In the United States and many other countries around the world, women have the ability to achieve as much as any man. With the proper education, skill, and (in some cases) finances, women can do anything, from owning their own successful small businesses to running multi-billion dollar companies to running for president of the United States. Women fly airplanes, serve as judges, and perform complex surgeries. The modern woman in the U.S. isn't always a professional woman, as some decide to stay at home and raise families; however, this is a choice, and women have a right to choose. As unsurprising as this may seem in today's world, it was not always the case. In the not-so-distant past, women did not have agency over themselves or their actions. They could not work outside of the home, own property, sue someone for injury, or vote in elections. Women were trapped in a world in which men had power over their lives. The freedom and rights that women in the U.S. enjoy today is courtesy of the women's rights movement. To truly understand how women gained equality, it is important for both women and men to understand the women's rights movement. Understanding it more may give rise to a new appreciation of how far women have come and all that they've accomplished.

When did it Start

It is widely agreed that the women's rights movement officially started in 1848 with what is considered the first convention. The convention was first conceived by a group of women who were meeting socially in July of that year. The women, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who is regarded as a foremother of the movement, were discussing the lack of women's rights when the idea for a convention to discuss the lack of rights for women arose. The convention would be held in five days at the Wesleyan Methodist Church located in Seneca Falls, New York. The convention would become known as the Seneca Falls Convention. It was planned and publicized with haste and took place on July 19th and July 20th, with approximately 300 people in attendance. Among these people was Frederick Douglass and 39 other men.

The Declaration of Sentiments

For the Seneca Falls Convention, Stanton penned the Declaration of Sentiments. This Declaration took inspiration from the Declaration of Independence and stated that all men and women were created as equals. The Declaration also listed eighteen injustices of men toward women and eleven resolutions, including one that involved securing the right to vote. The Declaration of Sentiments was signed at the Seneca Falls Convention by 100 of its attendees. Unfortunately, not all that signed kept their names on the declaration and some removed it due to criticism and scorn.

The Impact of the Civil War and the 14th and 15th Amendments

Despite controversy, more conventions were held in the name of women's rights. At the forefront of these conventions were Elizabeth Cady Stanton and abolitionist Susan B. Anthony. The drive for women's rights came to a standstill, however, with the start of the Civil War. Following the War, in 1868 the 14th Amendment was ratified, giving Constitutional protection to all citizens. It did not sit well with the women who were fighting for women's rights, however, as it defined citizens as male. In 1870, black men were given the right to vote when the 15th Amendment was ratified. These events renewed the women's rights movement and resulted in the forming of two groups anxious to gain the right to vote for women. The first group was headed by Stanton and was called the National Woman Suffrage Association. This group often sided with racists and denounced black men's right to vote over that of white women. Another group, the American Woman Suffrage Association, had opposing views on the matter.

The Suffrage Movement

With the common goal of gaining the right to vote, the two organizations merged in 1890, creating the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The group lobbied the president for a constitutional amendment granting women suffrage. The group also campaigned individual states for women's rights and obtained successes in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah. Yet another group, the National Woman's Party, formed and began using tactics like protesting and picketing the White House with their demands. Members of this group were arrested and charged with failing to move and blocking traffic, but their treatment only served to gain more supporters for the movement. With the work of the two groups, success was achieved. The 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, giving women the right to vote.

The Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in 1923 and was designed to allow equal rights for men and women. Congress failed to pass the amendment, but it was reintroduced in 1943 with changes to the wording. Alice Paul, a woman's suffragist and an activist for women's rights, changed the amendment so that it stated equal rights could not be denied or changed by the United States or any individual state due to one's sex. Once again, the amendment failed to pass. The passage of the amendment became a goal of the women's rights movement, which worked hard for support during the 1960s. It was passed in 1972, but failed to receive the required number of votes for ratification and is not yet included in the Constitution.

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