The idea that women should have the same rights as anyone else, including equal pay for equal work, women's suffrage, and equal social status with men. A controversial position for much of human history, and sometimes even in the 21st century.

This writeup highlights some of the changes made in the workplace during the Women's Rights movement.

“I do pray... for some terrific shock to startle the women of this nation into a self-respect which will compel them to see the abject degradation of their present position...”  Susan B. Anthony, a pioneer in the modern Women’s Rights Movement made this statement in 1870.  She was a strong willed woman of her time who fought for the rights of women during the Movement and is recognized today as the face on a silver dollar.  Not only should she be commended for her great accomplishments related to the Women’s Rights Movement, but so should all women who made the sacrifice of time and criticism to make women of today the leaders of society that they are.

There were many organizations formed and laws passed during the early nineteenth century time period in history. It was a time to show America that women are just as equal as men and should have the right to vote along with many other rights.  No longer were women willing to sit out and not participate in the fast paced jobs available only to men. Women wanted to be a part of the growing opportunities that arose in the workplace and many women of the early 1900s made an effort and were able to see the changes which they brought forth to a nation that was once a male dominated society. Not only did women accomplish the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, but they also had many other goals and achievements.

One main goal was to become more educated and have schools for women only, which would allow them to speak out publicly and give them the skills they would need to survive in the world of the men’s workforce.  There were also many organized reform groups to promote temperance, labor reform, abolition and equal rights.  The first major convention of the Women’s Rights Movement was in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York.  This convention is known as the official beginning of the Movement.  In this convention, women reworded the original text of Declaration of Independence to include the words that all men and women are created equal. There were also other issues that came about in the twentieth century such as child labor, alcoholism, discriminatory work practices, and political corruption. Women in the beginning of the twentieth century were not allowed to have major jobs or hold major political offices. They never earned as much money for the same job as men did.  Susan B. Anthony was paid two dollars and fifty cents a week as a teacher and a man doing the same job earned ten dollars a week.  Anthony is only one of the many women who dealt with such devastating and humiliating pay cuts. This problem unfortunately, still occurs in today’s society and is something women are still fighting to overcome.  However, if it was not for the women who began it all, women would still be second class citizens and still be subject to men. The Women’s Rights Movement brought forth many changes to the role of women in the workplace, but there are still more advances that need to be made.

On average, women make seventy-one cents for every dollar a man earns and women’s labor is not nearly valued as highly as a man’s. Women between the ages of 40-44 earn around $22,000 a year for full time work.  A man between the ages of 25-29 earns around this much as he is just starting his career.  In the book, The Reference Shelf: Women’s Issues, it states, “Such discrimination takes a toll on women’s morale, productivity, opportunities to advance, and quite painfully, on their paychecks.  The fact that women still earn far less than men can be largely attributed to the long-term effects of unfair practices on the job” (Brown, 28).  The women who started and continued the Women’s Rights Movement became fed up with their place in society and decided to make a change to it.  However, women have put up with pay cuts and unfair job amospheres for a number of years and have still not accomplished a fair and equal rate of pay.  Inequities continue to exist.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the first President’s Commission on the Status of Women.  The group studied women and their social, legal, and political status and recommended new laws for Congress to pass. Many commissions found that the state laws discriminated against women in education and employment.  In 1966, a group of women formed the National Organization for Women (NOW). This organization would pressure Congress and other legislatures to improve women’s rights.  The National Organization for Women was one of the many groups of women that came together to help accomplish many of the goals from the original Senca Falls Convention and bring forth a new way of seeing women involved in America. The National Organization for Women exerted considerable influence and initiated the modern women’s rights movement.  Many of its methods were considered extreme and distasteful to moderate and conservative women.  Nevertheless the end seemed to justify the means and many improvements came about on behalf of women. Nearly half of the entire workforce in the United States is women and the percentage of women working has exceeded to over sixty per cent. Terri Apter comments, “What is important in these vast changes in women, education and work is not simply a leap in the numbers of women employed; for what changed in this generation, after so many generations of simply being on verge of change, is women’s expectations." In the beginning of the Women’s Rights Movement, women had many expectations and goals to accomplish, but they were not as strong as today’s expectations.  The women who began the Movement gave future generations of women the foundation of expectations to grow on and help change the role of women in the workplace who had  been mistreated for so long.

