History of the Women’s Rights Movement

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July 13th, 1848 marks the beginning of the Women’s Rights Movement in America when a group of women decided they deserve better. To celebrate the day that is credited for the strides that women have made globally, here is a list of the top 10 achievements that the Women’s Right Movement has accomplished.

The Seneca Falls Convention

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The Women’s Rights Movement owes its origin to the Seneca Falls Convention which was championed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. The duo had met earlier at the London’s World Anti-Slavery Convention. 300 women and 40 men attended the Seneca Falls Convention held at the Wesleyan Chapel on July 19-20, 1848 in New York. The attendees signed the Declaration of Sentiments and passed 12 resolutions that called for equal opportunities for men and women as well as the women’s right to vote. Frederick Douglass mainly campaigned to ensure that the resolution for the women’s right to vote had been passed.

In the picture: Longtime women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, front row, fourth from left, sits with executive committee members from the International Council of Women during their first meeting in Washington, DC. (Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

The Right to Vote

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In 1869, Wyoming became the first territory to grant women the right to vote. Alice Paul, Anita Pollitzer, and Carrie Chapman Catt were among critical personalities who were instrumental in the ratification and passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920, which officially granted women the right to vote. This was 72 years after the Seneca Falls Convention that had first championed for women’s suffrage. The 19th Amendment declared “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Before this, women were not allowed to vote and Susan B. Anthony had been arrested and found guilty after she voted in 1872.

In the picture: Alice Paul 1920. Celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing women nationally the right to vote. (Photo by Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)

Equal Pay Act of 1963

Equal Pay Act of 1963

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The Equal Pay Act was drafted by Esther Peterson to bridge the gender pay gap and signed into law on June 10, 1963. It was an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The law advocates for equal pay for the same work, regardless of the color, race, sex, religion, disability or origin of the worker. The similar legislation includes the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 that was signed into law by President Obama. It amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The bill seeks to increase protection against wage discrimination. The Paycheck Fairness Act is yet to be passed.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

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To level the playing field and protect both employees and job applicants, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which prohibited employment discrimination by sex, race, color, religion or national origin, was passed on July 2, 1964. It was also the same year that saw the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that enforces laws on civil rights against workplace discrimination. In 1978, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was amended to enact The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) which outlaws discrimination in employment that is based on pregnancy and childbirth.

In the picture: Forty-six women employees of male-dominated Newsweek magazine conduct a press conference here March 16 to announce they are suing the magazine under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Charging discrimination in jobs and hiring, they said they are ‘forced to assume a subsidiary role simply because of their sex.’ Seated (Left to Right) are employees Patricia Lynden, Mary Pleshette, Eleanor Holmes Norton and ACLU legal director Lucy Howard.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972

Title IX was signed into law by President Nixon on June 23, 1972. It had been drafted by Patsy Mink in 1971 and presented to Congress by Senator Birch Bayh. The law applies to all education programs that receive federal aid, including state and local educational agencies. It prohibits sex-based discrimination in academic programs, athletic programs, access to healthcare and dormitory space. In 2002, Title IX renamed Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act after the man who first authored it. After women’s rights groups protested that the Act only covered programs that received direct aid, the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 was passed.

In the picture: Women’s Sports Foundation founder Billie Jean King attends the Women’s Sports Foundation 45th Anniversary of Title IX celebration at the New-York Historical Society on June 22, 2017, in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

The Violence Against Women Act of 1994

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This Act was signed into law on September 13, 1994, by President Clinton. It was drafted by Senator Joe Biden and Louise Slaughter. The law combats domestic violence, sexual assault, date rape, and stalking. It also protects victims of violence. After its expiration in 2011, it took time to reauthorize it because some legislators were opposed to some of its clauses which included protection to immigrants, transgender individuals, gays, and lesbians. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 was signed into law by President Obama on March 7, 2013. The new law did away with the civil right remedy that was in the earlier act.

Women’s Reproductive Rights

Women’s Reproductive Rights

The landmark case of Griswold v. Connecticut on June 7, 1965, where the Supreme Court overturned a law that prohibited birth control was a significant win for women. The court argued that married couples had a right to privacy which included access to contraceptives. This privacy protection around contraception was extended to unmarried couples in the Eisenstadt v. Baird case in 1972. Abortion was legalized in the whole of U.S in 1973 after the Supreme Court continued the constitutional right to privacy to include termination of early pregnancy in its Roe v. Wade historic ruling. Previously, birth control was prohibited. Margaret Sanger who owned a birth control clinic had been arrested in 1961, and Estelle Griswold who ran Planned Parenthood was arrested in 1961.

In the picture: A pro-choice activist holds a sign as she counter-protests in front of the U.S. Supreme Court during 2018 March for Life January 19, 2018, in Washington, DC. Activists gathered in the nation’s capital for the annual event to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in 1973. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Women’s Educational Equity Act of 1974

Women’s Educational Equity Act of 1974

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The Act was drafted by Arlene Horowitz and presented to Congress by Patsy Mink. It was signed into law in 1974.

In the past, female seminaries offered the only option for women who seek to pursue higher education. After the women’s rights movement, more women asked to go to college. In 1742, The Bethlehem Female Seminary which was opened in 1742 in Pennsylvania became the first institute of higher education for women. It was owned by Countess Benigna von Zinzendorf and was allowed to issue degrees after the state officially recognized it as a college in 1863. Salem College, which still exists today, was started in 1772.

Married Women’s Property Act of 1848

Married Women’s Property Act of 1848

Elisabeth Cady Stanton, social activist, abolitionist, USA – is speaking at the Senat committee in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Archiv Gerstenberg/ullsteinbild via Getty Images)

This Act was signed into law in New York on April 7, 1848. The other states used this as a basis for their property laws that related to married women.

Previously, when a woman got married, she lost ownership of the property she had acquired before marriage. A married woman had no right to purchase property, sue or sell it. In 1843, Elizabeth Cady Stanton lobbied for a property bill to be passed. Paulina Wright Davis and Ernestine Rose had also started collecting signatures for petitions. From the 1850s, states began passing laws that gave married women full control of their property.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act

Equal Credit Opportunity Act

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This Act was signed into law on October 28, 1974, to prohibit creditors discriminating against applicants based on race, gender, color, religion, marital status, or origin.

Single, divorced and widowed had been required to be accompanied by a man to cosign any credit. Women also had very low credit limits, regardless of their wages. The Civil Rights Movement shed light on this, and there were several hearings where women documented this discrimination. Shortly after the law was passed, Judy Mello opened the first women’s bank in April of 1975. The press referred the bank as a creation of the women’s movement because women ran it for women.