The History of Feminism
The definition of feminism is very elusive. Maybe because of its ever-changing historical meaning, it’s not for certain whether there is any coherence to the term feminism or if there is a definition that will live up to the movement’s variety of adherents and ideas. In the book “No Turning Back,” author Estelle Freedman gives an accurate four-part definition of the very active movement: “Feminism is a belief that women and men are inherently part of equal worth. Because most societies privilege men as a group, social movements are necessary to achieve equality between women and men, with the understanding that gender always intersects with other social hierarchies” (Freedman 7).
Many historians believe that the roots for feminism began in ancient Greece with Sappho or during the medieval times. Most certainly though, the foremothers of the modern women’s movement were Jane Austen, Olympes de Gouge, and Mary Wollstonecraft; these women all advocated for the full potential of the female gender. (Rampton)
Mary Wollstonecraft published one of the seminal works for modern day feminism in 1792. “Vindication of the Rights of Women” argued that all women should get an equal education and allow them to become independent, whole people. She stated that the current education system restricted women’s potential to help make society and well with family and their home better. Wollstonecraft’s book was one of the first to clearly outline the need for change and helped early feminists immensely (Conger). Even through all of the events in the 18th century, the feminist movement didn’t form into an identifiable and self-conscious movement until the late 19th century (Rampton).
Currently, there are three “waves” of feminism. The first wave is the most familiar and took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The goal of the first wave was to open up opportunities for women with its primary focus on suffrage. In its early stages, feminism was interrelated with temperance and abolitionist movements while giving a voice to now-famous activists like Sojourner Truth. The discussions about voting and women’s participation in politics soon led to the examining about society’s views on men and women and their differences (Rampton).
After women won the right to vote, the second wave of feminism began in the 1960s and continued on to the 90’s. This wave was highly associated with the anti-war and civil rights movement and the movement started growing conscious to a variety of minority groups all over the world. Out of three waves, the second wave’s voice was increasingly radical and theoretical as sexuality and reproductive rights were dominant issues. Protest began in Atlantic City in 1968 and 1969 against the Miss America Pageant. Many activists thought it to be a degrading “cattle parade” that reduced women to only objects produced by the...