Historical Transitioning Within Feminist Activism Essay

1425 words - 6 pages

No matter your affiliation regarding the origin of the species, be it evolutionary or intelligent design, historically women have long been viewed as little more than supporting cast members in the theatrical production known as humanity. In the evolutionary perspective we think of primitive man as the hunter-gatherer whom, club in hand, wanders out of the cave to claim a woman with a blow to the head then dragging her back to the cave to propagate. In the intelligent design camp, as it pertains to Christianity, the first woman was created to alleviate man's loneliness, and so from the rib of a man she was formed. Neither of these ideas immediately invoke a line of thought that engenders an inherit equality among the sexes; thus creating a canyon of separation that has emboldened segregation in all nearly all facets of life.
From this glaring void sprang a movement that was as much philosophical as was social, this 'feminist' movement would qualitatively change the role women played in the world henceforth . Though the argument could be made that the earliest attempts at what may be considered feminist activism be traced back to 17th century Europe, this paper aims to concentrate mainly on the movements that transpired in the United States. The topic is of great interest, as it has caused since its inception a global paradigm shift in the ways women are treated in comparison to men.
First-Wave Feminism
Life for a woman in the 1800's was rather bleak by today's standards. Education for women was very limited. By and large women were constrained to learning little more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. The rest of the education of a woman focused primarily on domestic responsibilities such as cleaning and needle work, and to go beyond this level of erudition would draw criticism from society (Dicker, 2008, p. 21). Reading, especially the literature of Mary Wollstonecraft, undoubtedly played a very large role in women branching out from traditional roles and pursuing unconventional areas of activity and involvement. The public eye opened and had begun to see the immoral social inequity being forced upon women. However, one cannot deny the role of the church in 19th century and its involvement in making women more prominent figures in society. Fueled by the great awakening and the abolitionist movements women began taking on roles of responsibility and were gaining greater acceptance as individuals capable of great accomplishments. (Dicker, 2008, 24).
It is important to note that not all abolitionist movements were accepting or tolerant to women being involved in the narrative. Sarah Moore Grimke and Angelina Emily Grimke were two sisters who were very involved in the male dominated abolitionist movement in Philadelphia. The two were very outspoken and gave public speeches to large crowds that drew the scorn of the chauvinist society at the time (Weatherford, 1994, p. 152). The outcry at the 'impropriety' of their speeches, despite...

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