Every Woman Has Her Day: The Women’s Rights Movement in 19th Century
Most think of women’s rights as a recent struggle, however they do not realize that women have been fighting for their rights as early as the abolitionist fought for their civil rights. Ellen Dubois argues in Feminism and Suffrage: the Emergence of an Independent Women’s Movement in America, that the push for women’s rights was not an “isolated institutional reform,” but an “active social movement”.
(Newman) Abolitionists and Women’s suffrage movements were equally strong throughout the 19th Century.
Numerous organizations worked together to gain rights for abolitionist and women. While the two worked together to support one another this provided a practical experience for the women’s right supporters. It also restrained the two from chasing their own individual goals. Eventually, Abolitionist separated themselves from the women’s right movement feeling that the women’s rights were a hindrance to their goals. While women’s rights and abolition began their journey near the same time frame, the struggle remains the same for each of these groups; Women’s rights have been arguably successful, whereas abolitionists continue their struggle.
Woman worked closely with the abolitionists understanding that all humans were not being treated equally. Many women felt a sense of cohesiveness with the abolitionist as they were also treated unfairly and unjustly. According to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the women’s rights movement was essentially a budding off of the abolitionist movement.
Many of the members of one group supported the other movement. Many who had participated in the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls had already been to many other anti-slavery conventions. “Both movements promoted the expansion of the American premise of liberty and equality to African Americans and to women.” They both wanted what was promised to all Americans; life, liberty, and justice for all. Women attended many abolition conventions in support, even though they were not treated fairly at them. According to Courtney Hoffberger, “At the convention, the women were segregated from the male speakers and were resigned to hope that the men would speak for them.”
While they were allowed to attend these abolition conventions overseas and abroad women were treated unjustly having to sit in the outer bounds of the convention and they had no voice or input. They were treated as second-hand citizens, who had no opinion in any of the matters being presented. According to Lisa Shawn Hogan, women were able to come to the abolitionist movement, but were not allowed to join the American Anti-slavery Society (AASS). “In the early years of the abolitionist movement, women were permitted to attend public meetings but were prohibited from officially joining the AASS. As a result of their exclusion, female antislavery societies emerged across New England, culminating in the formation of the first National Female Antislavery Society in 1837.” A new society was born, one where women were in control of their organization. Several participants converged to assist in the women’s right movement.
According to the Women’s Rights National historical park, the people who collaborated the Women’s Rights Convention and their families were all part of the abolitionist movement as well. Families like the Mott’s, Stanton’s, M’Clintocks and Hunts were active abolitionists who participated in the women’s right movement and were part of the success of the Seneca Falls Convention. “The organizers and their families – the Motts, Wrights, Stanton’s, M’Clintock’s and Hunt’s – were active abolitionists to a greater or lesser degree.” As stated on the Women’s Rights National Historical Park website, the Hunts and M’Clintocks along with 200 other Quakers formed a more radical group of Quakers known as the Progressive Friends. In truth, the Quakers were huge in the break of how women were allowed to attend functions and be treated as women are treated in today’s society. “The work of these Progressive Quakers helped initiate sweeping changes in America, changes that would reflect their ideals of equality.
The lessons they provided in how to change society through public action are reflected in today’s rallies, demonstrations, and social activism.” “Frederick Douglass wrote to Kelley, “in token of my respect and gratitude to you, for having stood forth so nobly in defense of Woman and the Slave…Our hearts have been cleared and animated and strengthened by your presence.” Fredrick Douglass and Abbey Kelley Foster were both guest speakers at the First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1848. Each were both abolitionist and women’s rights advocates. This exchange between the two confirmed for Kelley the commitment she had for gender and racial equalities. Abbey Kelly Foster is also noted for being one of many abolitionist who signed a call in support of the first national women’s convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. Women became active in various activities and became more coherent in the way that they wrote about their struggles.
Margaret Fuller and Susan B. Anthony fought for women to perform in male dominant professions. They focused their goals on providing women with the opportunity to work in professions such as lawyers, doctors, and writers. From the book, United States History: to 1877, “Margaret Fuller and Susan B. Anthony led the crusade to give them the right to enter professions and to give them equality before the law.” The shift of the working class during the Civil War opened many opportunities for women in today’s world. After the Civil War women were in need of positions as many were now widows or needed to work outside of the home to help with the financial needs of the household. “When hundreds of jobs in the government offices were opened up to women during the war, no one could have predicted how significant this would be. By 1875 the number in Washington had doubled. Federal, state, and local agencies, business firms and institutions were employing women clerks, bookkeepers, stenographers and receptionists.” Women took advantage of these positions to benefit themselves as well as their households. They became motivated by patriotism and plain sense of poverty aptitude, many white women were now working outside the home to earn a pay check for the first time in their lives.
The impact that each movement has made in our history reflects on how they have progressed in today’s society. Modern day women have come so very far from what had been in the abolition times. While still faltering at equal pay and high positions within organizations, women have made much progress in the realms of being able to vote and voice their opinions. “Today the number of women registered to vote exceeds the number of registered men by 8.3 million. In addition, women can not only expect to receive unbiased consideration by university admissions offices, but they are the majority gender of enrolled students. They can even earn their own income and not have to turn it over to their husbands. As strange as it sounds now, it was not always the case.”
Since women now have a right to vote, thanks to the powerful women and men of our past that fought so hard to make this possible; women outnumber men when registering to vote at elections. While the struggles have been equally fought, Women’s rights and Abolition began their journey near the same time; while women’s rights have been arguably successful abolitionist continue their struggle. In closing the time period of the 19th Century, many changes were brought upon to our nation. How we accept the voice of the African-American as well as women’s voices are just two of those changes. There are so many in our history that need to be acknowledge for the privileges that we take for granted today. The next time we, as women, complain that we do not get paid enough or cannot find a job that is equal to a male, remember the struggles that our gender has been through and thank them for fighting for what we do have today. I know I will.
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3. Hoffberger, Courtney. “Nineteenth Century Reform Movements: Women Rights.” University of Maryland, Baltimore County. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 July 2013. .
4. Hogan, Lisa S. “A Time for Silence: William Lloyd Garrison and the “Woman Question” at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention.” Gender Issues 25.2 (2008): 65. Web. 7 July 2013.
5. Klose, Nelson, and Robert Francis Jones. “14 Reform Movements before the Civil War 1815-1861.” United States History to 1877. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s, 1994. 210. Print.
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8. “The Quaker Influence on the Seneca Falls Convention.” Women’s Rights National Historical Park. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 July 2013. .
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Every Woman Has Her Day: The Women’s Rights Movement in 19th Century. (2016, May 05). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/every-woman-has-her-day-the-womens-rights-movement-in-19th-century/