Saturday, July 18, 2009

Women's Rights, Yesterday and Today

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)

“A journey of a thousand steps must begin with a single step.”
~ Lao-Tzu (c. 604-531 B.C.)

The first Women’s Rights Convention was held July 19 and 20, 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York for the purpose of discussing the civil, social, and religious conditions and rights of woman. It was the beginning of the women’s rights movement in the United States.

On July 9, 1848 several women, Jane Hunt, Mary Ann M’Clintock, Martha Wright, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton met in Waterloo, New York and discussed the social position of women and then decided to hold the First Women’s Rights Convention in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York. They were joined by abolitionists Frederick Douglass, Amy Post, and James Mott, husband of Lucretia Mott. Mary Ann M’Clintock and Jane Hunt were also involved with the Underground Railroad.

Many at the Convention were progressive Quakers (Society of Friends) who believed that men and women were equal in the eyes of God and should listen to their "inner light" or conscience to guide their spiritual connection with God and the Bible.

Many Quakers believed that they were to follow four main tenets: Simplicity, Truth, Equality, and Community. Their dedication and commitment to equality and community led many Quakers to become social activists.

On July 20th they presented a Declaration of Sentiments and it was signed by 68 women and endorsed by 32 men who were present and in favor of the new movement.

In the 1830s Quaker, Lucretia Mott advocated the radical idea that slavery was sinful and must be abolished. She was one of several American delegates to the 1840 World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London. American delegates Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, like the British women at the World Anti-Slavery Convention, were refused permission to speak at the meeting. Stanton later recalled: "We resolved to hold a convention as soon as we returned home, and form a society to advocate the rights of women."

“Never will the nations of the earth be well governed until both sexes, as well as all parties, are fully represented, and have an influence, a voice, and a hand in the enactment and administration of the laws.” ~Anne Knight (1786-1862) English social reformer, Quaker. From Anne Knight’s women's suffrage leaflet published in 1847

These were the women, and the men, who led the way not only to property rights for women, divorce laws and years later, the right for women to vote, and in more recent time, the fight for equal pay. Although we as women have gained equality in some areas, it is still not a perfect country here in the United States (and I don’t even want to think about situations in some foreign countries).

Here is an example of inequality that came to my attention this past week. Publishers Weekly Magazine, July 13, 2009 issue, did a survey of the publishing industry and guess what? There is a gender gap in pay between men and women, although they both received about the same raise last year. The median salary gap of $30,600 was somewhat smaller than the gap of $39,080 in 2007 but a women’s average pay was $66,000 while men’s average pay was $96,000 a year!

So although the fight for equality began more than one hundred sixty years ago, we ain’t made it yet baby!

Will it take generations, when maybe our own great-great granddaughters will be equal to the opposite sex, or will it ever happen?



John Hayes said...

Excellent topic & very informative-- thanks!

Pat said...

I know I can always come here to find something different and interesting. Thanks for the post.

gemini reg said...

I too was informed in reading your post and thought it was well said. In particular, I never realized that F Douglas was that involved with women's suffrage, as well as the more far-reaching extent to which many involved went(including the issue of slavery). Thank you for a thought-provoking blog.

Linda Pendleton said...

John: Thanks.

Hi Pat, I'm glad you enjoy my eclectic topics.

Hi Reg, Thank you for your comments. Yes, the group of activist of the mid 1800s apparently were into all rights: slavery, womens rights, equality.