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Feminism in the United States


Feminism in the United States

Women's suffrage parade in New York City, May 6, 1912.

Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending a state of equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women.[1][2] Feminism in the United States is often divided chronologically into first-wave, second-wave, and third-wave feminism.[3]

As of the most recent Gender Gap Index measurement of countries by the World Economic Forum in 2014, the United States is ranked 20th on gender equality.[4]


  • First-wave 1
  • Second-wave 2
    • Music 2.1
  • Third-wave 3
  • Criticisms 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7


The first wave of feminism in the United States began with the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights convention, held at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York, on July 19 and 20, 1848.[5]

This Convention was inspired by the fact that in 1840, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton met Lucretia Mott at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, the conference refused to seat Mott and other women delegates from America because of their gender.[6] Stanton, the young bride of an antislavery agent, and Mott, a Quaker preacher and veteran of reform, talked then of calling a convention to address the condition of women.[6]

An estimated three hundred women and men attended the Convention, including notables Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglass.[6] At the conclusion, 68 women and 32 men signed the "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions", which was written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the M'Clintock family.[6]

The style and format of the "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions" was that of the "Declaration of Independence;" for example the "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions" stated, "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men and women are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights."[7] The Declaration further stated, "The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man towards woman."[7]

The declaration went on to specify female grievances in regard to the laws denying married women ownership of wages, money, and property (all of which they were required to turn over to their husbands; laws requiring this, in effect throughout America, were called coverture laws), women's lack of access to education and professional careers, and the lowly status accorded women in most churches.[7] Furthermore, the Declaration declared that women should have the right to vote.[7]

Two weeks later a Woman's Rights Convention was held in Rochester, New York on August 2.[8] It was followed by state and local conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.[8] The first National Woman's Rights Convention was held in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1850.[8] Women's rights conventions were held regularly from 1850 until the start of the Civil War.[9]

The Women's Christian Temperance Union. By the end of the 19th century only a few western states had granted women full voting rights,[10] though women had made significant legal victories, gaining rights in areas such as property and child custody.[11]

In 1866, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the [37]

A major disappointment of the second-wave feminist movement in the United States was President Nixon's 1972 veto of the Comprehensive Child Development Bill of 1972, which would have provided a multi-billion dollar national day care system.[38][39][40]

However, the main disappointment of the second wave feminist movement in the United States was the failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which states, "Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification." [41][42] The deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment expired in 1982.[43]

Many historians view the second wave feminist era in America as ending in the early 1980s with the Feminist Sex Wars, a split within the movement over issues such as sexuality and pornography. These disputes ushered in the era of third-wave feminism in the early 1990s.[44][45][46][47][48]


During second-wave feminism, women's music (music by women, for women and about women) was started by Cris Williamson, Meg Christian, Margie Adam, and the group titled Sweet Honey in the Rock. This wave of musical expression was rooted as an outlet for situations related to labor, peace movements, and civil rights, and was a part of the second-wave feminist movement. The term women's music does not only apply to musicians, but also includes producers, sound engineers, technicians, distributors, and promoters.


Third-wave feminism in the United States began in the early 1990s.[49][50] In 1991,

  • Century of Struggle: The Woman's Rights Movement in the United States, by Eleanor Flexner (1996)
  • Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967–1975, by Alice Echols (1990)
  • The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America, by Ruth Rosen (2006)

