Modern US History

All the modern US history fit to print

Category: Rocco Casaceli

Introduction

Introduction

 

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.

 

 

Exhibit 1: Suffragist Movement

Letter to the Convention of the Women of America, Jeanne Deroin and Pauline Roland, 1851

This letter was written by Jeanne Deroin and Pauline Roland in 1851. During the mid 1800s and prior, the Women’s Rights Movement was essentially non-existent. But with groups such as the Convention of the Women of America, women started to feel a sense of empowerment and duty to begin fighting for their rights. Within this letter, Deroin and Roland shared that they are imprisoned for speaking on behalf of women and attempting to fight for the rights of women. They go on to say that the news of the birth of the convention has served as a rallying cry and source of hope for the women within the prison. The content and context of this letter are very important in the grand scheme of the Women’s Rights Movement because the convention served as one of the first places women could join and have a shared sense of unity in regard to the topic of inequality. This letter shows how the convention served as a beacon of movement and helped the movement gain more traction during the mid 1800s.

Women’s Suffrage Speech, Susan B. Anthony, 18712

Susan B Anthony c1855.png

One of the most impactful actions during the long history of the Women’s Rights Movement was Susan B. Anthony’s speech that was given during her trial when she attempted to vote in the state of New York. Anthony used her strong rhetoric to point out the hypocrisy of the United States government and the flaws that society had. By pointing out the fact that she was being tried in court, yet unable to cast a vote in the presidential election. Using this point of emphasis, Anthony concisely pointed out how the disenfranchisement of women did not make sense if she was being tried in court. Anthony believed that by achieving the right to vote women would be able to have a voice within the political landscape. Giving them a voice would allow them to vote for whomever they saw fit and would help them achieve change. Anthony was incredibly smart and approached her ordeal tactically and helped create noise in the sociopolitical landscape with this speech.

 

The Progress of Colored Women, Mary Church Terrell, 1898

While the whole demographic of women within the U.S. was oppressed in society, a subgroup that received the worst of the oppression was African-American women. The standard sexism coupled with the inherent racism of the late 1800s made it difficult for black women to have any form of presence within America. In this letter, Terrell gives the brief history of slavery and how it was overcome. She then compares this battle to the fight for Women’s Suffrage Movement and how the battle is worth fighting by making the point that if the slaves were freed, then women too have the power to win their own battle for the right to vote. This letter to the National Women’s Suffrage Association provides tremendous insight on the sentiments of the different subgroups of the movement while also showing the increased following the movement had gained throughout the tail end of the 1800s. This letter illustrates the cohesion between the different subgroups of the movement such as the African American suffrage activists.

 

Looking Backward, Laura Foster, 1912

While the Women’s Rights Movement gained a ton of steam during the fight for Suffrage Movement in the early 1900s, it was still strongly opposed by not just men but women as well. Here in this political cartoon, Foster illustrates the beliefs of the opposition of the Suffrage Movement. The opposition believed that the independence given to women would be too much for them to handle and would eventually cause them to leave behind the values that their existence was based off of in the first place. Contextually, throughout the course of the Women’s Rights Movement, the women who opposed the enfranchisement and acquisition of rights believed that with gain of the rights such as voting women would become lost as individuals in society without the guidance of men in their lives. While these ideas have been disproved throughout recent history due to the increase in rights and power gained by women, ideas such as the ones displayed in the cartoon help depict the arguments made on both sides of the Suffragist Movement.

 

19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women’s Right to Vote, 1920

            The 19th Amendment states that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. The goal of the Women’s Suffrage Movement had finally been achieved after decades of civil disobedience. While it took time to accomplish, it served as a turning point in the battle for Women’s Rights in the United States. Women in the United States had prior had not hadthe right to vote, giving them no say in the sociopolitical scene within the U.S. But now because of this amendment, women finally had freed themselves of disenfranchisement, giving them the ability to have more influence in sociopolitical sphere. The historical context of the 19th Amendment is important as well because it came just at the start of the flapper era as well as the start of the birth control movement in the U.S. The 19th Amendment served as a benchmark for the Women’s Rights Movement and fueled the fire of the fight for the further betterment of the lives of women in the United States, making it one of the most powerful changes in the nation’s history.

 

Exhibit 2: Change in Gender Roles in the 1910s and 1920s

Family Limitation, Margaret Sanger, 1914

During the beginning of the 1900s, the shift of the roles of women began to take place in American society. Traditionally, the duty of women was to serve men domestically as well as take care of the children in the household. This role had faced a new alternative once women had been given the power of birth control due to the reemergence of the eugenics movement. People such as Margaret Sanger introduced the idea of limiting families and birth control to women, which in turn gave women an enhanced sense of empowerment. In Sanger’s work, she states that women should have control over their own bodies and be able to make their own decisions with things like having a child. To have views like this during a time as conservative as the early 1900s was unheard of, and for that reason Sanger was scrutinized by conservatives and was even jailed for 9 after opening a birth control clinic in Brooklyn. While the idea of birth control is heavily debated even in in present day America, Margaret Sanger was one of the first trailblazers for this movement which give women the right to their bodies.

