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Her insight has been borne out time and again throughout the development of this country of ours. Being allowed to live life in an atmosphere of religious freedom, having a voice in the government you support with your taxes, living free of lifelong enslavement by another person. These beliefs about how life should and must be lived were once considered outlandish by many.

But these beliefs were fervently held by visionaries whose steadfast work brought about changed minds and attitudes. Now these beliefs are commonly shared across U. Another initially outlandish idea that has come to pass: United States citizenship for women. Over the past seven generations, dramatic social and legal changes have been accomplished that are now so accepted that they go unnoticed by people whose lives they have utterly changed.

Many people who have lived through the recent decades of this process have come to accept blithely what has transpired. And younger people, for the most part, can hardly believe life was ever otherwise. They take the changes completely in stride, as how life has always been. The staggering changes for women that have come about over those seven generations in family life, in religion, in government, in employment, in education — these changes did not just happen spontaneously. Women themselves made these changes happen, very deliberately. Women have not been the passive recipients of miraculous changes in laws and human nature.

Seven generations of women have come together to affect these changes in the most democratic ways: through meetings, petition drives, lobbying, public speaking, and nonviolent resistance. They have worked very deliberately to create a better world, and they have succeeded hugely. On that sweltering summer day in upstate New York, a young housewife and mother, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was invited to tea with four women friends. Surely the new republic would benefit from having its women play more active roles throughout society.

This was definitely not the first small group of women to have such a conversation, but it was the first to plan and carry out a specific, large-scale program. Today we are living the legacy of this afternoon conversation among women friends. Within two days of their afternoon tea together, this small group had picked a date for their convention, found a suitable location, and placed a small announcement in the Seneca County Courier. They saw their mission as helping the republic keep its promise of better, more egalitarian lives for its citizens.

In this Declaration of Sentiments, Stanton carefully enumerated areas of life where women were treated unjustly. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. Strong words… Large grievances… And remember: This was just seventy years after the Revolutionary War. But this Declaration of Sentiments spelled out what was the status quo for European-American women in America, while it was even worse for enslaved Black women. That summer, change was in the air and Elizabeth Cady Stanton was full of hope that the future could and would be brighter for women.

That women should be allowed to vote in elections was almost inconceivable to many. Even the heartfelt pleas of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a refined and educated woman of the time, did not move the assembly. Not until Frederick Douglass, the noted Black abolitionist and rich orator, started to speak, did the uproar subside. Woman, like the slave, he argued, had the right to liberty. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and national Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions, embracing every part of the country.

In ridicule, the entire text of the Declaration of Sentiments was often published, with the names of the ers frequently included. Just as ridicule today often has a squelching effect on new ideas, this attack in the press caused many people from the Convention to rethink their positions.

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Many of the women who had attended the convention were so embarrassed by the publicity that they actually withdrew their atures from the Declaration. But most stood firm. Some drew such large crowds that people actually had to be turned away for lack of sufficient meeting space! Elizabeth Cady Stanton and women like Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Sojourner Truth traveled the country lecturing and organizing for the next forty years. Eventually, winning the right to vote emerged as the central issue, since the vote would provide the means to achieve the other reforms. All told, the campaign for woman suffrage met such staunch opposition that it took 72 years for the women and their male supporters to be successful.

As you might imagine, any year campaign includes thousands of political strategists, capable organizers, administrators, activists and lobbyists. Among these women are several activists whose names and and accomplishments should become as familiar to Americans as those of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. Inas the suffrage victory drew near, the National American Woman Suffrage Association reconfigured itself into the League of Women Voters to ensure that women would take their hard-won vote seriously and use it wisely.

Many suffragists became actively involved with lobbying for legislation to protect women workers from abuse and unsafe conditions. This movement not only endorsed educating women about existing birth control methods.

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It also spread the conviction that meaningful freedom for modern women meant they must be able to decide for themselves whether they would become mothers, and when. For decades, Margaret Sanger and her supporters faced down at every turn the zealously enforced laws denying women this right. Ina Supreme Court decision declassified birth control information as obscene. Still, it was not until that married couples in all states could obtain contraceptives legally.

