It was the year 1840, at the world famous Anti-Slavery Convention in London, when Lucretia Mott decided she had dealt with enough. Born in 1793, Mott was a Quaker minister and advocate for anti-slavery who had no fear of standing up for what she felt was right. When women were refused the right to fully participate at the Anti-Slavery Convention, Mott became determined to fight for women’s rights. In 1848, she joined abolitionist Elizabeth Cady Stanton at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York for the first Convention dedicated to women’s rights. Quickly gaining support, these women fought for the right to vote and equal rights in education and employment. The Seneca Falls Convention triggered the feminist movement in the United States, giving women a voice and confidence to speak their mind, but it would take a few decades before significant changes began to take shape.
Throughout the twentieth century, women continued to fight for equality. In 1920, the nineteenth amendment finally gave women the right to vote, but they were still considered second-class citizens. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt as chair of the Commission on the Status of Women. After extensive research, the commission filed their results in the Peterson Report, confirming that women were being highly discriminated in the workplace. In 1963, Betty Friedan, a journalist and women’s rights activist, published The Feminine Mystique, which focused on the hopelessness of most housewives who longed for more in life. After these publications, women began to regain their motivation to fight for equality, sparking the Women’s Liberation Movement. They sought to end gender discrimination and achieve equal rights in politics, education and employment. The movement did not go unnoticed and soon changes began to rapidly take effect throughout the country.
The first big change for women was the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which made equal pay mandatory for equal work performed, regardless of gender. The following year, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination against race, religion, national origin and gender in the workforce. Betty Friedan then formed the National Organization for Women in 1966, which pushed for more women in government jobs, an increase in childcare facilities and to legalize abortion. The National Women’s Political Caucus was formed in 1969, followed by the National Black Women’s Political Leadership Caucus in 1971 to get more women into political offices. By 1974, Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which prohibited denial of credit based on gender. The Pan Asian American Women’s Organization formed in 1976 to increase the number of Asian-Pacific American women in politics. By the early 1990s, 53% of bachelor’s degrees and 54% of master’s degrees were earned by women.
Women have made great changes to their role in society, but they continue to face...