Changing Emotion Norms: Love and Anger in U.S. Women’s Magazines
Since 1900, Francesca M. Cancian and Steven L. Gordon, 1988

         The model above was constructed by Francesca M. Cancian and Steven L. Gordon, professors at the University of California, Ivine and California State University, Los Angeles. The two created the chart to illustrate the shifts of gender roles and expectations from 1900 onward by quantifying the amount of progressive publications of women throughout media. The graph clearly depicts the change that was occurring in society in regard to the portrayal of women. The spike that was most apparent on the graph was from 1910 to 1920. By no means was this spike a coincidence due to the fact that occurrences such as the introduction of birth control as well as the flapper movement began to take off during that decade. Media and advertisers viewed these trends as an opportunity to capitalize on and use to grab the attention of consumers. The graph makes it clear how the dynamic of the Women’s Rights Movement was a popular topic of the time and gives quantitative evidence to further emphasize how the evolving roles of women was just a prelude to the presence and depiction of women in modern society.

Cover of The Saturday Evening Post, Ellen Pyle, 1922

               As shown graphically prior, there was a major culture shift in pop culture in terms of the portrayal of women. Here is a perfect example of that on the cover of one of America’s most popular periodicals of the time, The Saturday Evening Post, which boasted legendary artists such as Norman Rockwell creating cover art for their widely-read magazine. As mentioned before along with the model, the 1920s featured the flapper era, where women began to dress more risqué, party more, and lead independent, single lifestyles. On the cover, the artwork gives a perfect example of what a flapper would look like. The glorification of said style helps demonstrate the popularity as well as the shift culturally of the role and representation women had gained during the early 1900s.

 

Exhibit 3: The Start of Modern Feminism in the 1960s

The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan, 1963

            The Feminine Mystique, a book written by Betty Friedan in 1963, was a revolutionary piece of literature that many believe ignited the start of the second wave of feminism. Friedan wrote the piece in hopes of encapsulating the identity crisis that many women felt during their day to day lives within the household. Friedan famously dubbed this internal conflict as “the problem that has no name.” Friedan makes a point in her work that this sense of emptiness was due to the cult domesticity ideals that were pressed into society during the 1950s at the start of the Cold War. (Turner) Friedan then goes on to argue the idea that the role of women in society as just a domestic entity hinders them from growing and having any form of independent identity. Her conclusion is that women should go on to pursue education and careers outside of the household to progress and achieve their own identity. These ideas were groundbreaking for the social climate of the 1960s which then caused a stir amongst women to begin to break out of the mold and pursue their own interests. This book is still referenced today due to how powerful the message of pursuing autonomy was the first of its time given by Betty Friedan.

“Men Without Women”: Look Magazine, Eleanor Harris 1960

                       The article written in Look Magazine by Eleanor Harris pointed out the clear double standard between men and women in society during the 1960s. Harris comments on the fact that men and women have differing reasons for being single and unmarried. Harris differentiates the two common reasons by saying that men often say they are single because they haven’t found a woman who fits their needs of domesticity. On the other hand, woman who are unmarried are labeled as “undesirable”. She makes it clear that the dynamic relationships and marriages solely focuses on the needs of the men and the women are there to fill their needs. This article shares the same ideas of identity for women during the time and helps try to go against the dominant culture that was commonplace in relationship culture during the 1950s and 1960s. Harris attempts to empower women by helping them recognize this flaw and encourage them to think differently and practice self-love. This source shows the burgeoning presence of the Feminist Movement that was on the horizon.

Title IX, 1972

                   Title IX was an act that was passed in 1972 to enforce the equality of all and put an end to discrimination in the workplace, in academics (specifically higher education) and in athletics as well. Women could pursue careers that required higher education such as doctorates and also gain employment without being discriminated based on sex. This set of laws help push women forward in terms of equality and opened up a world of opportunity that they had not had before. Some women refer to themselves as “Title IX Babies” who felt they had seized the opportunity and had capitalized on the newly enforced rules and regulations in athletics and academics. (Leung) The opportunity allowed women to step out of the “feminine mystique” that Betty Friedan detests in her book shown earlier. Title IX has been one of the most powerful set of laws enacted since the 19th Amendment and has helped move women towards equality in the present day as well.

 Exhibit 4: Modern Feminism

Nike Advertisement

                This was a video advertisement published by Nike, an American consumer goods company. The ad contrasted the common sexist theme of what it means to be a girl with the real meaning of it means to be a girl. It provides a solid juxtaposition used to emphasize the strength and power women should have to be different and create change. Initially going with the historically common sexist idea that girls can only be sweet and sing and dance, it quickly transitioned into the theme of strength and accomplishment through athletics. This was a powerful ad that was well received by the public and set a standard for women in sports and more importantly the real world. It is also important to note that a company as influential as Nike releasing content like this shows the dynamic shift from marginalizing women in pop culture to encouraging to be proud of their womanhood.