Further reading

  1. ^ "Feminism – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  2. ^ "Definition of feminism noun from Cambridge Dictionary Online: Free English Dictionary and Thesaurus". Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Engel, Kerilynn. "What Are the Three Waves of Feminism?". Answers. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  4. ^ "India Slides, US Gains in Gender Equality Ranking". ABC News. 
  5. ^ Encyclopedia of women and religion ... – Google Books. 2006.  
  6. ^ a b c d "seneca falls". Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c d "The Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership :: Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton". Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c "Women's Rights National Historical Park – Women's Rights Movement (U.S. National Park Service)". August 17, 2010. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Legacy '98: A Short History of the Movement". September 19, 2001. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  10. ^ Rebecca J. Mead, How the Vote Was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United States, 1868–1914 (2006)
  11. ^ Glenda Riley, Inventing the American Woman: An Inclusive History (2001)
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Votes for Women: Timeline". August 26, 1920. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  13. ^ Wyoming grants women the vote — This Day in History — 12/10/1869
  14. ^ Women vote in the West: the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1869–1896. New York:  
  15. ^ Danilov, Victor J. (2005). Women and museums: a comprehensive guide. Lanham, MD:  
  16. ^ Doug Linder. "The Susan B. Anthony Trial: A Chronology". Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  17. ^ "The LOC.GOV Wise Guide : The First Woman to Run for President . . . 50 Years Ago?". Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Who Is Victoria Woodhull?". Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Featured Document: The 19th Amendment". Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Second Wave Feminist". Association of Women Professionals. Association of Women Professionals. Jan 2014. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  21. ^ Epstein, Cynthia Fuchs. 1988. Deceptive Distinctions: Sex, Gender, and the Social Order. New Haven: Yale University Press
  22. ^ Sweet, Corinne (February 7, 2006). "Betty Friedan". The Independent (London). 
  23. ^ a b David Farber (2004). The Sixties Chronicle. Legacy Publishing. p. 150.  
  24. ^ David Farber (2004). The Sixties Chronicle. Legacy Publishing. p. 377.  
  25. ^ Hornig, Lilli S. (Jan 1, 1979). Climbing the Academic Ladder: Doctoral Women Scientists in Academe : a Report to the Office of Science and Technology Policy from the Committee on the Education and Employment of Women in Science and Engineering, Commission on Human Resources, National Research Council. Washington DC: National Academy of Sciences. p. 135.  
  26. ^ a b "Teaching With Documents: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission". National Archives and Records Administration Website. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Griswold v. Connecticut, The Impact of Legal Birth Control and the Challenges that Remain". Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Katharine Dexter McCormick Library. May 2000. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  28. ^ David Farber (2004). The Sixties Chronicle. Legacy Publishing. p. 256.  
  29. ^ McCarthy, Angie (November 14, 2011). "Reed v. Reed at 40: A Landmark Decision". National Women's Law Center (NWLC). National Women's Law Center (NWLC). Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  30. ^ U.S. News and World Report, Vol. 73, p. 69
  31. ^ Climbing the Academic Ladder: Doctoral Women Scientists in Academe, a Report to the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Washington DC: National Academies and The Committee on the Education and Employment of Women in Science and Engineering, Commission on Human Resources, National Research Council. 1979. p. 135. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  32. ^ Dunlap, Bridgette (March 22, 2013). "Eisenstadt v. Baird: The 41st Anniversary of Legal Contraception for Single People". RH Reality Check. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  33. ^ Greenhouse, Linda (February 27, 1992). "COURT OPENS PATH FOR STUDENT SUITS IN SEX-BIAS CASES". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  34. ^ "Abortion Rate in 1994 Hit a 20-Year Low". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. January 5, 1997. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  35. ^ "President Ford '76 Fact Book, Women". Gerald R. Ford Library. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  36. ^ "The Equal Credit Opportunity Act, by the United States Department of Justice". United States Department of Justice. United States Department of Justice. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  37. ^ "1968: Federal Fair Housing Act". The Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  38. ^ Nancy L. Cohen. "Child Care: America was very close to universal day care - New Republic". New Republic. Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  39. ^ Roth, William. The Politics of Daycare: The Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971. Discussion Papers 369-76. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Washington, DC., 1976.
  40. ^ Rosenberg, Rosalind. Divided Lives: American Women in the Twentieth Century. New York: Hill and Wang, 1992.
  41. ^ "The 1960s-70s American Feminist Movement: Breaking Down Barriers for Women". E-Collaborative for Civic Education. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  42. ^ "The Equal Rights Amendment Unfinished Business for the Constitution". Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  43. ^ "Social Revolution and the Equal Rights Amendment". Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  44. ^ Duggan, Lisa; Hunter, Nan D. (1995). Sex wars: sexual dissent and political culture. New York: Routledge.  
  45. ^ Hansen, Karen Tranberg; Philipson, Ilene J. (1990). Women, class, and the feminist imagination: a socialist-feminist reader. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.  
  46. ^ Gerhard, Jane F. (2001). Desiring revolution: second-wave feminism and the rewriting of American sexual thought, 1920 to 1982. New York: Columbia University Press.  
  47. ^  
  48. ^ Vance, Carole S. Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. Thorsons Publishers.  
  49. ^ Dicker, Rory (2008). A History of U.S. Feminisms. Berkeley, CA:  
  50. ^ a b Dicker, Piepmeier; Rory, Alison, eds. (2003). Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century. Boston, MA: Northeastern.  
  51. ^ Walker, Rebecca (1995). To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism. New York:  
  52. ^ Heywood, Leslie; Drake, Jennifer, eds. (1997). Third Wave Agenda: Being Feminist, Doing Feminism.  
  53. ^ Gillis, Stacy; Howie, Gillian; Munford, Rebecca (2004). Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration.  
  54. ^  
  55. ^ Third Wave Foundation. "History". Third Wave Foundation. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  56. ^ Rowe-Finkbeiner, Kristin (2004). The F-Word.  
  57. ^ Rosenberg, Jessica; Garofalo, Gitana (1998). "Riot Grrrl: Revolutions from Within". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society ( 
  58. ^ a b Laura Brunell (May 13, 2007). "Feminism (sociology)". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  59. ^ Brunell, Laura (2008). "Feminism Re-Imagined: The Third Wave." 2008 Britannica Book of the Year. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.
  60. ^ Mariana Ortega, "Being Lovingly, Knowingly Ignorant: White Feminism and Women of Color," Hypatia 1/23 (2006): 56
  61. ^ Crystal N. Feimster, Southern Horrors (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009),212
  62. ^ Crystal N.Feimster, Southern Horrors (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009), 82
  63. ^ Patricia Hill Collins, "What's In A Name? Womanism, Black Feminism, and Beyond," The Black Scholar 21/6 (Winter/Spring 1996): 9


