About Equality and Women’s Rights
Women in America have historically been viewed as inferior and have long suffered the ills and misfortunes of that labeling. During the years leading up to and beyond the Civil War, several women as well as men, challenged those views and fought for women’s rights. By examining the fight of these women, and using the theory of Intersectionality, this paper will illustrate the early years of the women’s’ suffrage movement shared many commonalities with the fight and struggle of the recently freed slaves of the time.
In 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, hundreds of women gathered together to demand changes within society regarding women’s rights. For the first time in history demands from women and early feminist were being heard. The Seneca Falls convention was established for individuals to discuss their complications with racism, professions, and the women’s right to vote. It’s important to understand that during this time it was a period of abolitionists, transcendentalists, and pacifists (“Coughlin, 1973”). These individuals were beginning to challenge existing orders and were calling women’s suffrage the remedy to society’s illness (“Coughlin, 1973”). Some of these individuals that were responsible for beginning to challenge these existing orders were Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Scott, and Frederick Douglass. These are only a few individuals listed that are responsible for the beginning of a new era.
Throughout my assigned chapters of “Women Race & Class” By. Angela Y. Davis numerous people were helping to fight the same battle. Throughout these assigned chapters Angela Y. Davis argues that discrimination, racism, sexism, and political issues are all problems when individuals were fighting for the right to vote (“Fregoso, 1999”). This battle that individuals were fighting was giving women the same rights as men. Specifically giving women the same rights as negro men. During this time period it was the post-Civil War era and African American males had recently received their freedom from slavery. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony saw this as a big problem for their movement. They saw the freedom of the African American male as a setback for the women’s right movement. It was argued by Frederick Douglas that although these males finally received their freedom it wasn’t the freedom they deserved. Douglas believed that these individuals were not completely free and “slavery was not abolished until the black man has the ballot” (“Davis, 1981”). Elizabeth Cady Stanton had a different opinion on the topic. Stanton believed that although these male individuals were given their freedom if the women were not given their deserved freedom by securing their rights it would form another form of slavery. These rights being the rights of a person, property, wages, and children (“Davis, 1981”). With these different opinion’s racism and discrimination become a big problem within the movement. Stanton believed that these African American males were being given more rights than women and believed it was impermissible.
Susan B. Anthony and Ida B. Wells were founders of the first Black women’s suffrage club. When creating this club and recruiting members for this club Susan B. Anthony made it prominent that white southern women were involved in their organization. She did this to clinch movement in her fight against women’s rights. In 1895 at a convention held in Atlanta Georgia the south adopted the idea that women suffrage is a solution to the negro problem (“Davis, 1981”). Henry Blackwell came up with the idea at this point that a way to solve this so-called negro problem was to make it mandatory to have a literacy qualification to earn the right to vote. Blackwell also believed that by coercing white southerners, woman suffrage would benefit white supremacy (“Davis, 1981”). In the end woman suffrage faces racial discrimination, misogyny, cultural differences, and sexism which results in a perception of lower value towards women. My paper will examine the discrimination, inequality, and sexism against women during the time of the women’s right suffrage movement. I argue that due to these discriminatory factors even today woman are still treated less than equal to men and seen as the weaker sex.
In 1840 at the World Anti-Slavery Convention, women had begun to realize abolitionism was a serious issue and something had to be done. This sparked the idea to form the organization known as the World Anti-Slavery Convention (“Davidson, 2017”). The World Anti-Slavery Convention according to Davis is the birthplace of the women’s movement in the United States (“Davis, 1981”). At the formation of this convention eight delegates were discriminated against and refused seats due to simply being females. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott elucidated by holding a separate convention for women’s rights. These two women decided to hold this separate convention due to their frustration of discrimination, misogyny, and sexism against women.
Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had their own individual reasons for wanting to fight for women’s rights other than being a woman. Lucretia Mott represented the American Anti-Slavery Society but had once been excluded from the group seven years prior to the Seneca Falls Convention. This exclusion helped Lucretia Mott. It helped Mott because it caused her anger and resentment (“Davis, 1981”). These things helped fuel her fire towards the fight of discrimination against women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton also had her own individual interest for fighting for women’s rights. Two examples would be Stanton experiencing sexism throughout her childhood and having an absorption in abolitionism (“Davis, 1981”).
When the outbreak of the Civil War took place sexual inequality and racism began to take place within society. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony demanded alterations. These alterations were “immediate and unconditional emancipation” (“Davis, 1981”). During this time Charles Sumner was a strong believer in the movement for women’s suffrage. It wasn’t until the postwar that Sumner began to disagree, and his attitude changed towards the movement. Sumner began to believe that Republicans were more focused on males and stated, “this is the negro’s hour” (“Davis, 1981”). He more specifically stated that Republicans were more focused on getting more than two million votes for their party than focusing on women’s suffrage. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her fellow fighters of the movement all eventually followed Sumner and his belief and stated during the postwar it became the hour of the male instead of focusing on equality. After the postwar women were potentially left behind when slaves finally earned their deserved freedom. When this debate was raised Angela Grimke stated, “I want to be identified with the negro.” She believed until the negro got his deserved rights women shall never earn their deserved rights (“Davis, 1981”). This led to more disagreements during the movement taking place during the time period 1866-1870.
During the time period of 1866-1870 the women’s rights suffrage movement was divided into two clear-cut divisions due to disagreements about the movement. One side of the movement was led by radical, anti-republicans Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. The other side of the movement was led by Lucy Stone and her husband Henry Blackwell (“Davidson, 2017”). This division was originally established because of the different beliefs on both sides of the “division”. These different beliefs were one side fighting for women’s suffrage and the other fighting for black suffrage (“Davidson, 2017”).
