Essay on Womens Rights Movement and Inequality From the Past to Present

Date:  2021-05-25 14:20:03
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Gender social and economic inequality has been an issue of concern from the old days up to date. Women have tried to reject the idea of male dominance through movements that they have used to fight for their social and economic opportunities in the society. Women have tried to fight for their rightful places in the society; as compared to the old society where women were denied the rights to participate in the social and economic activities in the society, today women have earned their rightful places in the social and economic sectors. This paper will examine the womens rights movement and the inequality in social and political economic terms between men and women from mid-1800s to present.

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Women have been perceived or regarded as subordinate to men for a long time. The gender inequality issue that we are witnessing in some countries, especially the developing countries, did not start recently. Even the developed countries where women have equal shares in the society also had the same problem. Before the 19th century, where women begun to fight for their social and economic rights in the society; women were viewed as subordinate to their male counterparts (Rosenthal et al., 1985). The men controlled every resource and dictated what women deserved to earn. Women had no role in the political, social and economic sectors (Rosenthal et al., 1985); therefore, women never contributed to the development of the society. Womens role was never identified with any developmental aspect in the society. Women were expected to get married to whoever has been decided for them because they never had any voice or opinion in the societal issues. Their roles were limited to house chores and families related activities (Rosentha;l et al., 1985); for example, raise children and be diligent wives and mothers to the families that they were married to.

Women were denied the social privileges such as education that their male counterparts enjoyed. By the mid-1800s, women had started looking for a way towards improving their roles in the society (Banner, 1980). Women thought that the only way to realize their ambitions were to gain legal rights in the society; therefore, they started to fight for legal opportunities that would grant them a chance in the society equal as men. In the mid-1800s, many women started to engage in social reforms; for example, the end of slavery and child labor (Braude, 2001). As the guardians of the families, they knew that it was their roles to end the social problems such as child labor and slavery that affected them directly. Most women were slaves even in their houses. Despite what they did, they realized that it could not bore any fruit because they were operating behind the scenes. Therefore, they wanted to obtain the legal rights that would offer them a chance to participate in the social and economic reforms publicly. This led to the formation of various movement organizations that aimed at giving women the legal rights as members of the society. Consequently, the first movement was formed in New York in 1848, Seneca Falls Convention (Melder & Gurko, 1975). The convention was a national gathering expected to bring together women from all over the country. The establishment of the Womens Liberation Movement in 1969 gave the women the first opportunities to access education privileges equally as men. This was the first time that womens movement was born and started. The amendment of Education Act in 1972 in America gave many women the opportunity to enjoy education rights like men freely (Calhoun, 1993). Today we have female professors because they have attained the highest education level that only their male counterparts used to dominate.

As years progressed, womens social and economic rights began to change. Women status began to change as they try to move away from the patriarchal societal dictatorship. Women started to hold conventions that aimed at expressing their grievances. In 1876, womens declaration of Independence was read publicly in Philadelphia (Rosenthal et al., 1985). The document was formed by womens activists during that time such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton who was amongst the pioneers of the Seneca Falls Convention (Banner, 1980). Amongst the grievances included in the Womens Declaration of Independence also known as the Declaration of Sentiments includes the domination of womens rights and position in the society by men. The declaration blamed the men for discriminating women (Banner, 1980). Although the declaration did not bore fruits by then, at some point, it helped elevate womens recognition in the society. Women started to see themselves not as subordinate to the men but as equal members of the society just like the men were. More women started to join the campaign towards eradicating gender discrimination and other social problems that women faced. For example, women like Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown were amongst the women activists who joined the campaign to end slavery of women. Therefore, they formed the anti-slavery convention which was held in London. Other movements include the National Women Suffrage Association (NWSA) and American Women Suffrage Association (AWSA) that worked with the aim of improving the social and economic status of women in the society (Calhoun, 1993). The two movements, AWSA and NWSA, were in a conflict that forced them to work independently; until 1890 when they realized that they were advocating for the same purposes that are when they joined efforts (Calhoun, 1993). The formation of these movements gave women the rights to participate in social and economic activities like men. These movements laid a foundation to the contemporary womens movement.

