When the Founding Fathers of the Unites States created the Declaration of Independence one of the statements that was declared was “All men are created equal.” What many people do not understand about that statement was that was a declaration to be taken literally. Women did not have the same rights as men when the United States was first founded. The evolution of women’s rights has been a slow process.
Many historians believe the women’s rights movement commenced back in 1840 at the World Anti-Slavery Convention that was held in London. The abolitionist movement was strongly supported by women, yet women were not allowed in the convention. This inspired Elizabeth Cady Stanton and abolitionist Lucretia Mott to create a movement of the women of the United States seeking equal women’s rights.
During this time in history women could not vote, hold an elected office, go to college or work for a living. The lack of women’s rights during this era even extended to women that were married as they were not allowed to divorce their husbands. If a divorce did occur instigated by the man they could not fight for custody of the children.
Eight years after Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott decided to form a movement the first Women’s Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York in July 1848. At this convention the Declaration of Sentiments was created. Based on the Declaration of Independence, these women demanded that men’s and women’s right be equal, including the right to vote. This document was signed by 68 women and 32 men with over 300 people attending the convention.
During the twentieth century was when things began to change in regards to women’s rights. The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920 gave women the right to vote. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was created to forbid sexual discrimination in the workplace. Two years later the National Organization for Women was created to serve as a watchdog and ensure these new acts were actually enforced. Today NOW is the largest feminist organization in the U.S.
More women’s rights have been granted since the seventies. Women were given more freedom in 1973 to make choices regarding reproduction, minimum wage protection for domestic workers was created in 1974, 1978 saw the creation of prohibitions regarding discriminating against pregnant women in the workplace and 1984 was the year that tougher child support laws and protection of pension rights for widows and divorced women were put in place.
Women continue to fight for women’s rights as more and more women are working, holding positions of power in the workforce and serving as government officials. The United States has come a long way since the country was first founded but women are adamant that still more women’s right need to be added.