19th Amendment and Women's Issues Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Some of them may have failed at first, such as Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis, who unsuccessfully lobbied the authors of the U.S. Constitution to include women's rights in the document. Over and above, abolitionist women drew parallels between the conditions of slavery and those of women. Anti-slavery activist Angelina Grimke wrote in 1836:

"The investigation of the rights of the slave has led me to a better understanding of my own."

That growing understanding of the conditions of women led to the holding of the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in New York in 1848 (Guianoulis 2002). In their Declaration of Sentiments, the women progenitors demanded equality in law with men, education and the right to vote. But their disadvantaged status did not progress very much. The middle class woman continued to confront a dilemma, which was captured by Betty Friedan in her powerful book, "The Feminine Mystique," published in 1963. This book marked the second wave of feminism, which expressed the deep longing of the women and girls for a more meaningful role than cheerleaders and helpmates of men and caretakers of their children. Women put in their minds and resources in developing an ideology of women's liberation. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion and national origin. Women began forming consciousness-raising groups that discussed specific concerns. The isolation of women began to tear down. This gradually replaced the previous competition and mistrust placed upon them by the traditional patriarchal society. Betty Friedan and her associates formed the National Organization for Women or NOW in 1966, which threatened males from diverse sectors laughed at and belittled. The feminists responded by declaring that "the personal is political (as qtd in Guianoulis)," the phrase that became the very basis of the women's liberation movement. It meant that every individual life has political meaning and each individual personal action requires and entails responsibility. By the early 70s, the NOW had more than 400 chapters all over the U.S., working to change laws oppressive to women and to raise their consciousness about their own and separate potential. One consequence was Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibited sex discrimination in all federally-funded education programs. It was an act, which promised to revolutionize women's education. The following year, the landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade made legal abortions available to women throughout the U.S. And put an end to decades of dangerous and traumatic illegal abortions and unwanted pregnancies and childbirths (Guianoulis).

Women of color and working-class women also had to fight for their place in the women's liberation movement of the late 70s (Guianoulis 2002). Although the movement was started and built around the largely white university-educated women, working-class women and women of color were more affected by the issues raised and sponsored by the movement. These included pay and advancement at work, abortion and birth control within the body, and domestic abuse. This led the white feminist leaders to confront their racial and class biases. The advances made or gained by the efforts of the movement in the 70s appeared negated by those of the 80s. Critics of the movement declared that women already enjoyed equality in the work place but who were simply frustrated, unhappy and unfulfilled in their personal lives. The conservatives insisted that women's place in the home was divinely ordained. The 90s were violently post-feminist in stating that there was no longer a need for a women's liberation movement. Although surveys revealed that more than 50% of the women respondents, aged 18 to 34, said they had feminist values, there was little evidence or tendency to call oneself a feminist.

There are quite a number of feminist activists to this day who earnestly and independently wok to change and improve the status of women or in local or national organizations (Guianoulis 2002). Many of the chronic issues have remained, such as inequality in pay and benefits for comparable work, advancement, sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape, and child care. Rights already won, such as abortion and welfare rights, for single mothers have been sagging with conservative sectors gaining power against them. Feminism has not achieved its dreamed economic and political status of equality but women's position has generally improved in the U.S. The feminist has significantly addressed and challenged patriarchal versions of history and science and questioned the truthfulness and rationality of husbands and fathers making all the personal decisions for women. Feminism has raised the questions of children's rights, the politics of the family and internationalism clearly. Women who fought long and hard to get the vote in the 19th century have translated themselves into the 21st century women who seek to unite the common aspirations and struggles of the helpless and disenfranchised, like women. (Guianoulis).


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