The Evolution of Women’s Rights

The Evolution of Women's Rights

Katie Clark, Staff Writer

As the Presidential Election comes to a close and our next president, Donald Trump, comes to power, it is important to look back at our history as a country to see how far women’s rights have come.

In 1848, over 300 men and women gathered in Seneca Falls, New York under Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to discuss the political, social, and economic rights of women.  Out of the 300 people that attended the convention, 62 women and 38 men signed the “Declaration of Sentiments”, a document based off of the United States’ Constitution that advocated for women’s rights.  One of the documents most powerful lines is, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal.”

In 1869, the National Women Suffrage Association (NWSA) and The American Women Suffrage Association (AWSA) were formed to achieve the goal of gaining voting rights for women in Congress and individual state constitutions.  Women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who formed NWSA, protested and fought relentlessly for all women to gain the ability to vote.  The two organizations later combined to form the National American Women Suffrage Association to help spread the amendment that gave women the right to vote.  The first state to adopt the proposed amendment for women’s suffrage was Colorado in 1893. 

In 1919, the Federal Women’s Suffrage Amendment was finally passed by the House of Representatives after 41 years and was sent to each state to be ratified.  On August 26, 1920, the 19th amendment of the Constitution was passed and women officially had to right to vote.

In 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act that made it illegal for employers to pay a woman less than a man’s salary for the same job.  Although this was signed into law decades ago, the wage gap is still an issue today with a woman who works full-time earning only 79 percent of what a man also working full-time would earn. The circumstances are even worse for women in minorities with African-American women earning 64 cents and Latina women earning 56 cents for every dollar a Non-Hispanic male makes.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for a state law to ban a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion.  The Roe v. Wade case provided women with the ability to make an extremely difficult decision about their health and their child’s health without the fear of being punished or harmed.

In 1981, the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan.  As a moderate conservative judge, Day O’Conner was a critical swing vote in many cases, including the protection of Roe v. Wade and the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision that further upheld the court’s view on abortion rights.  Day O’ Connor was later joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second female justice.

This June, in 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first female presidential candidate of a major national party.  As the candidate of the Democratic party, Clinton led a strong, inclusive, family-oriented campaign against the Republican candidate, Donald Trump.  Although Clinton was not victorious in the election, she inspired millions of young women to continue her fight to shatter the glass ceiling that she had dedicated her life and career to breaking.

This is not the end for women and our history.  Even though our country has yet to elect a female president, we must gather the power and courage to keep trying.  The possibilities for our future is endless; we can continue the work of those before us who have spent their life fighting for our rights.  As Hillary Clinton so graceful said in her concession speech this Wednesday, “I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but some day someone will and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.”