Despite several attempts to enhance their social and economic status in the society they were unsuccessful. Therefore, they began to co-operate their movements with their counterparts, men to achieve their goals. Although they tried to maintain their movements purely composed of women, they realized that it could not work like that; therefore, they hired several men to help them. For instance, in Britain the womens movement, National Society of Womens Suffrage hired few men such as John Stuart Mill and Jacob Bright to help them obtain the legal rights (Calhoun, 1993). The same case spread to other regions; for example, in Denmark and Norway feminist personnel were supported and their ideologies backed up by the men who had access to legal rights. Politicians supported their movements and backed them up. Women were socially and economically discriminated; for example, in Europe women were legally discriminated. Women were never allowed to commit adultery while their men counterparts happily enjoyed the privilege of committing adultery without being punished.

Women were denied the economic opportunities, unlike today where women have the same rights as men. Between 1920a and 1930s, Europe was not a place for women as many women suffered in the hands of their employers. Married women were mostly affected by this economic depression (Calhoun, 1993); the married women were sacked with the reason that they had their husbands to support them. Policies were enacted that intentionally aimed at limiting the employment opportunities for women; for example, the new protective legislation enacted to protect women from working during the unsocial hours. This legislation was not truly aiming to protect women from using the dangerous tools or working during the odd hours, but instead, it aimed at increasing employment opportunities for men than women (Calhoun, 1993). As compared to today where women can work with any tool; for example, we have women who are engineers, pilots and military officers who were the roles that women were denied to create the opportunity for men. Today women work even at night; some women go for night shifts such as the news anchors on Televisions and radio stations. Today things have changed, and women can earn the same opportunity earned by the men.

Socially women were never allowed to vote before the mid of the 1800s and even many years after (Melder & Gurko, 1975). By 1920s, most women had been granted the opportunity to enjoy the social right of voting in most of the European countries (Calhoun, 1993). As compared to the contemporary society where women can freely vote and be elected even at the top most positions. The recent 2016 American election proved that women had gained social and economic rights as compared to the old days. Although Hillary Clinton lost the election despite many people had high hopes that she would win, she proved to the whole world and many women that the powerful and top most positions in the political arena could also be contested for by women. Today women hold top levels in most organizations as compared to the period before the mid-1800s. Today you can find a woman as the CEO of a company, something that would never have been possible without the early womens movement rights. Today women own wealth just like men; again, something that would never have been possible without the first womens movement rights started in the mid-1800s. Womens rights movements have taken different shapes and dimensions from the mid-1800s to the present. Women have almost equal rights to their counterparts men today. Offense against women are today treated the same way the mens case would be treated; for example, a recent case in the year 2000 when CBS agreed to pay over $8 million to the 200 sex discriminated women is a good indication that the society has moved away from the old patriarchal society where women had not rights even on her life (Braude, 2001).

In conclusion, despite the several womens movement rights fighting for gender inequality issues from the mid-1800s, the contemporary society has not fully given the women equal opportunities as men. In most societies, women are still denied the chance to inherit anything from the family. This has contributed to the poverty and low economic level of many women. Most of the rights and privileges that women enjoy today were established with the earlier womens movements in the mid-1800s that have taken different dimensions to date. Today, girls can go to school and attain education to the top level, something that would not be impossible in the late 18th and late 19th centuries. However, the gender disparity issue is still evident in the contemporary society; this means that the gender equality has not been fully integrated into the contemporary society. There is still much to be done to give women equal social and economic opportunity as men.


Banner, L. W. (1980). Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a radical for woman's rights. Little, Brown.Braude, A. (2001). Radical spirits: Spiritualism and women's rights in nineteenth-century America. Indiana University Press.Calhoun, C. (1993). New social movements of the early nineteenth century. Social Science History, 17(03), 385-427.

MELDER, K. E., & Gurko, M. (1975). The Ladies of Seneca Falls: The Birth of the Woman's Rights Movement.

Rosenthal, N., Fingrutd, M., Ethier, M., Karant, R., & McDonald, D. (1985). Social movements and network analysis: A case study of nineteenth-century women's reform in New York State. American journal of Sociology, 1022-1054

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