Gender Inequality

How did feminism start and evolve?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. Women began fighting for equal rights centuries ago. In the early 1600s, French women began holding salons where educated women could interact equally with men. Women's rights movements were also influenced by the Revolutionary War and the French Revolution in the late 1700s. Then, in the 1800s, women began fighting harder to attain equal rights.

    When Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were denied seats in the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840 in London because they were women, the two organized the Seneca Falls Convention. They also wrote the Declaration of Sentiments, outlining the need for gender equality, including voting rights, thereby kicking off the suffrage movement [source: National Portrait Gallery]. According to Joan Kelly, author of "Women, History and Theory," the word "feminism" only came to the United States from France in 1910. Suffragettes fought for the right to vote, but feminism also includes issues like legal rights and financial independence. The feminist movement splintered off from suffrage-oriented groups after U.S. women were granted the right to vote under the 19th Amendment in 1920.

    The Women's Liberation Movement, popular in the 1960s and '70s, came about when more women began entering colleges and the workforce after World War II. They wanted to revolutionize the way women lived in terms of education, employment, domesticity and sexuality. Prominent feminists like Betty Friedan formed the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. This group was made up predominantly of older, white, college-educated women. The first national feminist conference took place two years later. At the same time, energized by anti-Vietnam War movements and the Civil Rights Movement, younger and more radical feminists started a more loosely organized group called Redstockings, which "Daring to be Bad" author Alice Echols says demonstrated more militantly and more publicly than NOW.

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