Another important factor in women and working is the home and family. More and more women are dependent upon their husbands to help care for the children at home.  If women are less successful at work, however, then they tend to invest more in the home. This gives them a reason to put less into their jobs.  This then gives men the idea that they need to invest more time in work to earn money for the family and give them the appropriate benefits a family needs. It has become an unbroken cycle of women feeling they have to do both raising the children and working when they cannot put forth their best effort at either one, while men continue to think they have to put more and more hours in work, leaving the women home tending for the children alone.  Some women want to be working all the time and raising their children, but it is almost impossible to do both with the best effort put forth on each side.  Apter also claims, “Decisions for women are made particularly difficult by the series of clashes between norms and needs, both at home and at work.”

Education and work experience have also changed dramatically in the past thirty years, but economic discrimination has actually increased. In the book, When Work Doesn’t Work Anymore, a lady named “Ellie” tells her story.  She says,

But in the end the joke was on me.  One day I saw the bonus grid in my boss’s office.  Right on the other side of my box the guys above me were making a fortune. I saw that they were only stringing along the appropriate number of females to keep the field diverse.  It wasn’t that I was valuable or important to the team.

The hard work and dedication “Ellie” had given to her work was returned with not one thought of her effort or stress she put forth.  If a company’s only ambition to hire women is because of the fact that it is not diverse, and only hire the right number to do so, then this is unjust and misguided.  Too many women in today’s world deal with this discrimination even though their education and their effort is higher than a comparable man’s.

Even though women have made huge steps in the fight for equality and justice in the work force, there is too much that has not been done. It is not right for any man to earn more than a women who has the same capabilities, experience, education and  work habits. No woman should have to suffer in her job feeling like she is lower in the eyes of her coworkers and her boss.  If a woman has accomplished just as much as a man, then it is relevant that she should be hired just as easily as the man that has an interview after her. In the same case, a male CEO of a company earns $65,000 dollars a year and then a woman works her way up through the system and discrimination to become the CEO of a company as well.  She too, then should earn as much, if not more than any man who would perform the same duties.  A woman who is dedicated to her job and willing to put forth the effort as well as sacrifice time, money and her family to be a good employee like Ellie, should have every right to earn a bonus or a pay check as comparable to a male coworkers.

The fact is, no matter how far the economy rises and falls, the “glass ceiling” is still present and women cannot reach to the top to break it. They can only progress so far and then they bump into the “glass ceiling” with men looking down from above.  Though women are as strong willed and loving as they are, they still unfortunatly get trampled by the men who just want to make money.  It does not matter to them how the ladies in their company are treated even when they know it is wrong.  If men stood up for women because they agree that they are not getting paid enough for their job, then they too, will lose money. Far more women have education and training equal to men, but this fact is not reflected in women's careers and pay.  While women have accomplished so much in education and in training along with other important skills, however, they still lack the amount of pay and credit they deserve. All these changes throughout history which began in 1848, have brought forth equal opportunities in several ways, but not enough.  Susan B. Anthony was a great leader of the Women’s Rights Movement who women today should remember and be grateful to for the ambitious woman she was.  In 1897, she stated, “I do not believe woman’s utter dependence on man wins for her his respect; it may cause him to love and pet her as a child, but never to regard her as a peer.” One day America’s women will be able to prove Anthony wrong.

 


Works Cited

Apter, Terri. Working Women Don’t Have Wives.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press, Incorporated, 1993.

Brown, Robin, ed.  The Reference Shelf: Women’s Issues.  New York:  H.W. Wilson Company, 1993.

Gurko, Miriam.  The Ladies of Senca Falls.  New York:  Schocken, 1976.

Ireland, Patricia.  “Women’s Rights.”  Social Policy.  Spring 1998:  14. Master FILE Online. EBSCO Publishing.  (30 Nov. 2001)

McKenna, Elizabeth, Perle.  When Work Doesn’t Work Anymore: Women, Work and Identity.  New York:  Delacorte Press, 1997.

Wagner, Shirley Ann.  Equality Now: Safeguarding Women’s Rights.  Florida: Rourke Corporation, Incorporated, 1992.

