For centuries, women have been seen as subservient and inferior to men in the workplace, household, and society as a whole.  Through traditional structures and concepts, such as the “Cult of Domesticity” and “Republican Motherhood,” women have been held back from achieving, what feminists believe, real success relative to men.  Recently, there has been a quest to achieve both political and social equality for women.  The liberation of women is well documented in both British and American Literature, with various authors proving to embody the rebellious and revolutionary attitudes characteristic of the larger Feminist Movement.The Women’s Rights Movement, part of the ongoing Feminist Movement, was a quest to bring about equality throughout the social, political, and economic facets of society.  The Women’s Rights Movement is formally recognized as beginning on July 13, 1848.  The founder and catalyst for the Movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, recognized the true setbacks that women faced in society.  Only 70 years prior, women contributed to the liberation and emancipation of America from its mother country, Great Britain.  Yet, women were still held down by the society in which they helped to create.  The sentiments held by Stanton and female Quakers led to the forming of the Seneca Falls Convention, the first Woman’s Rights Convention (“History of the Women’s Rights Movement”).While attitudes did not take much political shape before the arrival of the Seneca Falls Convention, the feelings of discontentment with the status quo were well in place.  Mary Wollstonecraft, English writer and feminist of the late 1700s, discusses the role of women in her book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects.  Written in 1792, Wollstonecraft adopts a separate stance from the later termed “cult of domesticity,” instead arguing that women should have an education.  Using the metaphor of a developing body, Wollstonecraft argues that the ideal political state has an end goal of maturity.  In order to reach maturity, Wollstonecraft stresses the need for liberation, specifically in the political sphere.  Centered around the “cooperation of sexes,” Wollstonecraft argues that “intellect will always govern,” regardless of gender (Bernath).  While the ideas that brought rise to feminism had not taken much shape in the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, her beliefs and stances on equality are clearly expressed in later time periods.The Seneca Falls Convention, formerly known as The Woman’s Rights Convention, was held in Seneca Falls, New York, on July 19th and 20th of 1848.  Stanton set the tone of the convention and relayed the sentiments of the oppressed with an impassioned statement:We are assembled to protest against a form of government, existing without the consent of the governed—to declare our right to be free as man is free, to be represented in the government which we are taxed to support, to have such disgraceful laws as give man the power to chastise and imprison his wife, to take the wages which she earns, the property which she inherits, and, in case of separation, the children of her love (Seneca Falls Convention)The Declaration of Sentiments was the manifesto the Seneca Falls Convention brought into fruition.  Taking form and structure from the Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of Sentiments paralleled the struggles America faced with the social, political, economic, and religious repression women faced.  The inability of women to vote and own property, as well as many other inequalities regarding marriage, divorce, education, and employment were outlined in the document (“Declaration of Sentiments”).  The Declaration, Convention, and leaders of the time became the first to politicize these issues that would have major implications on the rest of history. Due to the rise of the Women’s Rights Movement, there was a sharp increase in the presence of feminist-themed literature.  Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, published in 1868, introduced beliefs that could, potentially, become a catalyst for change in society.  Adopting the stance of transcendentalism,  “Alcott believed that a woman’s knowledge of herself and her abilities gave her the power to assert herself in a patriarchal culture, to step out of the home, and abolish woman’s ‘sphere'” (Wester 34).  Taking another angle, Charlotte Perkins Gilman stressed the need for economic independence of women in her book Women and Economics – A Study of the Economic Relation Between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Evolution.  Through a shift in  the economic and cultural identities of the woman, the woman will no longer be reliant on the man.  Unlike the Transcendentalist viewpoint, Gilman justifies her wishes through a biological, Darwinian, viewpoint, and attempts to “restore science as the nineteenth century understood it to a position of prominence in the women’s movement of the twentieth” (Lloyd 98).  While women may have differed on the remedy to the patriarchal culture, they were given a voice in literature due to the rise of political voices in the Movement.The newly found voice for women resulted in both praise and outrage throughout the United States.  While there are numerous protests, rallies, and demonstrations that attempted to sway the thoughts of the Nation, activists were unsuccessful in including women in the 14th (citizenship) and 15th (voting rights) Amendments that African-American men benefitted from.  After these two pushbacks, the Women’s Rights Movement of the time began to morph into a quest for suffrage.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony were the founders of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), and Lucy Stone, another prominent advocate for women’s rights, founded the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).  Both of these organizations were centered around federal legislation to enact change.  Soon after, the two groups merged political beliefs and social backgrounds to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).  Their push for radical change led to Wyoming (1869), Colorado (1893), Utah in (1896), and Idaho (1896) becoming the first states to pass laws granting women the right to vote (“The Women’s Rights Movement, 1848-1920”).  While women achieved some breakthroughs through this legislation, the battle was to be taken to the national level.The quest for women’s suffrage was a long time coming, however, it was filled with many setbacks.  A constitutional amendment was brought to the floor in 1886, but was defeated.  