to live free from violence and discrimination; to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; to be educated; to own property; to vote; and to earn an equal wage.

What are some fun facts about women's rights? ›

Amazing Moments For Women In History

In 1901 the Army Nurse Corps was created and the Navy Nurse Corps was created in 1908. In 1900 married women were allowed to keep their own wages and own property in their own name. The first college to admit women was Salem College, founded in 1772 as a primary school.

Which has been a major goal of the feminist movement? ›

The major goals of the feminist movement include creating equal opportunities and new freedoms for women. The purpose of the feminist movement has shifted over time. However, in all four waves, feminists have sought to end discrimination and violence by pursuing social and legal reform.

What were major issues in the women's movement? ›

Activists fought for gender issues, women's sexual liberation, reproductive rights, job opportunities for women, violence against women, and changes in custody and divorce laws. It is believed the feminist movement gained attention in 1963, when Betty Friedan published her novel, The Feminine Mystique.

When did women's rights come into effect? ›

Women's Rights and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

What is meant by gender? ›

Gender refers to the characteristics of women, men, girls and boys that are socially constructed. This includes norms, behaviours and roles associated with being a woman, man, girl or boy, as well as relationships with each other. As a social construct, gender varies from society to society and can change over time.

Who is the first female in the world? ›

First in the World - Women Achievers
First woman in spaceValentina TereshkovaUSSR
First woman to win an Olympic goldCharlotte CooperEngland
First woman Prime Minister in the worldSirimavo BandaranaikeSri Lanka
First American woman in spaceSally RideUSA
First female commander of International Space StationPeggy WhitsonUSA
2 more rows

What was the original celebration of women's history called? ›

Women's History Month was initially just International Women's Day, a day that commemorated the Feb. 28 meeting of socialists and suffragists in Manhattan in 1909.

Did men fight for women's voting rights? ›

It is a testimony to their democratic values that a large number of American men consistently supported women's cause. There were more than 50 electoral campaigns and in every one, a large number of men — often above 40% — voted in favor of equal suffrage.

How did men react to women's suffrage? ›

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the majority of men opposed the idea of allowing women to vote, and anti-suffrage cartoons depicted suffragists as ugly, scolding shrews set on emasculating mankind.

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 is women's right movement? ›

women's rights movement, also called women's liberation movement, diverse social movement, largely based in the United States, that in the 1960s and '70s sought equal rights and opportunities and greater personal freedom for women. It coincided with and is recognized as part of the “second wave” of feminism.

How did the women's movement of the 1960s begin? ›

After World War II, the boom of the American economy outpaced the available workforce, making it necessary for women to fill new job openings; in fact, in the 1960s, two-thirds of all new jobs went to women. As such, the nation simply had to accept the idea of women in the workforce.

When did the feminism movement start? ›

In the United States, the first wave of the feminist movement occurred between the mid-1800s and the early 1920s. Some of the most important events during this time centered around the suffrage movement.

What was the 19th century women's rights movement? ›

The women's suffrage movement was a decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right, and the campaign was not easy: Disagreements over strategy threatened to cripple the movement more than once.

What are the basic 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.

Why was the women's rights movement important? ›

The woman's suffrage movement is important because it resulted in passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which finally allowed women the right to vote.

What did the women's rights movement accomplish? ›

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 happened in 1960 for women's rights? ›

In 1960, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the birth control pill, freeing women from the restrictions of pregnancy and childbearing. Women who were able to limit, delay, and prevent reproduction were freer to work, attend college, and delay marriage.

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.

What are two major events of the women's movement in the 1960's? ›

June 10: The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy. June 16: Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in outer space, another Soviet first in the U.S.-U.S.S.R. "space race."

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 was the first feminist in the world? ›

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 were major issues in the women's movement? ›

Activists fought for gender issues, women's sexual liberation, reproductive rights, job opportunities for women, violence against women, and changes in custody and divorce laws. It is believed the feminist movement gained attention in 1963, when Betty Friedan published her novel, The Feminine Mystique.

Why did people oppose the women's rights movement? ›

Anti-suffragists argued that most women did not want the vote. Because they took care of the home and children, they said women did not have time to vote or stay updated on politics. Some argued women lacked the expertise or mental capacity to offer a useful opinion about political issues.

What was one effect of the women's movement on society? ›

The most important result of the women's movement was the acquisition of the right to vote. In the United States, this was achieved in 1920. Women's suffrage then lead to further development in the women's movement. For example, there was a gradual increase in the number of women who held political office.

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