Capitalism caused the start of women's rights. It is a very blunt statement, I agree, but in my personal view, I feel that when men discovered that women had a commercial value apart from a reproductive value, they decided that this was the time to free them from their weaker status in society. This is no different to the way that slavery was banned on the cotton plantations when, white middle America realised that these people could still be kept in their position, as the underdogs of society whilst granting them wishes without giving them anymore than basic human rights.

The liberation of women did not come with the vote, rather it came when abortion was made legal and contraception was made widespread throughout the Western world, but this again stands to benefit men. Women are not meant to have sexuality. Female libido must be oppressed as it is a terrifying force in the face of the patriachy.

Women's oppression, Engels argues, has not always existed but developed in conjunction with the rise of private property, the division of society into classes and the development of the family as an economic and social institution.

These ideas had revolutionary implications - if the institutions and social arrangements of capitalism have not always existed then they can be changed. This potentially threatens the stability and existence of capitalism itself.

It was particularly explosive to question the universal nature of the family in the late 19th century. The family was essential for consolidating and extending the capitalist class' wealth. It also played an important role in bringing up and socialising the next generation of workers, instilling discipline and deference to hierarchy - all necessary for the stability and functioning of the capitalist profit system.

Women's role in the family also underpinned women's subordinate position in the workplace and in society generally.

taken from: The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State by Friedrich Engels

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How can this idea have been written over a hundred years ago and still be as relevant today?

There is no such thing as women's rights. Again, a pretty controversial view to be writing on a page that is dedicated to understanding women's liberation. The question is though how can we deem ourselves equal to men in a society where a supposedly civilised country such as America feels it has the right to declare a "Sanctity of Life Day".

Bush Declares Sunday National Sanctity of Human Life Day, Pledges to 'Build Culture That Respects Life' (Jan 15, 2003)

President Bush yesterday issued a proclamation declaring Sunday, Jan. 19, to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, the Associated Press reports. The proclamation announces no change in policy or program but highlights the Bush administration's efforts to support "compassionate alternatives" to abortion, including its encouragement of adoption, abstinence education, laws requiring waiting periods before abortion procedures and laws requiring parental notification for minors wishing to get an abortion.

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What about the men?Do they have no part in the fertilisation of the pregnancy in the first place? All sanctity of life days are structured towards the female market; their poisonous opinions prey upon the most vunerable people. Pregnant women, who think that abortion is their best option, are in a terrifying position and having more pressure placed upon them by governmental "days" is disqualifying any theory that women are equal to men in society. Has the US government forgotten that it is the woman's body, therefore, it is her total choice what she does with it?

Apologies to those who feel differently on this subject. I am merely professing my opinion and it is not meant to be taken as a castigation of those with differing concepts due to their religion or culture.

Therefore, we can conclude from this that, a woman's body belongs to her government rather than herself and if this really is the case, how can women's rights exist if they are only being made in accordance to patriachal society,i.e. for the needs of men?

Extract of:

January 12, 2003, The New York Times

The War Against Women

As the 30th anniversary of the Roe decision approaches, women's right to safe, legal abortions is in dire peril.

President Bush's assault on reproductive rights is part of a larger ongoing cultural battle. If abortion were the only target, the administration would not be attempting to block women's access to contraceptives, which drive down the number of abortions. His administration would not be declaring war on any sex education that discusses ways, beyond abstinence, to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Scientifically accurate information about contraceptives and abortion would not have begun disappearing from federal government Web sites.

