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Chapter Two: 1. 1st wave of feminism. Factors that lead towards feminism
1.1 Framework to women`s suffrage: Abolitionism
Because feminism emerged as the most important symbol of correction against primitive democracy, first wave feminists worked not only to obtain the right to vote, the right to education, the right to work, but especially the right over their own bodies. After already having defined the concept of feminism and its problems of subordination of women and their liberation, this chapter discusses the main goals of the first wave feminists, the general problem of bringing into existence social movements and also the accomplishments that they achieved by spending hundreds of years protesting and working for the equality of their gender.
The early women's rights movement was built upon the principles that promote social justice and improvements to the human condition. Added all together, all the rises against inequalities have been known throughout history as reforms. Up until the 1920s, these actions had the role of strengthening and enlarging the opportunities of women who fought hard for obtaining equal rights. Ever since the 1800`s, women had very little control over their life, thus their situation has always been different from that of any other social group. It was during the 19th century that the US began to see the emergence of organized women's movements. Almost seventy years after the Revolutionary War, during the first wave of feminism two of the most important advocates could be considered to be Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott who declared independence for women, including the right to vote. Although the Seneca Fall Convention of 1848 is said to have been the main changing point for women in history, even early on during the 18th century, while America was fighting for freedom against Great Britain, women have been struggling as well to obtain equal rights. Even thought the rights and freedoms of citizens were declared, through the Constitution, women were not allowed to vote, nor speak in public, having to submit to laws.
Women in some colonies of America, and even in some states like New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, they had the rights to exercise the right to vote. But after 1776 women lost this right. Against these inequalities, amongst the first women to take a stand, was a woman who wanted to share her strong opinions with the world about the desire to implicate in the government`s decision making. On the 31`s of March 1776, Abigail Adams, first wife of John Adams the second president of the United States, wrote a letter addressed to her husband immediately after reading a draft from the Second Continental Congress ,by which she was trying to express a reaction against a phrase from the Constitution, that “ all men are created equal”.
In the letter she wrote:
I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation. (2003: 6)
Through this letter we come to understand Abigail`s true feeling and insights, as she reminds her husband to "remember the ladies" in an age where women were seen as nothing more than house wife’s. Abigail believed that the rights present in the Constitution should also apply to women and not only men, being scared of the idea that men would have full control over the new government. Although Adam`s letter did not have any effect on women`s role in society, Abigail had kept on believing that one way or another women will end up united, in order to secure equal rights for themselves. About the beginning of the 19th century, many people were starting to share the same views that Adam had expressed year before. In the Unites States it was a time when new ideas were coming to life and old one`s were being forgotten, it was the period of time when both women and men were beginning to react against slavery.
In order to understand the history of feminism in the Unites States it is vitally important to realize the connection between the Suffrage movement of women and the abolition of slavery. It was the abolition of slavery and the equality of women that represented the two most controversial movements which laid the foundations of American society. If women would not have been active in the Abolition movement, the framework for Woman`s Suffrage couldn`t have been formed.
Therefore by providing a possibility in which women could gain experience, the Abolition movement would represent the ground from which the women’s suffrage would spring. The abolitionist movement gave women the voices necessary to describe their status. By trying to obtain the women`s rights to vote and the right to abortion, feminists have always fought their way to make it to the top of the social scale.
As a major symbol for the support of antislavery rights for women, was Frances Wright, one of the first women orators. In her view women represented an oppressed group and
Until women assume a place in society which good sense and goof feeling alike assign to them, human improvement must advance but feebly. (1959: 27)
She was also highly concerned with the need for education in women`s life’s.
During the year of 1827 she travelled across the country to give speeches regarding the issues. Even though people were not accepting her ideas, in time she became the inspiration for many women. Thousands of women were becoming more and more involved in the movement against slavery by beginning to write articles, make pamphlets, and especially to sign and deliver petitions to the Congress in order to express their opinions in the abolitionist movement.
The American Woman's Rights movement was formed by abolitionism through complex ways. A great majority of Americans who had joined the antislavery and woman’s rights causes in the 1830s mostly came from the countryside and towns from the Northern part of the country, north, usually from religious oriented families. Mainly, the women`s right movement had its political origins in the abolition movement of the 1830`s. When women started becoming more involved in the abolition of slavery, it was immediately that they learned about the truth that the probability of functioning as equals with the male abolitionists was impossible. They were not even allowed in federal organizations, even less to be allowed to speak in public.
Starting with the 1830`, women were beginning to form abolition groups and even to organize events such as the Anti-Slavery Convention of 1837, where 175 women from ten different states gathered together for the first time in history in order to promote the anti-slavery cause among women. Slavery did not violate only basic human right but also Christian principals. Along with Mary S. Parker the president of the gathering, the attendees included both white and African American women of different economic status.
The early leaders of the movement began their fight for rights and justice along with the cause of the slaves, and have managed to learn from Anti-Slavery Societies how to organize and lead a political movement. It was about the same time when Angelina Grimke and Sarah Moore Grimke, daughters of a slaveholding family became famous. Being among the first women to fight against slavery they travelled from city to city in order to speak in public about it. Because they were fully against abolitionism it became possible for them to also advocate for the rights of women. It was within a short period of time that they drew a lot of attention towards them, thus becoming greatly despised by people, mostly clergymen.
It was because the brutal attacks, both mental and physical which convinced the Grimke sisters freedom for women and slaves were inevitably linked. Three years later after the rise against suffrage had begun, the first female president of Anti-Slavery Society is elected, Lucretia Mott who represented one of the leading voices of the feminist and abolitionist movements. Because she had adopted anti-slavery views, not only did she help form the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Philadelphia in 1833, but later on she was mentioned among the founders of the American women’s rights movement.
Throughout time scholars have started questioning the accuracy of locating the Suffrage Movement. As a representative, Susan Zaeske believed that The American woman suffrage had began even earlier than 1848, more precise in 1834, when women in Ohio, had formed a petition to the government for both the abolition of and the immediate enfranchisement of both women and slaves. Although a lot of women were active during the abolitionist movement, it was very often that they were kept out of public making decisions.
During the Anti-Slavery Convention that was held in London, abolitionists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott who attended were discriminated by male abolitionists who expected them sit in the gallery and are not allowed to participate. It was after this that Stanton and Mott took the decision of holding a convention on women’s rights.
As the Abolitionist movement continued to expand through the 1840`s, women kept on enhancing their experiences through political actions, even thought society enabled the leaders of the early movement to win the rights for women to vote. If it hadn’t been for the abolitionists, chances are very high that the Women's Suffrage movement would not have taken place.
1.2 Sense of freedom: Suffrage as the main goal