What occurred in the s was actually a second wave of activism that washed into the public consciousness, fueled by several seemingly independent events of that turbulent decade. Each of these events brought a different segment of the population into the movement. The report issued by that commission in documented discrimination against women in virtually every area of American life. State and local governments quickly followed suit and established their own commissions for women, to research conditions and recommend changes that could be initiated.

The Feminine Mystique evolved out of a survey she had conducted for her year college reunion. In it she documented the emotional and intellectual oppression that middle-class educated women were experiencing because of limited life options. The book became an immediate bestseller, and inspired thousands of women to look for fulfillment beyond the role of homemaker.

Next: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was passed, prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race, religion, and national origin. But it passed, nevertheless. With its passage, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was established to investigate discrimination complaints. But it was quickly obvious that the commission was not very interested in pursuing these complaints.

Betty Friedan, the chairs of the various state Commissions on the Status of Women, and other feminists agreed to form a civil rights organization for women similar to the NAACP. Inthe National Organization for Women was organized, soon to be followed by an array of other mass-membership organizations addressing the needs of specific groups of women, including Blacks, Latinas, Asians-Americans, lesbians, welfare recipients, business owners, aspiring politicians, and tradeswomen and professional women of every sort.

During this same time, thousands of young women on college campuses were playing active roles within the anti-war and civil rights movement. At least,that was their intention. They came together to form child care centers so women could work outside their homes for pay. These clinics provided a safe place to discuss a wide range of health concerns and experiment with alternative forms of treatment.

With the inclusion of Title IX in the Education Codes ofequal access to higher education and to professional schools became the law. The whole world saw how much American women athletes could achieve during the last few Olympic Games, measured in their astonishing s of gold, silver, and bronze medals. This was another very visible result of Title IX. The average age of women when they first marry has moved from twenty to twenty-four during that same period.

Do you realize that just 25 years ago married women were not issued credit cards in their own name? That most women could not get a bank loan without a male co-er? That women working full time earned fifty-nine cents to every dollar earned by men? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled this illegal inbut since the EEOC had little enforcement power, most newspapers ignored the requirement for years. The National Organization for Women NOWhad to argue the issue all the way to the Supreme Court to make it possible for a woman today to hold any job for which she is qualified.

And so now we see women in literally thousands of occupations which would have been almost unthinkable just one generation ago: dentist, bus driver, veterinarian, airline pilot, and phone installer, just to name a few. The Equal Rights Amendment Is Re-Introduced Then, inthe Equal Rights Amendment, which had languished in Congress for almost fifty years, was finally passed and sent to the states for ratification.

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Unlike so many other issues which were battled-out in Congress or through the courts, this issue came to each state to decide individually. Marches were staged in key states that brought out hundreds of thousands of supporters.

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House meetings, walk-a-thons, door-to-door canvassing, and events of every imaginable kind were held by ordinary women, many of whom had never done anything political in their lives before. But Elizabeth Cady Stanton proved prophetic once again. Opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment, organized by Phyllis Schlafly, feared that a statement like the ERA in the Constitution would give the government too much control over our personal lives.

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They charged that passage of the ERA would lead to men abandoning their families, unisex toilets, gay marriages, and women being drafted. And the media, purportedly in the interest of balanced reporting, gave equal weight to these deceptive arguments just as they had when the possibility of women winning voting rights was being debated. And, just like had happened with woman suffrage, there were still very few women in state legislatures to vote their support, so male legislators once again had it in their power to decide if women should have equal rights.

When the deadline for ratification came inthe ERA was just three states short of the 38 needed to write it into the U. Despite polls consistently showing a large majority of the population supporting the ERA, it was considered by many politicians to be just too controversial. Allowing women to go to college?

That would shrink their reproductive organs! Employ women in jobs for pay outside their homes? That would destroy families! Cast votes in national elections?

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History of the Women’s Rights Movement