Category Archives: Feminists

The First Classical Feminist

Feminism has evolved over the last couple centuries.

It is fair to say that classical feminism has done much for women in many Western nations and in developed countries. Voting rights, right to own land, get educated and have a job, are all things that many women take for granted now.

While many in America know about the Suffragettes, headed by Susan B. Anthony, around the turn of the 20th century, but the concept of suffrage and other women’s rights were voiced in various societies well before the movement that allowed the female vote in America thanks to the 19th Amendment in 1920. It wasn’t just in America the issue was important to half the population.

A British woman named Mary Wollstonecraft in the 18th century was one of those activists.  She was only with us for 38 years, but she was a prolific writer and philosopher, most known for A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792, in which she argued that women were only inferior to men due to education, but that men and women should be treated as equally rational beings.

She was one of the first to preach about equality among the sexes.

She died just days after giving birth to her second daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, who became the famous author Mary Shelley of Frankenstein fame. Her mother was married to one of the early founders of the anarchist movement, a man named William Godwin. Before marrying Godwin, however, Mary Wollstonecraft had a couple of affairs and had a daughter from one of them, a daughter named Fanny Imlay.

The most vocal early classical feminist, Wollstonecraft was an educational advocate, especially in the education of girls. She, her sister and a friend, combined to open a school for girls to give them a proper formal education, and she later wrote a pamphlet about her experiences in 1787.

She had been an anti-marriage feminist, joining her husband Mr. Godwin in stating marriage as a “tyranny,” especially when it comes to women being less educated than men and thus becoming tyrants in the house with children and servants. Wollstonecraft realized early on that she was not one to be a housewife or a domestic, so she left a position as a governess and returned to work as a writer, author, and advocate. Despite the “tyranny” of marriage, Wollstonecraft and Godwin married while she was pregnant with their daughter.

Besides writing A Vindication, which was in itself radical at the time, she also wrote Maria, or the Wrongs of Women, which was a missive that advocated women embracing their sexual selves, and that it was immoral for women to hide their sexuality. As modesty was all the rage at that time, her ideas generated a lot of buzz for their controversy.

She knew how to generate headlines, at least.

She was a celebrity of sorts in women’s social circles during the late 18th century, and she faded into the memories until the 1900s, when some suffragettes brought up her work in their push for voting rights in the United States. She also became a source of study during the new feminism movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Comments Off on The First Classical Feminist

Filed under Feminists

Famous Black Women Activists You Should Know About

The civil rights movement is active in the United States and there are many women who are active in the movement. There are plenty of good people working hard to better the lives of black people and help them achieve economic independence and equality.

Though slavery has been over for more than 100 years, many blacks are still feeling the effects of slavery all these years later. Racism is alive and well, and even on the rise, and blacks have been kept down in many ways. They have been profiled by the police and denied opportunities right and left. Activists are busy trying to right the wrongs in society and many have lost their lives in the process.

Women have been active in the movement since the beginning. Angela Davis was heavily involved with the Black Panthers and is now a professor. Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus. Modern activists like Kamala Harris are working within the political system to try to change things.

The modern civil rights movement is working to end segregation in the south and is pushing for a more equal public school system. The movement is trying to end violence in the community and make sure that children and adults have enough food and medical care. Poverty is a huge problem in many black communities and activists are trying to level the economic playing field through many types of programs.

The school system is a big mess as well, with poor students going to schools that do not have enough funding. Poor black kids are just not getting the education they need to keep up with the job market. Modern activists are starting programs that are helping to teach kids what they are going to need to know to go to college and get a job.

Black males have a higher incarceration rate than any other race. Civil rights activists are working to help release prisoners who have been wrongly convicted and help rehabilitate them when they get out so they can get jobs and not have to resort to crime.

The black community has many problems to overcome, but it is getting help from the male and female activists who want to help change things for the better. Civil rights are more important now than ever, especially in today’s hate-filled political climate.

Comments Off on Famous Black Women Activists You Should Know About

Filed under Civil Rights Activists, Feminists, My Blog

The History of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

One of the worst fire catastrophes occurred at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. By the end of the incident, the fire had claimed the lives of 146 people. Many died from the flames or severe smoke inhalation but more died due to the shoddy conditions of the fire escapes or by jumping to the pavement some eight stories below to avoid the heat.

Most of the women who died that day were factory workers from the Italian Jewish Immigrant community. The oldest known victim was 43 and the youngest victims were 14.

The factory had been set up on the top three floors of a ten-story commercial building which would soon become a monument in the Greenish Village area in Manhattan. It was late in the afternoon on March 25th 1911, and many people were leaving work when the fire started on the eighth floor of the building. The Fire Marshall determined a burning cigarette or match to be the culprit in the fire.

The fire department was called immediately and the people in the building were beginning to evacuate when the flames quickly engulfed the building. When the elevators stopped working the panicking employees rushed to the only fire escape which was in poor conditions. It collapsed and carried 20 women to their deaths below.

 

The building owners had changed many of the escape routes shut, as was common practice to avoid theft and crime. Many people were trapped inside or jumped from the high windows to avoid a painful death in the flames.

Witnesses were horrified to see the many women jumping from the windows. When the fire brigade did arrive at the scene, their ladders were only tall enough to reach the seventh floor and they weren’t able to rescue many people. The Asch Building still stands today and is a tourist attraction in Manhattan.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire was one of the worst catastrophes to hit the industrial age and was not quickly forgotten. Because of it, the fire department began to establish many new regulations regarding fire safety. The practice of chaining fire escapes shut was expressly forbidden.

