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.