A big thrust of Mr. Bush's aggressive anti-choice crusade has been to undermine the legal foundation of the Roe decision by elevating the status of a fetus, or even a fertilized egg, to that of a person, with rights equal to, or perhaps even exceeding, those of the woman. This desire to recognize the personhood of zygotes is part of the rationale behind the Bush policy prohibiting federal financing for research on all new embryonic stem-cell lines, despite the hopes that this research could lead to breakthroughs in treatments for diseases like Parkinson's, cancer and diabetes. Tommy Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, was following the same drumbeat when he made "unborn children" rather than pregnant women eligible for coverage under the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Mr. Bush has begun packing the judiciary with individuals whose hostility to Roe v. Wade matches his own and that of his famously anti-choice attorney general, John Ashcroft. In Congress, he backs a radical measure called the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, which would further reduce the already thin availability of abortion services. It would allow government-supported health care providers to decline to include abortion in their reproductive health services. The providers could even forbid their doctors from mentioning abortion as a legal option to female patients.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Bush is also a strong supporter of the other pending anti-choice initiatives, including the ban on so-called partial-birth abortions. Like so much of the president's policy on this issue, the ban masquerades as a modest initiative that has wide popular support - eliminating already rare late-term abortions - while its actual effects are far more sweeping. This effort to criminalize certain abortion procedures would actually restrict a woman's right to choose abortion by the safest method throughout pregnancy. So concluded the current Supreme Court, hardly a bastion of liberal abortion rights sympathizers, when it rejected an earlier version nearly three years ago.

The effects of the new anti-choice agenda are also affecting women abroad. On his very first day on the job, the president reimposed the odious global "gag" rule first instituted by President Ronald Reagan, then lifted by President Bill Clinton in January 1993. It bars health providers receiving American family planning assistance from counseling women about abortion, engaging in political speech on abortion or providing abortion services, even with their own money.

In resurrecting the gag rule, the new president broadcast a disdain for freedom of speech to emerging democracies, while crippling the international family planning programs that work to prevent hundreds of thousands of infant and maternal deaths worldwide each year.

Most Americans would be shocked at the lengths American representatives are going to in their international war against women's right to control their bodies.

Last year, Bush administration delegates to the United Nations Special Session on Children tried to block a plan to promote children's well-being and rights, taking offense at language promising "reproductive health services." This same crackerjack delegation also opposed special efforts to help young girls who are victims of war crimes - which most often means rape. The delegates were worried that the measure would be construed to provide these victims with information about emergency contraception or abortion.

The administration's anti-choice obsession has also prompted it to freeze millions of dollars in financing for valuable programs run by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund to advance reproductive health and combat H.I.V. and AIDS.

Last summer, the president withdrew his support for Senate ratification of a women's rights treaty that requires nations to remove barriers of discrimination against women in areas like legal rights and health care. Just last month, at a United Nations' population conference in Bangkok, the American delegation made an embarrassing, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to block an endorsement of condom use to prevent AIDS.

On the surface, the Bush administration's war against women's rights is a series of largely unnoted changes. It is intended to look that way. In reality, it is a steady march into the past, to a time before Roe v. Wade, when abortion was illegal and pregnancy was more a matter of fate than choice.

People can debate whether Mr. Bush's various efforts to dismantle Roe and block women's right to choose around the globe flow from his own deeply felt moral or religious beliefs, or merely cater to extreme elements within his party. What is important is the actual impact of the presidential assault: women's constitutional liberty has been threatened, essential reproductive health care has been denied or delayed, and some women will needlessly die.

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Through the commercial gain to society of men allowing women to work this has elevated the standard of living for women. Therefore this could be seen as the reason why women have taken interest in their political status in regards to their rights in the work place and in society as an "equal" being. This is what can only be denoted as women's rights as a woman can only understand how she is being discriminated against. However, the disadvantage will always be that her rights can only be made into laws by a majoritively male government and if they the patriarchy feels that it is not in their best interest (i.e. falling birth rates, higher chances of a handicapped nation due to older women giving birth) to pass these laws then equality can never be found.

Is there really a solution to this inequality in the world? Not really, unless there is a mass revolution staged by all of the minorities against the patriachy but how is this to be achieved by a subsection of society who have never truly created a complete group unlike the African Americans or the Jewish. Women are a minority within minorities.The likelihood of a rush of women to join their government is also extremely unlikely, due to its anti-female environment. Politics is too high flying for a woman to be able to take a break in her career to provide the country with the children it so desperately wants. They, usually, stay in subordinate positions, such as in local council, that never can truly change the way in which a country is run. If they manage to make it to the top questions are constantly asked about her private life i.e. if she has children what are the effects going to be upon the adult they will become in a later life because she has concentrated on her career?If she has not had children, she will be labelled selfish, sometimes even by women, who manage to work against their own cause.

In conclusion, how can women's rights truly exist if they are doctored to men's wishes and how can we come up with a strategy to change this without causing mass destruction of the world?

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