Progression of Women Throughout Time essay

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It was followed by more record-breaking flights. Her story, on the other hand, was cut short with her 1937 flight which ended in her mysterious disappearance (Amelia Earhart Website n.d.).

Earhart's story indeed reflects that a lot of women during this period of American history were engaged in activities that were first labeled as masculine in nature. Earhart's achievement reflected the sense of equality between men and women that have long been fought for by women of the earlier period of history.

Towards more active political participation

We have seen how particular socio-historical features of the 19th century -- these being the strengthening of women's educational facilities as well as the job opportunities that went with the industrial changes of this period, gave way to women's demand for equal participation in the political sphere.

During the early 20th century, women were influential in welfare advocacy, particularly in the formulation and popularization of the view that promoting the society's welfare should begin with children. "Putting children first" was a major concern of the world's most powerful women's movement which shaped the welfare program known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) (Gordon 95).

Also, what is very crucial during this period in women's history is the granting of women's right to vote in 1920. However, we should note that although women have already won this right, their political roles have been minimal. It was not until 1984 that a major party chose a woman, Geraldine Ferraro from New York, to run for vice-presidential seat. Although roles have been minimal, they are not any less note-worthy. Women won city mayor and gubernatorial positions; they won seats in the House of Representatives; and became members of the Cabinet (Women's International Center 94).

Rosa Louise Parks

Rosa Louise Parks is noted as the "mother of modern day civil rights movement" in America. Rosa, together with her husband Raymond Parks, worked in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NACP) (Rosa & Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development 08).

Perhaps she is well-remembered for that one remarkable December evening when she boarded a bus for home, with tired and aching feet, and was ordered to give up her bus seat for a white passenger but she refused, she was then arrested (Dove 99). Upon the news of Park's arrest, Women's Political Council called for the boycott of Montgomery buses at the start of her trial. Park's legal counsel filed a case saying that the segregation scheme in the buses is unconstitutional. The court later declared that it is indeed, unconstitutional ("Rosa Parks" n.d.).

Park's story marked a momentous era in U.S. civil rights movement (Dove 99). Moreover, her biography made significant contributions in our discussion of women in the 20th century, particularly on women's participation in the racial equality discourse. Her story has been deemed instrumental in civil rights movement which further strengthened our position that the 20th century is actually defined by stronger participation and contribution of women in the political sphere.

21st century: Women in our Contemporary Society

Moving now to the twenty-first century, we can see that women are faced with global issues and concerns. Our present-day society presents women with a number of issues that have captured the public platform. The recognition of women's human rights particularly the issues that surround women's sexuality, reproduction, and labor have become resurgent (Bunch 95).

Discrimination in many aspects is still being experienced by women today. For example, although women have achieved educational attainment parity, males still earn more than their female counterparts (U.S. Census Bureau 00). Aside from this, areas that need to be addressed involve health care concerns, employment, and full political engagement for women (Ware in Betka 06).

But at this point, what consistently holds true is the fact that women have played key roles in shaping U.S. history and society, and still continue to do so. Moreover, it remains important for women not only to hold political representations but also to be able to influence political decisions through voluntary organizations, religious groups, and non-governmental organizations (ibid).

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey was born in Kosciuko, Mississippi and was brought up by her grandmother in a farm. After suffering molestation and abuse, she ran away from home and was later sent to a juvenile detention but was denied admission because of unavailability of beds. Her broadcasting career began when she was seventeen years old at WVOL radio in Nashville. Her hosting talents were later showcased via WJZ-TV's "People Are Talking." In 1984, she moved to Chicago and became the host of "AM Chicago" which was later renamed to "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Broadcasted nationally since '1986, it has become the number one talk show in national syndication (Academy of Achievement 09).

Prodded by her very own memories of childhood abuse, she initiated a program to establish a national database of convicted child abusers, this was popularly known as the "Oprah Bill" which then-President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993. She was also named as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century. Forbes Magazine also disclosed that Oprah's media empire has led her to become the first African-American woman to become a billionaire (ibid).

Women and History: A Brief Analysis

Our widely-accepted view when it comes to women and history is that women, during the earlier periods of history were confined to the private sphere; confined to their domestic roles and responsibilities as required by the kind of economic set-up of the earlier times. This in turn led to what is popularly known as the sexual division of labor. Emile Durkheim, a sociologist, maintains that Durkheim's sexual division of labor states that the reproductive role of women confines them to the home, or the private sphere. Hence, they are perceived to be nurturing, obedient, and submissive because of the socialization process that they go through. Women, particularly mothers, are also expected to teach religious values as part of their roles in the private sphere (Entwistle n.d). This theory best explains why women of the 19th century have very strong grip of moral values leading them to actively support the temperance movement on the basis that drinking liquors are deemed sinful. Moreover, the sexual division of labor was further strengthened by the changes in the industrial set-up of the 19th (and even the 20th to 21st) century. Since women found work opportunities outside of home, they were able to better explore and even to a great extent find participation in the public domain.

These changes in the 19th century gave way to the stronger political participation of women that we have seen in the 20th century. Jobs that used to wear masculine labels, were now relegated to women. Again, let us understand that this is a product of concrete changes in this period of history, particularly the wars that took place and later demanded female participation. Note that this was a chance for women to underscore gender equality. Their permeation to jobs that used to be labeled as masculine added more substance to their fight towards gender equality.

As we move towards the 21st century, we shall see that the problems encountered by women of today are the same old problems of the earlier periods of history. Women continuously need to prove themselves in a society that is very much patriarchal in nature, such as the U.S. society. We have seen from the earlier discussion that women continuously experience gender inequality in the labor force. Our census information tells us that women receive lower earnings when compared to their male counterparts even if we have already achieved parity in terms of education attainment. The story of Oprah Winfrey shows us that a lot of work needs to be done in terms of upholding human rights. The need to protect women's sexuality as well as access to social services still needs considerable attention.

But at the end of the day, what we can realize is that duality of women and societal relationships. The kind of women that we have (whether the passive domesticated ones or the radical, progressive ones) can be molded by the kind of society that they live in. But on the other hand, history shows that women have the capacity to shape the society they live in.


Academy of Achievement. 10 March 2009. 6 April 2009.


Amelia Earhart Website. n.d. 6 April 2009. .

America.Gov. Betka, Mark. 8 March 2006. 6 April 2009.


Bunch, Charlotte. "Through Women's Eyes: Global Forces Facing Women in the

21ST Century. Feminist. 6 April 2009.


Conner Prairie. 2009. 6 April 2009. .

Entwistle, Joanna. Sociological Dichotomies. London: Sage Publications. Ed. Jenks, Chris. 1998.

Fasion-Era.Thomas, Pauline Weston. 2009. 6 April 2009.…[continue]

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