See also

These historical omissions are particularly evident in accounts on First-Wave feminism which often ignores the roles played by fundamental activists such as bell hooks, developed a social consciousness by publicly voicing dissatisfaction with black women's representation in feminist discourse.[63]

Critics of mainstream feminist discourse point to the white-washed historical narrative that omits and/or minimizes the roles played by colored women within and without the feminist movement, as well as the differing obstacles faced by colored women. Audre Lorde, Caribbean-American feminist and essayist, stated: "What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heel print upon another woman's face? What woman’s terms of oppression have become precious and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the righteous, away from the cold winds of self-scrutiny? . . . We welcome all women who can meet us, face to face, beyond objectification and beyond guilt."[60]


Through the 1980s and 1990s, this trend continued as musicologists like Susan McClary, Marcia Citron and Ruth Solie began to consider the cultural reasons for the marginalizing of women from the received body of work. Concepts such as music as gendered discourse; professionalism; reception of women's music; examination of the sites of music production; relative wealth and education of women; popular music studies in relation to women's identity; patriarchal ideas in music analysis; and notions of gender and difference are among the themes examined during this time.[160]

The increasing ease of publishing on the Internet meant that e-zines (electronic magazines) and blogs became ubiquitous. Many serious independent writers, not to mention organizations, found that the Internet offered a forum for the exchange of information and the publication of essays and videos that made their point to a potentially huge audience. The Internet radically democratized the content of the feminist movement with respect to participants, aesthetics, and issues.
—Laura Brunell, 2008 Britannica Book of the Year[59]

Also in the early 1990s, the Aziz Ansari and Leonardo DiCaprio.

[55] The movement picked up more victories in the 1970s. The Supreme Court case

[28] The movement grew with legal victories such as the

Also in 1963, freelance journalist Gloria Steinem gained widespread popularity among feminists after a diary she authored while working undercover as a Playboy Bunny waitress at the Playboy Club was published as a two-part feature in the May and June issues of Show.[23] The feature was "A Bunny's Tale" (Part I and Part II.) Steinem alleged the club was mistreating its waitresses in order to gain male customers and exploited the Playboy Bunnies as symbols of male chauvinism, noting that the club's manual instructed the Bunnies that "there are many pleasing ways they can employ to stimulate the club's liquor volume."[23] By 1968, Steinem had become arguably the most influential figure in the movement and support for legalized abortion and free daycares had become the two leading objectives for feminists.[24]

Second-wave feminism in the United States began in the early 1960s.[20] In 1963 Betty Friedan, influenced by The Second Sex, wrote the bestselling book The Feminine Mystique in which she explicitly objected to the mainstream media image of women, stating that placing women at home limited their possibilities, and wasted talent and potential. The perfect nuclear family image depicted and strongly marketed at the time, she wrote, did not reflect happiness and was rather degrading for women.[21] This book is widely credited with having begun second-wave feminism.[22]


From 1870 to 1875 several women, including Virginia Louisa Minor, Victoria Woodhull, and Myra Bradwell, attempted to use the Fourteenth Amendment in the courts to secure the vote (Minor and Woodhull) or the right to practice law (Bradwell), but they were all unsuccessful.[12] In 1872 Susan B. Anthony was arrested and brought to trial in Rochester, New York, for attempting to vote for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election; she was convicted and fined $100 and the costs of her prosecution but refused to pay.[12][16] At the same time, Sojourner Truth appeared at a polling booth in Battle Creek, Michigan, demanding a ballot; she was turned away.[12] Also in 1872, Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for President, although she could not vote and only received a few votes, losing to Ulysses S. Grant.[17] She was nominated to run by the Equal Rights Party, and advocated the 8-hour work day, graduated income tax, social welfare programs, and profit sharing, among other positions.[18] In 1874 the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was founded by Annie Wittenmyer to work for the prohibition of alcohol; with Frances Willard at its head (starting in 1876), the WCTU also became an important force in the fight for women's suffrage.[12] In 1878 a woman suffrage amendment was first introduced in the United States Congress, but it did not pass.[12][19] In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote; the first wave of feminism is considered to have ended with that victory.[3]

In 1869 Wyoming became the first territory or state in America to grant women suffrage.[13] In 1870 Louisa Ann Swain became the first woman in the United States to vote in a general election. She cast her ballot on September 6, 1870, in Laramie, Wyoming.[14][15]

[12] Frederick Douglass broke with Stanton and Anthony over NWSA's position.[12] NWSA refused to work for its ratification, arguing, instead, that it be "scrapped" in favor of a Sixteenth Amendment providing universal suffrage.[12] In 1870 the Fifteenth Amendment enfranchised black men.[12]

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