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Subject History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405189224.2011.x


Concept used to describe the diverse social, cultural, and political movements that have campaigned for women's freedoms and for equality between the sexes (see also gender ; sexuality ). The term was initially employed at the First International Women's Conference in Paris in 1892, but did not find common usage until the 1920s. Much earlier feminists such as Mary wollstonecraft had been important in arguing that the inferior status of women resulted not from physiological but from socio-cultural constraints, but those pioneers did not possess a shared agenda. This was not to emerge until the late nineteenth century when activists from different backgrounds found solidarity as they coalesced particularly around the right to vote. In the pre-1914 period this was denied to all European women, except in Finland and Norway (from 1906 and 1913 respectively). There flourished a variety of relevant campaigning movements, among them the Women's Social and Political Union, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, and the German Union for Women's Suffrage. Whereas some protesters (e.g. the Pank-hursts in Britain) occasionally resorted to militant action, others deployed more subtle forms of dissent, such as refusing to complete census and tax returns or defying traditional conventions of femininity. world war i raised further issues about gender roles as “the second sex” entered ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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