The horrific death of so many young women was also crucial in establishing factory safety standards that would be enforced by the fire department. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union was also established which would fight for the rights and improved working conditions of workers.

Comments Off on The History of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Filed under Civil Rights Activists, Feminists, My Blog

Who Is Gloria Steinem and What Is Her Role in Feminism?

For half a century, Ohio-born Gloria Marie Steinem has been leading the way in the rights of women and, to a lesser extent, the marginalized citizens of the world in general. Her work in the 1960s and 1970s helped to change the world and pave the way for women’s rights everywhere.

Whether or not you are a woman, the work of Ms. Steinem is important to understand the history of the country and how the patriarchal system has begun to collapse in exchange for more equitable rights for everyone. However, she has not been without critics during her outspoken public career. In fact, proponents on both sides of the feminist discussion often site Steinem during arguments.

Born in the mid-1930s, her childhood included the turmoil of being raised by a divorced mentally ill mother after her parents separated when she was only 10 years old. Her father, a salesman, moved to the West Coast, leaving young Gloria with an unemployed and unemployable mother. Her mother’s mental illness allowed Gloria to see the injustices related to gender, education and economic status.

After she attended college, she began a career in journalism that sparked her activism. She wrote a piece for Esquire magazine during the early 1950s about the marginalization of women. She laid out how women at that time had to choose between a family and a career, predating the better-known “The Feminine Mystique” by a year.

Although she did not gain international credit for that particular piece, it was the first in a long line of articles, essays and other penned works regarding how females in the society are sexualized and don’t have the same voice as men. She even worked undercover as a Playboy Bunny in Los Angeles in order to get an insider view of the sex industry.

Starting in the late 1960s, Ms. Steinem used her voice to promote political activism. Like Jane Fonda and other powerful women at the time, she began to talk passionately about politics and the people who were running for office. Needless to say, the conservative candidates were not always happy with her words and have made great efforts to attack her as a person and a journalist.

However, she has not allowed age to keep her from remaining active in the world of politics and promoting equality for all. For instance, she has been outspoken about female genital mutilation in other countries, as well as male genital mutilation here and abroad. Her stance that these guidelines are designed to suppress rather than enhance the populace is helping to make changes regarding these practices.

Anyone who wants to understand the feminist movement and how it has impacted the world should certainly learn more about Gloria Steinem and the work that she has done. Her powerful words and actions have impacted society in positive ways for the women who live here. While perceived by some as radical, others believe she is exactly what the world needed! She still plays a heavy hand in the world of feminism in this day and age. You can see her here talking at the Women’s March on Washington earlier this year:

Comments Off on Who Is Gloria Steinem and What Is Her Role in Feminism?

Filed under Feminists

Susan B. Anthony – One Of The First Feminists

For today’s true feminists, Susan B. Anthony is a heroine. She was the force behind a woman’s right to vote and is considered one of the most influential women in history. Born in 1850, Anthony was a woman’s right activist and social reformer. She was born a Quaker and believed in social equality. At the age of 17, Anthony collected petitions against slavery and was appointed the American Anti-Slavery Society state agent for New York in 1856.

In 1852, Anthony was barred from speaking at a temperance conference. She was barred because she was a woman. Infuriated, Anthony, along with her friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the Women’s State Temperance Society in New York. Anthony and Stanton also formed the Women’s Loyal National League in 1863 and used the League to help collect almost 400,000 signatures on a petition to abolish slavery.

Anthony and Stanton formed the Equal Rights Association in 1863 and advocated for equal rights for both African Americans and women. Their newspaper, The Revolution was first published in 1868 and in 1869, these two women formed the National Woman Suffrage Association following a split in the women’s movement.

By 1890, this rift was healed and the American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman Suffrage Association combined to create the new National American Woman Suffrage Association. Anthony was the driving force behind this merger. Anthony came to believe that no woman would be respected or taken seriously until they could vote. The vote would provide women with political leverage and eventually, her work resulted in women getting the right to vote when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed in 1920, 14 years after her death.

Susan B. Anthony is considered by most to be the first feminist in the United States. She attended her convention on women’s rights in 1852. She and Stanton believed women would be granted the right to vote by the Republicans as a reward for garnering the support of women for the Thirteenth Amendment. They were to be bitterly disappointed as Congress once again denied women this right. Anthony never gave up on her efforts for women’s suffrage.

She traveled throughout the West and continued to campaign vigorously for the women’s rights. In 1872, Anthony along with her sisters and other women were arrested because they had voted. Along with the election inspectors accused of allowing her to vote, Anthony was arraigned and charged with voting in the Rochester Common Council chambers. Anthony refused to pay bail and was eventually indicted. Her attorney did pay her bail and asked for a change of venue. This was denied by the court who then instructred the jury to find Anthony guilty. She was fined $100 and courtroom fees. Anthony refused to pay, but the judge didn’t put her in jail and she lost her right to appeal the verdict.

She met with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1898. He responded with that women’s suffrage was “not that important.”  She continued to be an advocate and was quoted saying “Failure Is Impossible”. She died in 1906 from heart failure in her home in Rochester but her legacy continues.

Comments Off on Susan B. Anthony – One Of The First Feminists

Filed under Feminists