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Argumentative Essay on Rise of Women's Rights Movement During the 19th Century

6 pages
1405 words
Vanderbilt University
Type of paper: 
Argumentative essay
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The women's rights movement of the mid-19th century united women around several issues that were viewed as essential for all the people. These issues included the right to vote, reproductive rights, access to higher education, as well as the right to own property. Among these, women's suffrage was the most controversial of all and divided the movers along ideological lines. In 1917, the women acquired the right to vote, and the movement lost much of its drive. The first and the Second World War gave the women much encouragement to carry out their patriotic duty by joining the workforce to support the efforts of the war (Marilley, 1996, p. 1822). Most women anticipated that they would exit the labor force when men came back from the military, and many did. Nevertheless, others enjoyed working outside the home as well as the economic benefits, and they remained in the work environment permanently. Following the Second World War, the women's rights movement found it hard to come together again on various significant issues. However, it was not until the social revolution of the 60s that the modern feminist movement was revitalized (Marilley, 1996, p. 1824). Four decades down the line, the movement has addressed several issues considered discriminatory toward women. This paper will analyze the various factors that led to the rise of women's rights movement during the 19th century in Europe and America. It will also highlight the various issues that the advocates of the movement had to fight for.

The women's rights movement encompasses various principles. The American and feminists' responses fell under the constant resistance to change, support for reasonable and steady change, as well as the demand for a quick and fundamental change. The primary reason for the women's movementwas to push for women's suffrage. In general terms, women's suffrage is defined as the right of the women to vote. Women's suffrage was one of the primary driving issues behind the movement. It was first proposed as a federal amendment in 1968. However, it struggled for many decades before the adoption of the 19th amendment in 1920 that gave women the right to vote (Marilley, 1996, p. 1822). At the early times of the movement, several moderate feminists viewed the fight for the right to vote as radical and dreaded that it would counteract their efforts of achieving less controversial objectives such as access to birth control, higher education, equal pay, employment, as well as right to own property. However, others saw woman suffrage as a political change sold to the Americans by top leaders who overstated both its promise and potential so that they can gain a sense of belonging or restore the male society. The women's movement led to the conversion of the women from "second-class citizens" to full citizenship and allowed to vote, which was a huge political change. Also, the involvement of the US in the First World War affected the movement suffrage in various ways. The support of the war was seen as an act of patriotism and advanced the women's rights issues. After the women acquired voting rights, some women and men perceived the fight for women's rights to be over (Marilley, 1996, 1836).

Similarly, women's rights movement came into the rise to push for the acceptance of women's rights as human rights. The particular experiences of women needed to be integrated to the traditional approaches to human rights (Friedman, 1995, p. 12). At the time, very few nations were committed in both domestic and foreign policies to the equality of women as a basic human right. Also, women's interests were rarely seen as a priority, and their rights were regarded as special interests. That is among the reasons why the women's rights movement came into the spotlight. More often, women experienced their human rights being violated. And whenever their rights were violated, it was because of their gender. The women's rights were violated in several ways, and often women suffered abuse in ways that are more or less similar to those perpetrated against men. In other words, even similar conditions with men, the women were regularly abused. Also, the women who have their rights violated for other reasons other than gender often also experienced other forms of gendered abuse, like sexual assault. The women's rights movement focused on discriminations where gender was a primary factor; since these were the most unseen and presented the greatest challenge to the women (Friedman, 1995, p. 24).

The women's rights movement also arose in reaction to the legal statuses between men and women. Apart from the right to vote, the movement also fought for the right to own property, higher education, employment and equal pay, as well as access to family planning. The women had numerous challenges in the society since they were regarded as "second-class citizens." The challenges the women faced came in the form of education, employment and wages, social inequality, and healthcare. Men tended to attain higher education than women; however, the gap in the US and Europe rapidly closed, which can be attributed to the efforts of the movement. Also, men holding the same positions as their women counterparts received higher pay, promotions, as well as recognition as compared to the women. Women carried out most of the domestic duties, such as home keeping and child care. Moreover, many women would opt to leave their jobs to care for the children, which contributed much to the wage gap. Most importantly, in some nations, men easily accessed and received better health services than women. The advocates of the movement actively supported women's unhampered access to educational opportunities, which is the primary step in winning the fight on inequality ("Womens Rights Facts, Information, Pictures | Encyclopedia.Com Articles About Womens Rights").

On the other hand, there some other reasons that caused the Womens rights movement that was associated with their self-centeredness other than the intended purpose of championing their rights. Some women were motivated by self-gain and access to political power, therefore, defying the aim of the movement, thus the benefit was individualized. The individuals with the opinion against suffrage would express that women were too sensitive to have them risked at polling stations or being corrupted by politics. Others had their expression that women were incompetent or were mentally incapacitated to provide any useful opinion in regards to political issues. Similarly, others argued that the votes casted by the women would simply double the electorate and not add any value to voting. The proponents of women's suffrage also put their interests first. Therefore they lost their chance to participate in open social and political transformations, which explains why women lacked an immediate and visible change after they won the vote. Lastly, the women rights movement pushed for other political agendas more than for the rights of the women; therefore it can be argued that the move was politically motivated (McCammon, 2001, p. 1904).

Although, the above arguments have no basis because it is evident that the women's rights movements came into being, primarily to fight for making the economic, social, political status of women equal to that of men. To achieve these objectives, the movement strived to create legislative protections against discriminations based on gender and has worked on these objectives for over two decades (Staggenborg, 2005, p. 41). To meet its goals, the women's right movement employed political approaches. For instance, the woman's right to vote was purely political. Since its formation, the movement has addressed several issues that are categorically discriminatory to women. For instance, in Europe and the US, the education gap between men and women was closed rapidly. However, the lack of education that still affects women is caused by some other factors, the most prominent being economical (Staggenborg, 2005, p. 48). Therefore, it can be maintained that the movement came into rising for the primary reason of fighting women's inequality.

The women's rights movement succeeded in outdoing inequalities that existed between the men and women. The main issues that the movement focused on included the right to vote, reproductive rights, access to higher education, as well as the right to own property which it fought hard to achieve. Among these, women's suffrage was one of the primary driving issues behind the movement. Some arguments have been brought forward that the women's rights movement arose due to other factors other than the inequality issues. However, it can be concluded that the women's rights movements came into being primarily to fight for making the economic, social, political status of women equal to that of men.

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