The deaths of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1902) and Susan B. Anthony (1906) were significant blows to the movement, but leaders such as Alice Paul and Harriot Stanton Blatch, Elizabeth’s daughter, began to lead the cries for equality.  Adopting a more hands-on approach to change, groups such as the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women and the National Woman’s Party began to utilize techniques such as picketing and marches. Demonstrations outside of the White House persisted through World War I,  and, consequently, led to arrests and assault by servicemen.  The persistence through the attempted repression of free speech is best described through Alice Paul’s banner with one of President Woodrow Wilson’s slogans written on it: “The time has come to conquer or submit for there is but one choice–we have made it” (1915-1917: Formation of the National Woman’s Party and Picketing the White House).  On August 18th, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, granting women the right to vote.  Women became a major voice in their own nation, totalling over eight million votes in the following election (“19th Amendment”).  This landmark achievement marked a victory sought by the founders and influential figures of the Movement.The acquisition of the right to vote was seen as an important milestone, but not the end of the Movement.  Other achievements over the next decades include United States v.  One Package of Japanese Pessaries, which approved medicinal use of birth control in 1936, the Fair Labor Standards Act, which introduced a minimum wage clause protecting against discrimination in 1938, and Fay v. New York, which confirmed that women were equally capable of serving on juries in 1947 (“Timeline of Legal History of Women in the United States”).  There was a revival of many of  the cries for the equality of the past in the early 1960s.  Termed “Second Wave Feminism,” the turn of the decade brought the presence of socioeconomic and cultural inequalities to the forefront once more.  Betty Friedan, prominent American author and women’s activist, published The Feminine Mystique in 1963, and is widely credited with bring many of the issues of the earlier century to light once more.  Friedan elaborated on the problem that “lay buried, unspoken”:Experts told them women  how to catch a man and keep him, how to breastfeed children and handle their toilet training, how to cope with sibling rivalry and adolescent rebellion; how to buy a dishwasher, bake bread, cook gourmet snails, and build a swimming pool with their own hands; … to pity the neurotic, unfeminine, unhappy women who wanted to be poets or physicists or presidents.  They learned that truly feminine women do not want careers, higher education, political rights–the independence and the opportunities that the old-fashioned feminists fought for.  Some women, in their forties and fifties, still remembered painfully giving up those dreams … all they had to do was devote their lives from earliest girlhood to finding a husband and bearing children (Friedan 15-16).The Second Wave of the Feminist Movement faced extreme scrutiny from the time of its inception.  The Movement took place during the time of numerous other movements, such as the Civil Rights Movement, Environmental Movement, Gay Rights Movement, and Anti-War Movement.  Consequently, this wave differed greatly from the “First Wave” of the Feminist Movement.  Unlike the First Wave of the Movement, which mainly consisted of straight, middle-class, white women, the Second Wave contained supporters coming from many different walks of life.  Joining the Movement were African-Americans,  environmental activists, members of the homosexual community, and college-aged citizens from across the nation.  While civil rights activists created the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), feminist activists created the National Organization for Women (NOW).  Like the activists that preceded them, activists of the Second Wave faced extreme backlash.  The wishes of the feminist activists were seen as inconsequential in comparison to the segregation, pollution, ostracization, and active war going on at the time.  Nevertheless, the Movement persisted in its attempts to reduce discrimination and change the still-sexist culture (“Women’s movement”).  Achievements of the Second Wave of the Feminist Movement include the passage of the Equal Pay Act, legalizing equal pay for equal work in 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which extended protection against employment discrimination to women in 1964, Phillips v.  Martin Marietta Corporation, which eliminated the ability of private business to refuse to hire women with preschool children in 1971, and Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal in 1973 (“Timeline of Legal History of Women in the United States”).The advances made by the Second Wave of Feminism sparked a revival of feminist-themed literature.  Sexual Revival, written by Kate Millet in 1970, is a sharp critique of the male-dominated society and culture.  Written as somewhat of a parallel to the French Simone De Beauvoir’s book The Second Sex, Sexual Revival argues that the topic of sex has become so taboo for women, but celebrated for men.  Millet attributes this to the androcentric culture, and argues that the oppression has been ongoing, saying, “For it is precisely because certain groups have no representation in a number of recognized political structures that their position tends to be so stable, their oppression so continuous” (Millet 24).  Millet attributes the current situation to ideological, biological, sociological, and class issues.  Most importantly, Millet attributes the oppressive culture to force, magnifying issues in places such as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sicily (43).  Invigorating and critical, Millet represented victims of institutionalized and systemic sexism and oppression in the society activists were seeking to fix.The Women’s Rights Movement, and larger Feminist Movement, was the quest for change and equality in all aspects of society.  The dreams of Stanton, Anthony, and many other activists have been fulfilled in many ways.  However, there is still much work to be done.  From the inception of the Movements, both British and American literature have been at the forefront of documenting and organizing change on the political level.  Literature- and the arts as a whole- will, eventually, help to see the goals of the founders of the Movements through.

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