The three posts for class on 9/9/10 continue with our theme of learning about women’s rights and feminist history.
The first piece is a speech entitled “Ain’t I a Woman?”, delivered in December of 1851 by Sojourner Truth at the Women’s Convention. Here, Truth brings about issues regarding gender equality (with perhaps a bit of race equality mixed in). She talks about how women should be helped and treated politely, according to men, and yet she has never been treated this way. She works as much and eats as much as a man, has birthed 13 children and gone through extraordinary pain from that, and yet she is still not treated with respect. Some people say that woman are lesser than men because Jesus was male, but Truth argues that Jesus came from Mary, and thus everyone should have respect for women. And, she brings in the Bible by alluding to the fact that Eve “turned the world upside down all alone” and that women should be able to turn it back all together. Now that women are now asking for privileges, women should have rights. Finally, Truth shouts to everyone at the convention that a change needs to happen, “obliged to you for hearing me…”, now that they have heard her word.
The second piece is called “Feminism Old Wave and New Wave”. Ellen DuBois, who wrote this in 1971, begins with defining feminism in three parts; an analysis explaining why and how women are and have been oppressed, a view of society where women are free and stereotypes no longer exist, and plainly the idea that oppressing women is contradictory in society. She then goes further to explain the two feminist waves that have existed in the United States, the latter that began with the women joining the “radical” political movement “the New Left”. Though this movement was supposedly radical, women felt that they were not being treated equally and still were being left to do the “shitwork”. Most of her attention however is towards the first wave, which began around the same time as abolitionism. This arose when women realized that politically, they were not equal, and rather did “the shitwork”, just like those in more recent years. While these women in the 19th century did the dirty work, the men received the recognition.
The Grimke sisters are credited with “generating 19th century feminism” for while speaking against slavery to groups of men, they brought up women’s issues. Some men supported them, while many remained quiet. Once again in 1840, at the World Anti Slavery Convention, the “women question” was addressed when Mott and Stanton were not allowed to be delegates, even though they had been allocated those positions. The two later planned the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848.
The Civil War was also an important milestone in the history of women’s rights, because it was then that women fully realized that even their devout patriotic acts during the war would not be rewarded. Another blow came after the Civil War, when both the 14th and 15th Amendments, which prohibit prejudices based on race, color or previous condition of servitude, did not address gender issues in any way. This once again proved that men did not have the backing of women and would have to move forward on their own. The moving forward went on in the late 1800’s and also can be seen in the second wave as well.
The third reading for class is entitled “The Declaration of Sentiments” and was signed by both women AND men at the Seneca Falls Convention, headed by Stanton and Mott, in New York in 1848.
This piece of writing demanded that US women had rights and should thus be respected by society. Modeled after the Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of Sentiments reaffirms that women should equally have the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and that it is women’s right as equal citizens to refuse allegiance to a government if they are not treated as should be. This document lists all of the ways that men have lessened and even taken power away from women, including having the ability to take female property, take all of the “profitable employments”, denied education, allowed secondary positions in church and state, etc. At the end, there is a demand for equal rights and privileges, as women do comprise half of the nation.