 

 

Ellen DeGeneres: I’m Gay, Ellen DeGeneres, 2012

                    This was an interview released in 2012 on YouTube that was published by MAKERS to have Ellen DeGeneres talk about her feelings at the time of coming out of the closet and expressing her sexuality. This was very important step forward in the context of Women’s Rights because part of the movement has been sexual expression and that is something that has started to become more acceptable to speak about in modern America. This was a big deal for DeGeneres to come out because she served as a role model for many women and for her to be open about this started the charge for women (and men) to be more open about their sexuality. She was also one of the first gay lead roles for a show, showing the drastic shift in what was acceptable during the time and what was acceptable during periods such as the early 1900s and 1960s.

 

Sexual Assault and Violence Against Women

The #MeToo social media campaign served as a way for women to express their problems with the issues of sexual assault and harassment. Prior to recent cultural shifts, women were often shamed and blamed for having things like that to happen to them, but this website which was soon started after the social media hashtag shows how the culture has changed in terms of the safety of women. Only recently has this topic that is related to the Feminist Movement been easier for women to express themselves with issues such as domestic abuse and sexual assault. The campaign served and continues to serve as a way to give women a voice as well as the help they had not had prior. Anything that had been related to sex or violence against women had been brushed under the rug in the past but there has been a shift in the culture that has caused these issues to be heard

Bibliography

Primary Sources

 

Anthony, Susan B. “Women’s Suffrage Speech.” Speech, Trial for Attempting to Vote in Presidential Election of 1872, Monroe County, New York.

Archives.gov. (2018). Featured Document: The 19th Amendment. [online] Available at: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/amendment_19/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2018].

Cancian, Francesca M., and Steven L. Gordon. “Changing Emotion Norms in Marriage: Love and Anger in U.S. Women’s Magazines since 1900.” Gender and Society 2, no. 3 (1988): 308-42. http://www.jstor.org/stable/190359.

Foster, Laura. “Looking Backward.” Cartoon. In National Association Opposed to Women’s Suffrage. 1912.

Harris, Eleanor. “Men Without Women.” Look Magazine, July 5, 1960.

“Letter to the Convention of the Women of America.” Letter from Jeanne Deroin and Pauline Roland. 1851.

MAKERS. “Ellen DeGeneres: Saying “I’m Gay”.” YouTube. June 11, 2012. Accessed November 20, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRu6XFUSYq0.

“Me Too Movement.” Me Too Movement. Accessed December 15, 2018. https://metoomvmt.org/about/#history.

Nike. “Nike: What Are Girls Made Of?” Advertisement. YouTube. March 6, 2017. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_iCIISngdI.

Pyle, Ellen. The Flapper. 1922

Sanger, Margaret H. “Family Limitation (1914).” Documenting First Wave Feminisms, 2011. doi:10.3138/9781442664098-076.

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. New York :Norton, 1963.

“The Progress of Colored Women.” Mary Church Terrell to National American Women’s Suffrage Association. 1898.

“Title IX.” The United States Department of Justice. August 06, 2015. Accessed November 20, 2018. https://www.justice.gov/crt/title-ix#10.  Athletics (ァ __.450).

Secondary Sources

Amott, Teresa L., and Julie A. Matthaei. Race, Gender, and Work a Multi-cultural Economic History of Women in the United States. Boston, MA: South End Press, 2007.

Barrett, Rachael. “Women Without Men” versus “Men Without Women”: The Contrast Between Unmarried Men and Unmarried Women in Cold War American Society. Denison University. Denison Digital Commons. 2014. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://digitalcommons.denison.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1068&context=prologue.

Fondas, Nanette. “Why ‘The Feminine Mystique’ Is Still Worth Reading in 2013.” The Atlantic. February 19, 2013. Accessed December 21, 2018. https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/02/why-the-feminine-mystique-is-still-worth-reading-in-2013/273198/.

“History of The Saturday Evening Post.” The Saturday Evening Post. Accessed December 21, 2018. https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/history-saturday-evening-post/.

Hobson, Janell. “Celebrity Feminism: More than a Gateway.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society 42, no. 4 (Summer 2017): 999–1007. doi:10.1086/690922.

Leung, Rebecca. “The Battle Over Title IX.” CBS News. Accessed December 21, 2018. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-battle-over-title-ix/.

Marcotte, Amanda. “What Mad Men Says about Women.” The Guardian. April 05, 2013. Accessed December 21, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2013/apr/05/what-mad-men-says-about-women.

Turner, Laura. “How the Cult of Domesticity Still Reigns in the 21st Century.” Pacific Standard. September 10, 2015. Accessed December 21, 2018. https://psmag.com/social-justice/the-21st-century-cult-of-domesticity.

 

 

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