Women Rights in the USA in 1848-1920

Women Rights in the USA in 1848-1920

The publication of the declaration of sentiments in 1848 at the Seneca Falls convention marked the beginning of the women rights movement. This incredible document listed the social, economic, and political grievances while asserting that women were segregated when it came to income earned for the same jobs done with men. In addition, the document pointed out that women were not allowed to own property. In the course of the 19th century, organizations such as the American Women Suffrage Association (AWSA) and the National Women Suffrage Association (NWSA) were launched to support women rights (Keller 18).

When the country began dealing with the Civil War, Reconstruction, and then the First World War, women’s roles in the society began to change. Most advocators of women’s rights began working closely with the cause for abolitionists in order to gain suffrage for African-Americans. The African-American men got a reprieve in 1870 when they were granted the right to vote after the 15th amendment was passed. However, women were never given the right to vote until 1920 when the 19th amendment was ratified (Lindenmeyer 41).


Women’s roles and their social, political, and economic opportunities in America greatly shifted from the pre-revolutionary era of war to a new 20th century. Before the American Revolution, women were perceived as subordinate to men; consequently, they endured the rules and regulations forced on them by men. Therefore, women were expected to marry and execute their responsibilities as industrious mothers and wives. Since men dominated everything in the society, women did not have many rights including the right to own property or the right to vote (Lois 39).

Nonetheless, as years went by and they came to the civil war and reconstruction, the political, social, and economic role of women began to change. Their clothing became more trendy both for the working and rural women; it portrayed their figures to their own advantage, and exhibited their capacity and desire to unyoke themselves from the domineering mandate of men in the society. Most working women still played their domestic roles and their burden became even heavier due to the rapid growth of agricultural jobs for men. However, it was not out of the ordinary for women, especially those whose husbands died in the Civil War to take home working wages. As much as the economic and social dynamics increased women’s rights, the most critical change in the 19th and early 20th century was the political dynamics brought about by several reform movements attached to women’s rights such as education, abolition, temperance, and suffrage (Keller 20).

Because of economic and societal changes, reform movements benefited from exceptional momentum in the mid 1800s. Demographic inequalities and changes in populations affected the progress made by women reforms. In Massachusetts, which by 1850 had more than 17000 more females than men, most women no longer looked for their usual fulfillment in marriage. Women started perceiving their own rights as critical and supported the realization of these rights (Lindenmeyer 48).

After the movement for women’s rights gained substantial strength in the early 1870s, 1876 witnessed the proclamation of the “Women’s independence” in Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition. The new declaration, which was a replica of the 1776 document, had been initially created in 1848 in the Seneca Falls conference and had been spearheaded by Elizabeth Stanton. Elizabeth was a social reformer and women’s rights activist who had made her commitment to social justice. Her role in the proclamation of women’s independence enlisted a number of social, political, and economic grievances. Stanton and her colleagues made it clear in the document that women were deprived of the right to own property, repeatedly took home less money than men for the same job, were deprived of educational opportunities, and did not have a say over their wages (Lois 42).

The “proclamation” placed the blame squarely on men for the prejudice women had suffered over the years politically, economically, and socially. In a long resolution, Stanton and her colleagues demanded that men should stop their social injustice and end all segregation that was founded on sex. As much as the proclamation of women’s independence may not have attained the equality status as originally envisaged, it did a lot to support the era of women’s rights and reforms (Keller 22).

Before women started the advocacy for equality and autonomy, they were already fighting to abolish slave trade. Antoine Brown and Stone Lucy were the caliber of women whose abolitionism premeditated their feminism and remained their fundamental commitment. This is because they had resolved to end slavery. Stanton supported the abolition of slave trade as a secondary transformation agenda. She perceived that segregation against sex was more prevalent and deeply rooted than that against race (Lindenmeyer 60).

In spite of her strong opinion to deal with sex segregation first rather than that of color, Stanton worked in the slavery abolition movement for several decades. In an antislavery convention in London, Stanton met Lucretius Mott, a reformer and abolitionist who fought for equal representation of women in the antislavery movement. In the convention, women were separated from male speakers and were resigned to the fact that men would represent their sentiments (Lois 45).

Upon realizing that women could not be allowed to express their sentiments even in a conference whose ideal purpose was to promote people’s rights amongst them, Stanton and Lucretius strategized for the 1848 Seneca Falls conference. Even though the conference drew almost 300 members with most of them being women, several male sympathizers joined them there. Many speakers spoke in the conference including Douglass Fredrick, the renowned slave turned abolitionist, Stanton, and Lucretius. On the conference, Stanton read the Proclamation and members in the conference hall voted for its resolutions. The most critical of all the resolutions was female suffrage (Keller 25).

It was despicable that women never voted for their suffrage at the Seneca Falls conference. As much as all the other resolutions were collectively passed, only a handful of women voted for suffrage and it was only after Fredrick Douglass made an eloquent speech about the need for women’s suffrage (Lindenmeyer 65).

Lucretius and Stanton were not the only advocators for women’s rights in the 1800s. Organizations that campaigned for suffrage arose in the entire nation and those who supported the movement were as assorted as the areas of the nation where they reached. The American Women Suffrage Association (AWSA) and the National Women Suffrage Association (NWSA) were launched to support women’s rights and suffrage. However, they worked in competition and in conflict with each other until 1890 (Keller 32).

Most Black Americans supported the National Women Suffrage Association (NWSA) and this included Tubman Harriet, who was an integral module of the underground railroad. At one point, the New England Suffrage Association for Women honored her since she was fully behind global female suffrage. Truth Sojourner equally supported the lobby group and teamed up with Stanton to assert that universal suffrage for women was more critical than that for black men at that point in time (Lindenmeyer 66).

In the Western USA, the women suffrage was perceived as a practical movement because women in the west seemed to have more freedom than their counterparts in the eastern part of the country. In Kansas, women’s suffrage was not only allowed but also black men were enfranchised into the movement. Although this amendment was ratified by the Kansas legislature, the suffrage amendment did not see the light of the day (Kriste 45).

Education temperance and reformists as critical political and social transformations in the 1800s joined slave abolitionists and women’s rights movements. In education, women were perceived as the shining example of moral virtue and their role was described as that of affectionate and ethical teachers under the control and administration of superintendents and principals. Most women looked for opportunities to further their education and this was granted when women’s colleges emerged in the second part of the 19th century (Keller 36).


The persistent work of numerous women’s rights reformists ended in the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920. This provided women with the right to vote. As much as there are still pending impediments to be overcome by women, socially, politically, and economically, the achievements by these reformers were not a small feat. Therefore, there is every reason to laude these movements as champions and initiators in the progress made today in women’s rights.



Works Cited

Keller, Kristin. The Women Suffrage Movement, 1848-1920. New York: Capstone Press, Incorporated. 2003. Print.

Lindenmeyer, Kriste. The Human Tradition: Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives Women in American History. London: Lanham, MD: SR Books, 2007. Print.

Lois, Banner and Stanton, Elizabeth. A Radical for Woman’s Rights. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2008. Print.


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