The “First Wave” of Feminism
Date The “First Wave” of Feminism
The first wave of the women’s rights movement began with the formation of a women’s rights movement. The movement, however, split due to differences over the issue of suffrage of African American men. This is when Susan B. Anthony formed the National Women Suffrage Association (NWSA) alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1869. Susan B. Anthony was the president of the NWSA and worked tirelessly for the right of women to vote. Her work is was what paved way for the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 which allowed women to vote. In honor of her work, the Amendment was named the “ Susan B. Anthony Amendment.” She also became the first woman to have her face minted on a coin from the national mint (History.com Editors).
Elizabeth Cady Stanton like Anthony was a fierce abolitionist, an advocate for human rights and the founding mother of woman’s rights movement. she came from a privileged family and made a resolve very early in her life to fight for the rights of women. She was a close associate of Susan B Anthony-and was stated to be the intelligence behind Anthony’s brawn- for half a century and supported her to win the rights of women to vote. She was instrumental in the formation of the First Women Rights Convention with the like of Marry Ann M’Clintock, Jane Hunt and Martha Coffin Wright (History.com Editors). She also contributed to the writing of the Declaration of Sentiments, which was liberation documented that imitated the model of the Declaration of Independence and outlined the rights that women should enjoy and compared the struggle of women to that of the founding fathers.
She and Susan B Anthony formed the Women’s National League that encouraged the enactment of the 13th Amendment and the abolition of slavery. However, contrary to the disagreement of fellow women activists, they lobbied against the 14th and 15th Amendment, which allowed black men the right to vote citing that these amendments had no sections that allowed women to vote. Stanton went on to advocate for liberal divorce laws, the liberty for won to reproduce at will as well as greater sexual liberty for women. This sentiments, however, made her marginalized as a voice for women reform. After diving from the Women’s Rights Movement, Anthony and Stanton formed the NWSA. Anthony, however, managed to reunite the women under the NWSA in 1890 (History.com Editors). Although like many others, Anthony and Stanton did not get to enjoy the right to vote, they were instrumental in the enactment of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote on August 18, 1920.
Victoria Woodhull is mostly remembered as the first woman to run for president of the United States. Woodhull was a progressive American reformer who fought for free love, championed mystical socialism, women suffrage, and the Greenback movement. She was an ardent speaker and delivered moving speeches. She delivered a speech before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives in 1871 that opened a way for her to join fellow women suffrage leaders that initially kept away from her due to her apparent off-putting newspaper and reputation (Encyclopedia Britannica). She was invited by Susan B. Anthony to the NWSA and soon emerged as a rival for the top position in the land.
Anna Julia Cooper was an author and educator that wrote one the most classic feminist text A Voice From the South by a Black Woman of the South. She was the daughter of a slave but overcame the obstacle to become a distinguished student and later an educator. She joined the club movement, which constituted educated middle-class women who made it their duty fellow African Americans that were less-privileged. During this period, Cooper became a renowned public speaker who addressed important functions such as the First Pan-African Conference in 1990.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a journalist that focused on the anti-lynching campaign and was an active justice reformer for African Americans. She began an anti-lynching campaign in 1892 after witnessing the lynching of her three friends (Encyclopedia Britannica). She later joined the National Afro-American Council and participated in the Niagara Movement and contributed to the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She also founded Chicago’s Alpha Suffrage Club that is possibly the first woman suffrage group for black women.
All these women had one thing in common and shared in the sentiments of the speech delivered by Susan B. Anthony on American to vote. Susan gave the speech after she was arrested for casting a vote in the 1872 presidential elections. Although the United States was the land of the free and every individual was born with unalienable rights that even the state could not deny, women and people of color were exceptionally excluded from these rights. Anthony quoted the Preamble of the constitution that swore to protect the welfare of the people of the United States without specifying gender, color or origin (Anthony). She reiterates this statement citing that the preamble was representing the people, not the white male citizen but the citizens regardless of color and gender.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton Echoed these sentiments in her speech dubbed The Destructive Male were called out the white-dominated government as disorganization in matters religion civilization and society. The male element had made society a reflection of him without an element of womanhood, there was violence everywhere, acquisition, selfishness and all the ills of a disorganized society (Stanton). She called for women enfranchisement, as a step towards the realization of a healthy government, and a strong prosperous nation.
The speeches of these four women called out the domination of the white male and the mockery of the principles that were set by the founding mothers. Cooper and Wells-Barnett connected the suffrage of black people to that of women. Both groups were considered unimportant and shared no significant in the male-dominated government. They all called for the organization of activists and the effort of the marginalized in the fight against this great imperialism.
Just like the sentiments in these speeches, women’s studies began as a response to prejudice against women and their exclusion in various aspects of academics and disciplines (Thompson). These speeches proclaimed action against the exclusion of women from major leadership positions, denial of self-liberties and the inferior rhetoric awarded by the male-dominated society. The exclusion of women in academics and the dismissal of their opinions from traditional academic disciplines was only a subset of the overall exclusion rhetoric that was being fought by these women in these speeches. Another connection between these speeches and women’s studies was that both the instigators of the curriculum and the speakers were active feminists.
Anthony, S. B. “Great Speeches Collection: Susan B. Anthony Speech – Women’s Right to Vote.” The History Place, 1873, www.historyplace.com/speeches/anthony.htm.
History.com Editors. “Elizabeth Cady Stanton.” HISTORY, 20 Nov. 2019, www.history.com/topics/womens-history/elizabeth-cady-stanton. Accessed 2 Feb. 2020.
—. “Susan B. Anthony.” HISTORY, 20 Nov. 2019, www.history.com/topics/womens-history/susan-b-anthony#section_2.
Encyclopedia Britannica. “Ida Bell Wells-Barnett | Biography & Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 12 July 2019, www.britannica.com/biography/Ida-B-Wells-Barnett. Accessed 2 Feb. 2020.
—. “Victoria Woodhull.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 19 Sept. 2019, www.britannica.com/biography/Victoria-Woodhull. Accessed 2 Feb. 2020.
Stanton, E. C. “Great Speeches Collection: Elizabeth Cady Stanton Speech – The Destructive Male.” The History Place, 1868, www.historyplace.com/speeches/stanton.htm.
Thompson, Jane. Learning liberation: Women’s response to men’s education. Routledge, 2017.
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