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    Women Launch the Campaign for Equality

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    Throughout history, there has always been a barrier in society that has prevented the participation of women and African Americans in the public sphere. As these groups tried to solve issues with society, white men would try to keep the status quo of the social structure and avoid change. In modern times, there are no laws or specific boundaries defined by race or gender, but this was not always true. Women were the first marginalized sector of society to find pathways into the public sphere.

    Prior to, during, and after the American Revolution, women fought for their rights with conferences and with their participation in factory work. With these methods, women were able to start to eliminate the idea that they were incapable of anything but housework and being a mother, and introduce themselves into public spheres such as government and intellectual fields.

    Throughout the 1700s and 1800s, an idea called the “Cult of Domesticity” originated. It stated that the only purpose of a woman was to be a mother and do housework in the private sphere. Although this did not bother women initially, because they were accustomed to those traditional roles, they came to realize that they were not able to influence society from their place in the home, and that they were considered “inferior” to men. This idea lowered the social status of women.

    During the 1800s, women often worried about others but would ruin their own lives in order to do so, for they were “selfless wives and mothers” (Fraiman, 2011, p. 262). They worked so hard that it was detrimental to their health, all for the sake of their families. To compound this issue, women, like African Americans, were not allowed to vote and were denied jural actions; women were not considered citizens. These women were not able to have jobs in the public sphere and had little to no rights compared to men: “along with marital conflicts over women’s undue domestic burden”(Russell-Robinson, 1993, p. 28) This is one of the many ideas that lit a flame of yearning for rights and education, equal to that of men.

    One of the main reasons for women fighting was equality in education. Rurally in the 1800s, 95% of women housekept while the men of the household worked outside of the home. This was not due to a lack in intellectual curiosity, but to a lack of educational opportunities given to girls (Simkin, 2008). In turn, young women started applying for entrance to male schools. As a consequence of women not getting accepted, schools for young women started to open. This soon created a large amount of young women graduating from college. However, this education of young women created a gap between those who were educated and those who were not.

    Even though educated women desired jobs in the public sphere, it was difficult for them, for at the time, given social circumstances, women would have to choose a job or a family. This created a dilemma: pursue professionalism or pursue a family. As time progressed, however, there were more and more professional women and it did become possible to practice a profession as well as having a family. The results of this are apparent today where women are shown a level of equality that they used to not have. Though this was a huge accomplishment, the inability to participate in government still stood in women’s way.

    The battle for a voice in politics would soon ensue as the Suffrage Cause became established (Russell-Robinson, 1993, p. 52). During the 18th century, the American government was established by the people’s votes. The issue was that voting was limited to males. In other words, “people” only referred to white male people. This meant that women could not vote and women could not express their views, even though many were now educated. Many women, in turn, joined the Suffrage Movement.

    Elizabeth Robins, a figure in the Suffrage Movement, said, “The conditions of modern life are more and more separating the sexes. Instead of still further dividing us, Women’s Suffrage is in reality the bridge between the chasm” (Simkin, 2008). This battle for Women’s Suffrage was fought for decades and bridged the gap. Finally, on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment of the Constitution was ratified, allowing women to vote.

    During the 1800s, women and African Americans saw a great chasm of equality in society and answered it with a call for help. For women, the fight for political equality culminated the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the ability to vote as well as granting equal education. Today, the impact of women is apparent everywhere from the recent running of a woman president to the “me too” movement. Though a “perfect” society where all people have equal rights and influence may be impossible, the opportunities given to close the gap between marginalized groups and white males are continually being expanded, which is a development of the work that women did in the 1800s when they began to demand to be recognized in the public sphere of influence.

    Works Cited:

    • Russell-Robinson, Joyce. (1993). Feminism across the Disciplines: St. Augustine College. North Carolina, USA.
    • Simkin, John. (1997). Marriage in the 19th Century: Spartacus Educational. 10, Dec. 2018
    • Fraiman, S. (2011). Bad Girls of Good Housekeeping: Dominique Browning and Martha Stewart. American Literary History, 23(2), 260-282. Retrieved from

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