The 1920th And The 1960th Women Movements Essay Samples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Women, Movement, Women's Rights, Democracy, Social Issues, Freedom, Elections, Voting

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2020/12/29


Voting right for women that seems so commonplace now has been the result of 100 years of struggle. Women Suffrage Movement, which initiated in the 1820s, resulted in the ratification of women’s voting right through the implementation of the 19th amendment 100 years later in 1920 (Hartmann 1998). Known as the first wave of feminism, women suffrage movement, though brought voting power to women, did not give equal parity to women with their male counterparts in all aspects of life. Women's condition was still secondary to men, who dominated and controlled the lives of their wives, daughters and sisters. Women’s choice and scope in all the matters of life were limited. They were discouraged to do any job and were expected to follow only one traditional path of marrying in their early 20s, starting a family quickly and devoting their entire life to taking care of their children and husbands. In the words of one woman of that era, "The female doesn't really expect a lot from life. She's here as someone's keeper — her husband's or her children's" (Rosen 2006, p. 150). Even if women worked, their positions and payments were not at par with men. So it seems that although the suffrage movement earned women their voting right in the 1920s, women’s status was still relegated to that of secondary citizens in comparison with their better halves. It was, therefore, a time when the second wave of feminism, the women liberation movement took place to give women equal status to that of men. This paper would draw a comparative study between the first and second wave of feminism, touching upon the similarities and differences between the two landmark women movements that reformed and revolutionized the lives of women, bringing an array of changes to the way women were treated.

Women Suffrage Movement

The movement for equal suffrage took place in the 1820s, a few decades before the Civil War Began. In fact, much of struggle for women’s suffrage went parallelly with the Civil War. 1848 was a landmark year for the women suffrage movement in the USA as it was in this year that the first convention for women rights took place in upstate New York. Famously known as the Seneca Falls Convention, this convention was organized by Lucretia Motts and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Hartmann 1998). This convention that drew of a crowd of over 300 people dwelt on issues like women suffrage, protection of women in family and marriage. However, most of the debates did not reach any conclusion, because of strong and radically differing opinions of the women leaders (Marilley 1989).
Though the movement for women’s suffrage gained much steam in the 1850s, it failed to gain any momentum and reach an outcome for a period of many years because of several reasons. Firstly, the movement lost its significance because of the Civil War. Secondly, women at that time were so much dominated by the society at large and by their male counterparts that the number of activists for women’s suffrage movement was few and far between with only a handful of people taking endeavors to earn women their voting rights at the local level, but those few people too could not come together on the same platform to voice their opinion due to strong differences in opinion (DeVries 2000). Thirdly, women themselves were strongly opposed to the voting rights of women. A group of white conservative religious women cherished the notion that women’s duty lied in raising their children, taking care of the household and family, and acting religiously. They viewed the suffrage movement as sacrilegious. Finally, opposition to women's suffrage movement was stronger than ever. The male opponents applied violence to disrupt the regional as well as national women's rights conventions (Marilley 1989). Besides, the prevailing laws of that time were in favor of men and posed a barrier to women's suffrage campaign. Since married women were totally under the control of their husbands with their legal existence completely suspended after marriage, they were forced to behave as their husbands pleased. Married women could not sign legal contracts, making it difficult for the activists to organize conventions or other things required to give momentum to the movement.

Women Liberation Movement in the 1960s

Women in the 1960s had the entire responsibility of housekeeping and child care and spent 55 hours a week, on an average, on executing domestic chores. Even those 38% women who did work outside the perimeter of home had their roles largely limited to the jobs like teacher, secretary, and nurse. Women were not encouraged to join professional programs. In the words of one medical school dean, "Hell yes, we have a quotaWe do keep women out, when we can. We don't want them here" (Collins 2009, p. 135). Consequently, in 1960, only 6% women were doctors, 3% were lawyers, and less than 1% engineers (Rosen 2006). It was a common practice to give lower salaries to working women than their male counterparts. They were frequently denied any opportunity for promotion or advancement in their career as the common belief among employers was that women would soon quit their jobs when they would become pregnant, and that women, unlike men, did not have the responsibility of supporting a family. Women still did not have any legal property rights or right to their husbands' earnings, whereas husbands were allowed to control their wives' earnings and property (Collins 2009). No-fault divorce was not allowed, and even if a marriage soured, there was no way to get divorce unless it could be proved that the wrongdoing lied on the part of the husbands. The women liberation movement of the 1960s, therefore, mainly emphasized on removing the inequality that hindered women from receiving the same treatment as men.

