Women have always been a man’s dependent. These two sexes have never shared the world in equality. Even in our day and age women are still heavily suppressed. I would have to say that things have certainly changed since the 1700’s, 1800’s, and early 1900’s. Women today are progressing into the world with freedom. They have the power to be who they want to be and are no longer told who they should be. Women are getting better jobs, higher political status, and more importantly, a role in society to which they have no boundaries. Women are no longer stuck in the house. Instead they are providing for their families not only emotionally, but also financially. Today gender identity is becoming less important. This issue is central not only to public policy, but also too private relationships as well. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for the hard work and determination of people like Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Emmiline Pankhurst, and Simone de Beauvoir. Most women are no longer facing the hardships of the 1700’s, 1800’s, and early 1900’s. With limited education, economic rights, or social respect, women were excluded of having a voice in society. As they grew older a woman’s intellect gave way to beauty and social graces. At this time the only way they could succeed in the world was by marriage. Women were thought as only existing for men. Men respected women, because they were their servants, made their clothes and food, and took care of their family. In their struggle for equal rights, women faced strong opposition. Opponents argued that feminist demands would threaten society by undermining marriage and family. The Government went to great lengths to suppress women by refusing them an education.
Keeping them in ignorance would subdue them. When feminism first began the only demands made by women were a better education and a respectful position in society.
One of the first women to touch base on feminism was Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary first stated her opinion of feminism in her book, “Vindiction of the Rights of Women.” Mary was one of the few career women of that time. She made her living as a prolific writer. Mary wanted all women to have equal citizenship, economic independence, and most importantly an education. She believed that without these things women wouldn’t survive. Her main argument was the simple principle of having an education. She argued that a woman would have no idea why she has to do the things she does or cooperate with societies laws without an education. Mary thought, and I agree, that education holds the key to achieving a sense of self-respect and anew self-image that would enable women to put their capacities to good use.
One of the first men to take part in feminism was John Stuart Mill. He was a British philosopher and liberal. He believed that women should be able to vote and have access to an equal education as well as the professions. He stated that this equality wouldn’t be just humane, it would have the advantage of doubling the mass of mental faculties available for the higher service of humanity. Which seemed like a reasonable idea, but it wasn’t accepted. Mill’s interest in feminism greatened when he met Harriet Taylor, who herself was a feminist. Taylor helped him shape his ideas on the urgent need for reform in women’s rights. In 1867, Mill, as Member of Parliament, proposed that suffrage
be extended to women. He was rejected with a 194 to 74 vote. After being turned down, his persistence never stopped. He won a broader audience after he wrote, “The Subjection
of Women.” In that book, Mill argued that women should be able to participate in political life and should not be barred from the workforce.
When women’s suffrage began to reach its peak Emmeline Pankhurst came into play. She and her daughter Christabel formed the Women’s Party. These women engaged in demonstrations, disrupted political meetings, and went to jail. If they went to jail they resorted to hunger strikes. Emmeline went through ten of those hunger strikes herself. They got so out of hand that they had to be force-fed. Not only did they cause riots, they also caused destruction. They burnt down empty houses and threw acid bombs in mailboxes. Pankhurst said, “we (women) are not here to be lawbreakers; we are here in our efforts to become lawmakers.” That was Pankhurst’s main concern. She wanted women to have political power. If women could be sent to prison, shouldn’t they have the right to vote? Emmeline went on to share her ideas in the United States and Canada. She also supported equal pay for equal work, equal marriage and divorce, equality of rights, and opportunities in public service.
The most recent woman who began her crusade during these horrible times was Simone de Beauvoir. During her time, things changed very much for women, but they still didn’t have the equal rights they deserved. Marriage was still a woman’s common destiny. Because women lacked confidence and were scared to use their creativity, they still remained a second status. Simone talks a lot about marriage in her book, “The Second Sex.” For women marriage was like a duty. There has always been a difference between the sexes. Men, who are socially independent depend on women at home. Women on the other hand wanted the same control as men. During that time women were in marriage for
three reasons. To have children, satisfy him sexually, and take care of the household. In return the men supported the women. Marriage was more of a contract than a loving devotion. Most importantly Simone believed that women are so busy living in a mans world and acting as second best that they have no time to figure out who they really are. She believed that the solution to this problem would have to fall into the women’s hands. Once they realized who they really are, they would begin to rise in the world the way they wanted to.
These four astounding people gave great courage and hope for women to fight for their rights. They all believed that an equal education would help women. Without these four great authors, women probably wouldn’t have the life they have today. Women are no longer shut out of society. They are out in the real world surviving on their own. They no longer depend on men. Men are depending on women more and more. The world certainly has changed from the 1700’s to the early 1900’s. Women are just as equal as men are. They don’t have to fight to obtain power; it is given to them equally. Women are now progressing into the world with independence. Women now are battling against the stereotypes that they are supposed to perform only feminine roles. Now both men and women are free to pursue activities that are more compatible to their individual needs
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