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First wave feminism

Lisa B. Sharlach

Subject Study of History » Comparative History
Philosophy » Feminist Philosophy

Place World

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1800-1899, 1900-1999

Key-Topics equality, feminism, movements, revolution

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00563.x


The “first wave” of US feminism began in the mid-nineteenth century in the Northeastern states as an outgrowth of the anti-slavery movement. At first, the goal was to advocate a wide array of rights for women. With time, the first wave sharpened its focus more narrowly to the goal of winning women's right to vote. The 1848 Seneca Falls Convention marked the first wave's beginning; the finale was the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, which ensured that women had equal access to the vote. Many of the Seneca Falls leaders got their start at the June 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. Several of the US representatives were women, including Lucretia Mott, a Quaker minister and abolitionist. Public opinion at that time held that women could not and should not deliver public lectures. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was there too, not as a speaker herself but simply to accompany her husband, abolitionist Henry Stanton. Ironically, the topic of the first day of the convention was not slavery, as was scheduled, but whether women could hold the podium. The delegates declared the women to be constitutionally unfit for oratory and banished them to a curtained gallery. Angered, Mott and Stanton left the convention to tour London together and to grumble about the situation of women, which they compared to slavery. Their ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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