Comparison between Women’s Suffrage Movement and Women’s Liberation Movement

Just as women’s suffrage movement went parallelly with the Civil War, same way the women’s liberation movement coincided with the Civil Rights Movement. The activists of the second wave of feminism mainly concentrated on the prohibition of gender discrimination. They wanted anti-discrimination laws to be introduced in the Civil Rights Act that was underway at that time. Women’s suffrage movement mainly focused on gaining voting rights for women, but women’s liberation movement alongside fighting for workplace inequality also focused on bringing equality to women in all aspects of life, giving women the right to birth control and abortion, equality in marriage, childcare and household chores, and property rights.
Just as the women's suffrage movement was fragmented with two groups of women divided in opinion, same way the liberation movement too witnessed strong differences between women activists. As soon as the Civil War over, the women’s suffrage movement took momentum again, but due to the existence of strong differing opinions among women leaders, the movement was fragmented, and this impacted the suffrage movement considerably (Marilley 1989). National Women Suffrage Association (NWSA) created by Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton was entirely run by women who opposed the African-American suffrage paying more attention to national suffrage of white women. American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) created by Lucy Stone was run by both men and women who sought voting rights for both black and white men and women (DeVries 2000). Due to these differences, the movement did not reach any fruitful conclusion for years. Finally when in 1890, both these organizations merged into National American Suffrage Association (NAWSA), that the movement became united and gained strong national support. Meanwhile, during the early decades of the 20th century, women began actively participating in all outdoor activities by beginning to work in hospitals, factories, and restaurants. Women's participation in World War I worked as a final catalyst to the suffrage movement with the 19th amendment ratifying the voting rights of women in 1920 (DeVries 2000).
However, unlike the suffrage movement, which was divided into two parties because of the strong opinion differences among the two or three prominent women leaders, the liberation movement was divided into several groups, such as young and old, upper class and lower-class, radical and conservative. Older generational leaders like Betty Friedan disapproved of what they termed as "bra-burning, anti-man, politics-of-orgasm" school of feminism, while younger participants of the feminist movement did not trust the older generation and viewed National Organization for Women (NOW) as suffocating and out of touch with the reality (Helgesen 1997). In the words of one young feminist leader, "NOW's demands and organizational style weren't radical enough for us" (Rosen 2006, p. 30).
The suffrage movement was mainly focused on earning women their voting rights. It did not have any other agenda, but the liberation movement of the 1960s campaigned in favor of the legalization of abortion, bringing light to the fact that many women illegally did abortions anyway through means that endangered their lives. They also spoke against sexual harassment and domestic abuse (Rosen 2006). By the late 1970s, the women liberation movement attained a huge success in terms of outlawing gender discrimination in college sports, education, and gaining financial credits; prohibiting gender discrimination against pregnant women; legalizing abortion and birth control; and establishing "irreconcilable differences" as reasons for divorce and equal division of property at the time of divorce (Helgesen 1997).


Voting right for women was earned after 100 years of struggle in 1920. The attainment of suffrage rights for women in 1920 paved the way for improving the quality of women's life in the USA. What began in 1820 as women's suffrage movement witnessed a fruitful result in 1920 through the ratification of women's suffrage in the 19th amendment. However, the voting right itself did not give women equal status to women, who were still languishing in a state secondary to men. They were expected to fulfill traditional roles of wives and mothers with no identity of their own. They did not have any right to their husbands' earning or property. They were divested of their legal rights as soon as they were married. The few women who worked were not paid equally as their male counterparts. They faced discrimination in the workplace in terms of wages and overall treatment. Due to these reasons, the women's liberation took place in the 1960s, which resulted in bringing a good many positive changes for uplifting women's position in the society. Both the suffrage movement and women's liberation movement shared many similarities in terms of both the movement coinciding with civil war and civil rights movement. The differences of opinion among women activists delayed and impacted the outcome of both the movements. In both the movements, despite the differences, women continued their struggle with persistence, resulting in successful outcomes.

Work Cited

Rosen, Ruth. The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.
Helgesen, Sally. Everyday Revolutionaries: Working Women and the Transformation of American Life. New York: Doubleday, 1997. Print.
Collins, Gail. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009. Print.
DeVries, Jacqueline R. "Suffrage Days: Stories From The Women's Suffrage Movement (Review)". Victorian Studies. 42 (3), 517-518. 2000. Print.
Hartmann, Susan M. "Transforming Women, Transforming Politics: The U.S. Woman Suffrage Movement". Reviews in American History. 26 (2), 390-394. 1998. Print.
Marilley, Suzanne. "Towards A New Strategy For The ERA: Some Lessons From The American Woman Suffrage Movement". J. of Women, Politics & Policy. 9 (4), 23-42. 1989. Print.

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