Throughout history, women have been dominated by men, and were not given their human rights, simply because they were women. Nevertheless, starting the eighteenth century, some women started showing their dissatisfaction with their unfair conditions. They came to realize that since they were human beings, then they must have equal rights as men. In this paper, I intend to show the historical back ground of the earliest womens movements in the world, and to state the major achievement of these movements. Finally, I would like to throw some light on the changes in the status of women in Lebanon.
Women have not been sleeping when it came to their rights. However, women have not been able to anything about their rights for several reasons. For example, the role of women was to take care of the home while the husband was winning bread for the family. In addition to this, very few women could read and write, and therefore, they did not have the means to express themselves, or to start organized actions.
With the rise of equality of all men and democracy by the end of the eighteenth century, the cause of women started, particularly in the year 1792 when the first feminist publication was written by Mary Wollestonecraft, a British woman who was devoted to the cause of liberating women from their chains. The famous publication was known as the vindication of the rights of women.
According to this publication which is the first organized step towards womens liberation, the aim of womens movements would be to eliminate the sexual discrimination against women on the political, economic and social level, so that women would have equal rights to men (Grolier, 1).
Grolier Electronic Publishing shows that the first problem women faced was suffrage. While men were able to vote and to participate in the political life, women were not. Therefore, the efforts were united and aimed at winning the right to vote. Consequently, in 1903, the women social and political union (WSPU) was established with its main goal as winning the right of suffrage for women. The Union was under the leadership of Emmiline Panhurst who was able to lead her fellow women in Britain in demonstrations that protested against the inequality of men.
The British Public opinion was divided and many women were arrested and send to jail for their participation in the demonstration (1).
In 1914, the World War I broke out, and the struggle by the Union stopped until the war was over. However, the Union and other womens organizations supported the government in its war, particularly by participating in voluntary jobs and other efforts that enabled Britain to stand on its feet until the war was over. Once the war was over, the government returned the favor by granting the British women the right to vote in 1918, but the voting age for women was 30 whereas for men it was 21. The vote ages for both sex were not made equal until in 1928. Despite this great achievement, the struggle for equality and liberation did not stop (Grolier, 1).
An article in Grolier state: at the same time that the British women were struggling for their freedom, the American women were also on the same road towards liberty. The first organized movement for womens cause in the US started in 1848, though it was among the voices calling for antislavery rather than for the liberation of women. In 1850, the first convention for womens rights was held and it was known as the National Womens Rights Convention. Thirteen years later, the Womens National Loyal League was established under the leadership of Susan B. Antony who became famous for the proposal she wrote to the Congress in 1878, calling for the amendment for the constitution so that women could vote. This famous letter was supported by huge demonstrations and protests by men and women until the amendment was ratified as the 19th Amendment.
This Amendment, however, did not become law until 1920. Wyoming was the first state to allow women to vote in 1890 (1).
During the period between the World War I and World War II, women in many countries in the world, specially in Europe gained .