In 1867 at the first Equal Rights Association meeting Elizabeth Cady Stanton stated that it was more prominent for women to receive the right to vote than for African American men to win the vote (“Davis, 1981”). Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the other individuals fighting for this same fight fought that discrimination, sexism, and racism were all factors that were holding women back from getting what they so rightfully deserve. She echoed this idea that it was more important for women to receive the vote than African American men from Henry Beecher. The problem with Henry Beecher was that he was not fighting for women in general instead educated white women. This well-known abolitionist states that white educated women were far more deserving of having the right to vote then both African American men and immigrants (“Davis, 1981”).
The only solution to this distinct division was to join these parties into one. By joining the parties, a common goal, equal rights for all women, no matter what race. Eventually by joining these parties they began to share the same beliefs and started fighting the same fight together. Equal rights for all instead of just women. During this time Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton did everything in their power to convince abolitionist and radical republicans that equal rights could be used for both the black suffrage movement and the women’s suffrage movement.
The belief that the Caucasian race is more superior than any other race is known as white supremacy. These individuals did not understand what the movement was entirely about. I argue that white supremacy was a big factor holding women as a whole in general back during the women’s suffrage movement. During the nineteenth century the members of the women’s right movement finally accepted the fact that the white supremacy was in fact an issue for the movement (“Davis, 1981”). It was Henry Blackwell that believed white southern women fighting for the right to vote had an advantage with the support of the white supremacy (“Davis, 1981”).
It was not until 1868 until the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified. This amendment gave men specifically African American men the right to vote but excluded women altogether (“Davidson, 2017”). This upset the members of the women’s suffrage movement because they had been fighting for equality for quite a bit of time. I could believe it felt like it had been thrown in their face when members of black suffrage were given the right they were fighting for. This is when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed NWSA (National Woman Suffrage Association) (“Davidson, 2017”).
The formation of NWSA took the fight for equality to the next level. This organization was in charge of dealing with the social, economic, and political aspects of the association while taking the plan to the next level. These individuals committed to the association were plotting on how to get equality for women in the 16th amendment. It was then when the AWSA was founded. The AWSA is known as the American Woman Suffrage Association. This association was focused primarily on woman suffrage instead of the social, economic, and political aspects. These two associations eventually joined together becoming more powerful than ever. They were now known as NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association). It was not until 1920 that women were given what they fought so hardly for. These women were finally given equality. In 1920 all women were finally given the right to vote under the Nineteenth Amendment (“Davidson, 2017”). These women that were fighting for equality while fighting discrimination, sexism, and racism were finally given the same rights as men.
Intersectionality is a theory used to help individuals analyze and have a better understanding of the complexities of the world. It is important to understand that this theory argues that social constructs, political constructs, and life constructs cannot be understood by one factor. These constructs cannot be understood by one factor due to race, class, gender, and sexuality. It is also crucial to understand that intersectionality theory allows individuals to understand the complexities of society and themselves by using the axes of influence of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Women, Race, and Class related to intersectionality in many ways.
Women, Race, and Class relates to Intersectionality theory because the women fighting for women’s suffrage are being oppressed against because of their gender. These women are being discriminated against due to being female and not being given equal rights. Because of this woman are being discriminated against and not being given the same equal rights as men. These women are being differentiated against due to their gender and sexuality and are demanding changes within my chapter while facing disadvantages. These disadvantages being a woman during this time period fighting for women’s rights while facing racial discrimination specifically sexism.
I disagree with what took place within my chapters. I conclude that a weakness of my section is discriminating against women simply because of their sex. These women fought for equality while being discriminated against because of their gender, sexuality, and race. I would also critique how long the government took to give women the rights they deserved. A strength would be that women would play an important role in society, but this could also be a weakness because of how long it took individuals to realize the importance of women.
An important policy implication would be teaching women how important equality and the right to vote is. Another policy implication is teaching children in school how important the women’s suffrage movement was and what actually took place during this time period. I also find it important for children to know about the people responsible for the women’s suffrage movement. For example, a few of the individuals being Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and Lucretia Mott. I would also teach children the importance of International Women’s Day. I would teach children the importance of this international day because this day represents the importance of women’s suffrage. This day is celebrated every year on March 8th and most children have no idea the day even existence. I argue that it is important for children to know more about this especially for young women to know where their freedom and equality comes from.
During the time period from 1848-1920 women were fighting for equality and women’s suffrage. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were specific individuals that fought exclusively for equality and women’s rights. During this time women faced racial discrimination, misogyny, sexism, and cultural differences. This caused major setbacks within the movement. The theory of intersectionality can be used to explain the oppression that women experienced during the time period because of their gender. Due to discriminatory factors woman are still treated as the weaker sex and seen as lesser beings than men.
- Davidson, R. (2017). The Split in the Nineteenth-Century Women’s Suffrage Movement. New England Journal of History
- Coughlin, E. M., & Coughlin, C. E. (1973). Convention in Petticoats: The Seneca Falls Declaration of Woman’s Rights
- Davis, A. (1981). Women, race & class. London: Womens.
- Fregoso, R. L. (1999). “On the Road with Angela Davis.” Cultural Studies
- Hogan, L. S. (2006). Wisdom, Goodness and Power: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the History of Woman Suffrage. Gender Issues