The topic of feminism and the Women’s Rights Movement is something that is spoken about frequently in today’s world. It is a topic people have very strong opinions about no matter what their political views may be. However, having opinions that aren’t formulated from facts are often very ignorant and because of this can cause friction between the two sides. This museum was created to help educate people on the progress that was made within the U.S. in terms of gender equality. While the themes of the exhibits displayed may depict different forms of content, each remain true to the theme of the betterment of lives for women within the United States of America. Topics such as political and domestic equality, sexuality, expectations of gender, and even athletics are topics the key components that comprise the Women’s Rights and Feminist Movement.
In terms of political and domestic equality, the Women’s Suffrage Movement was something that was a major force when pushing gender equality. Figures such as Susan B. Anthony were trailblazers of the time, harnessing the motives and sentiments of the oppressed women of the time and using the discontent with the state of gender equality towards the end of the 1800s to speak out against the government. Anthony’s efforts to be enfranchised helped spark the mentality of equality amongst other women. The formation of groups such as the National American Women’s Suffrage Association helped give women unity over this dilemma. Another aspect of the Suffragist Movement was the link between races of women to fight for a common goal. A letter from Mary Church Terrell spoke of the hopes of equality for women and the improvement of lives for specifically African-American women. The Suffragist movement began the Women’s Rights Movement and served as the foundation of the fight for equal rights by the unified women of America.
In terms of equality socially, women faced many issues due to the oppression against them that had become part of the dominant culture socially. With efforts to move away from the idea of women being only useful for having kids and towards the idea that women were humans entitled to the same rights as men, the early 1900s served as an eventful time. Activism from people such as Margaret Sanger helped stir conversation on things such as birth control, something extremely frowned upon by the conservative culture at that point in the United States. By voicing her views clearly and concisely about the benefits of birth control helped people form the idea that women are in in fact control of their bodies and aren’t some vehicle used to create children for men. This later helped women expand on the idea of independence during the time of the 1960s and the start of modern feminism. This culturally taboo mindset was demonstrated in Eleanor Harris’s piece in Look magazine. She spoke on the difference between the views in society on the topic of relationships. While not in the same exhibit, the depiction of both in different exhibits expresses the common thread of conflict that women had to fight in the war for equality. By women achieving more equality domestically and giving women empowerment through independence, the movement was pushed further forward.
Another facet of the movement was the beginning of sexual expression and sexuality as a whole. In a conservative society, it was frowned upon and detested to be open about anything that had to do with sex. During the 1920s, the flapper era had begun, which entailed more single women dressing down and more proactively and engaging in night life more. The flapper served as the beginning of a new era of womanhood and sexual expression, and important aspect of the Women’s Rights Movement. In contemporary history, Ellen DeGenres came out and became one of the first female homosexuals to have her own show and have success. I incorporated her interview about this because I felt that she served as a role model to help empower women to become comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. By breaking down the barriers about sex and sexuality, women began to feel empowered and take steps closer to being seen as independent equals in our society.
And most importantly, as mentioned briefly earlier, the understanding of contemporary history is one of the most important aspects of the Women’s Rights and Feminist Movement. Women are heard in today’s society whether it be in society when fighting for the safety of women such as things like the Me Too Movement, or in an empowering Nike advertisement. The voice of the woman in America had been silenced for too long and just in the last few decades it has spoken up.
The Women’s Rights and Feminist Movement’s history is an intense chronicle that has endured many obstacles. But by showing the hardships, and the way they were overcome, it becomes easy to understand the relevance of such a topic in U.S. history.