Where were the movements successful and where did they fail?The Women's Suffrage Movement of the 19th Century and the battle for equality in the Second Women's Movement in the 20th Century.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In answering this question, I think I can offer some broad strokes and you might have to go back and plug in the exact dates and events that create a broad picture of women resistance in American History.  One of the greatest successes for women's movements in the 19th century was its ability to raise the issue of women's rights.  As renegades of change during the age of reform, thinkers like Stanton, Anthony, Mott, and Truth began to raise American consciousness about the issue of women's rights.  Anthony and Stanton collaborated on "The Declaration of Sentiments," a document that rewrote Jefferson's Declaration of Independence from the American woman's point of view.  The cries of "No Taxation without Representation" were heard again, but this time they were raised from the woman's point of reference.   If there was a failing in this movement, it was that the movement was geared on a social level of consciousness and little, if any, political measures were reached on a national level. The movement was also stilted a bit because of the abolitionist cause as well as the growing economic  and social divide between North and South, leading to the Civil War.  At the time the women's rights movement at this time might have been caught up in the whirlwind of these events.

This is probably where the second women's movement resumed their fight.  Arising from the Progressivist school o thought, they drove in a strong manner for the 19th amendment and also spurned the fight for prohibition.  The fact that they were able to get a Constitutional Amendment passed would mark success.  Women having the right to vote is something that Stanton and Anthony could have only envisioned in their deepest of slumbers.  I think that if there was a shortcoming in this particular movement, it was that it sought to establish political enfranchisement for women, but struggled to articulate this vision in a social context.  The women's rights movement in the 20th century was challenged in how it would appropriate women from other cultures, as immigration to the United States was at an unprecedented level in the early 1900s.  The second women's movement struggled to understand the issue of "being a woman" transcending one's own cultural background and heritage.  Whereas the battle was waged and won on a political level, the notion of the social misconceptions of "being a woman" still lingered and the leaders of said movement had a difficult time articulating this vision into early 20th century America.  I might also posit here that the major distinction emerging in America at this time period was one of economic class, as opposed to race and gender, which were present, but not as looming.  The social demarcation of economic class spoke loudly in America as the line between workers and owners was becoming more distinct and people saw themsselves as economic beings more than any other distinction.  The movement that predicated distinction based on gender did not speak to the worker family, recently emigrated from Eastern Europe, who were all receiving poor compensation and horrific working conditions from a wealthy boss.  This setting did not lend itself to defining itself in gender based terms, as much as the language of material gain and economic distinction.

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