Feminism is categorized into three movements. The first-wave (which, if you couldn’t tell by the title of this post, is what we are talking about today) takes place during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Second-wave feminism occurred from about the 1960s to the 1980s. Third-wave feminism is the current wave we are in and began in the 1990s.*
But before we can surf that first-wave we need to talk about Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary lived in England during the early nineteenth century. She was a philosopher and an accomplished writer. In her early years, Mary worked as a Lady’s Companion (the personal assistants of yore), a school teacher, and a governess to support herself before radically deciding to write professionally. She was disappointed by the lack of education and employment opportunities for young women. In 1792 she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, a book that advised that women should have an education equal to their class; one that resembles a man’s education and not just a domestic one.
Rights of Woman explained that wives had the could be to be partners with their husbands once they were not treated like property; this, Mary, points out, would be a more beneficial relationship for both parties. She also reminds us that women are human beings too and deserve the same fundamental rights as men. So even though, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is not totally a feminist work (for it was written long before the idea of feminism even existed) Mary Wollstonecraft is considered the Grandmother of Feminism because it highly so many feminists that came after her.
(Grandma Mary- you go girl!)
So that’s the Lady that was in everyone’s head when the first-wave began. In the 19th and early 20th centuries groups of British and American women called Suffragists or Suffragettes started appearing over both countries**. These groups were dedicated to ending the “suffrage” of women that was dictated by the law. With the dedication of these organized groups of women (some in particular I will mention in the days to come) women in the United States passed the Ninteenth Amendmentin 1920 and English women got completely equal right to vote with the Representation of the People Act in 1928.
(the original SlutWalk)
Let it be said that these women were clearly bad ass. They fought hard and they fought with intelligence, ingenuity, and a ridiculous amount of moxie and patience (1800-1928 is a long time to complete a goal). Also, they had some rockin’ songs:
So that’s basically first-wave feminism in a nutshell. In the coming days I’ll get more in depth with some famous Suffragettes. And remember, this is all in honor of SlutWalk NYC which is happening on October 1st 2011. Be there!
Well Done Sister Suffragette!
* Though really, second wave feminism still continues in existence with the third-wave, but I’m simplifying it here for bloggy purposes.
**And unfortunately, I will only be focusing on American and British feminism history because that’s just what I know more about. Someday I will get really in depth, but not right now.