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Part III: Modern Struggles for Equality
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modern Western struggle for womens rights began in the 18th
century during the Age of Enlightenment. Political philosophers
in Europe began to question traditional ideas that based the
rights of citizens on their wealth and social status. Instead,
leaders of the Enlightenment argued that all individuals were
born with natural rights, and improved education and more
egalitarian social structures could correct inequalities.
Such radical ideas about equality and the rights of citizens helped inspire both the American Revolution in 1775 and the French Revolution in 1789--and spurred many women to claim equal rights as well.
At this time, women shared the disadvantages of the majority of working class men, for many social, economic, and political rights were restricted to the wealthy elite. However, the claims of women were resisted by philosophers like Jean Jacques Rousseau, who claimed that women were sentimental and frivolous.
Rousseau argued that women were naturally suited to be subordinate companions of men.
|1789||Anne Josephe Theroigne de Mericourt stormed the Bastille and led the Women's March on Versailles (see Amazon.com's list of books on Women- 18th Century). Olympe de Gouges published a "Declaration of the Rights of Woman" to protest the revolutionists' failure to mention women in their "Declaration of the Rights of Man." (see "Women in the French Revolution: The Failure of the Parisian Women's Movement in Relation to the Theories of Feminism of Rousseau and Condorcet," by an AP history student)|
|1792||Mary Wollstonecraft publishes Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Project Barteby's e-text) in response to Rousseau and others who belittled the role of women in society. Reviled in her day as a "hyena in petticoats," Wollstonecraft argued that, like men, women were naturally rational but their inferior education often taught them to be silly and emotional. Education, she believed, should cultivate the natural reasoning capacity in girls. She also claimed that the best marriages were marriages of equals, in which husband and wife were friends as well as legal partners. Wollstonecraft argued that equality in marriage would only come about with equality of education.|
own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational
instead of flattering their fascinating graces,
and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood,
unable to stand alone." -- Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792; more)
|1793||Catherine Lidfield Greene financed Eli Whitney's experimental cotton gin|
|1794||Madame Marie Tussaud opened her successful waxworks in London, where she displayed the death masks of Marie Antoinette and Charlotte Corday.|
Foxcroft Phillips crusaded against corporal
punishment in Andover, Massachusetts.
During this same period astronomer Caroline Herschel (Germany) discovered fourteen nebulae and eight comets.
|19th century||Before the completion of plans for the Eiffel Tower, Sophie Germain provided research in elasticity to protect the base of the construction. (See also History of Mathematics' biography of Germain.)|
|1805-1806||Sacajawea (or Sacagawea) accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition as translator and guide. (see Knife River Indian Villages, her home)|
|1807||Women lose the right to vote in New Jersey, the last state to revoke the right.|
|1813||Anna Warner Bailey collected flannel garments from the women of Groton, Connecticut, to cut into strips for cartridges.|
"But history, real
solemn history, I cannot be interested in... I read it a
little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not
either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings,
with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so
good for nothing, and hardly any women at all -- it is
"Although I am a woman and
|1821||Manto (Mandalena or Magdalena) Mavrogenous, Greek freedom fighter of Mykonos, led her own band of guerrillas in the Greek revolution and became a national hero.|
|1824||The AME Church ordained the Reverend Jarena Lee (see drawing). The first organized women's labor protest occurred in in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and was sparked by longer hours and reduced piecework pay in a local weaving mill (see related article, "The Plight of Women's Work in the Early Industrial Revolution in England and Wales").|
|mid-1820s||The estate of Quaker philanthropist Charity Rodman Rotch set up a school for orphans in Massillon, Ohio.|
|1828||Constanze Mozart oversaw the publication of her deceased husband's works and a biography that restored his position as a great classical composer.|
|1829||Lord Bentinck stopped the Hindu practice of suttee or sati, the immolation of a widow on her husband's funeral pyre.|
|1830s||Female leaders of the Underground Railroad, beginning more than 20 years before the U.S. Civil War, help defeat slavery, via a secret system for helping runaway slaves escape to freedom in the northern states or in Canada. The "Underground Railroad" was neither underground nor a railroad, but railroad terms were used to disguise the secret activities of the system. The slaves were called "passengers," those who aided them were "conductors," escape routes were "lines," and stopping places of safety were "stations." (See links to personal narratives of "passengers"; background in The North Star: Tracing the Underground Railroad; and photo & biography of Harriet Tubman, the famous Underground Railroad "conductor.")|
|1831||The History of Mary Prince A West Indian Slave Related by Herself was published.|
|1833||Lucretia Mott founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, and many other female anti-slavery associations were formed during the 1830s.|
|1836-1837||Angelina Grimke appeals to Southern women to speak out against slavery in "Appeal to Christian Women." At a time when it was not considered respectable for women to speak before mixed audiences of men and women, the abolitionist sisters Sarah Grimke (1792-1873) and Angelina Grimke (1805-1879) of South Carolina, daughters of slave owners and converts to Quakerism, boldly spoke out against slavery at public meetings on tour. The Grimke sisters caused a furor over the right of women to speak in public.|
"Pastoral Letter of the General Association of
Massachusetts to the Congregational Churches Under Their
Care" is directed against women , especially the Grimke
sisters, speaking in public against slavery.
Ministers condemned the sisters for assuming "the
place and tone of man as a public reformer." Sarah
responded with "Equality of the Sexes,"
the first document to link slavery to the unequal
treatment of women. While free women did not experience
the suffering or degradation of slaves, they both faced
the same limitations in education and work opportunity,
and denied access to human rights.
Some male abolitionists, including William Lloyd Garrison (see photo with daughter Fanny Garrison Villard ), Wendell Phillips, and Frederick Douglass, supported the right of women to speak and participate equally with men in antislavery activities. (See Elizabeth Cady Stanton's references in Speech to the American Anti-Slavery Society, May, 1860.)
|1838||Kentucky widows with children in school are granted "school suffrage," the right to vote in school board elections.|
|1840||World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other women barred from participating on account of their sex. (See Mott's Diary of Her Visit to Great Britain to Attend the World's Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840)|
|1843||Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace (1815- 1852), a picturesque character in computer history, published a description, with extensive notes of her own, of Babbage's ideas for a new calculating engine, the Analytical Engine. Lady Lovelace's prescient comments included her predictions that such a machine might be used to compose complex music, to produce graphics, and would be used for both practical and scientific purposes. She was correct. Inspired, Ada was a focused, mathematical taskmaster, and suggested to Babbage writing a plan for how the engine might calculate Bernoulli numbers. This plan is now regarded as the first "computer program." (A software language developed by the U.S. Department of Defense was named "Ada" in her honor in 1979.) August Ada Byron was the daughter of the illustrious poet, Lord Byron. Five weeks after Ada was born Lady Byron asked for a separation from Lord Byron, and was awarded sole custody of Ada whom she brought up to be a mathematician and scientist. Lady Byron was terrified that Ada might end up being a poet like her father.|
assistance of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Oakes
Smith, an integrated union called the Female
Labor Reform Association was formed to fight
both slavery and the exploitation of female workers. (See also Susan B. Anthony's
"WOMAN: The Great Unpaid Laborer ," 1848.)
Margaret Fuller, one of the earliest U.S. female reporters, wrote Woman in the Nineteenth Century in 1845, arguing that individuals had unlimited capacities but when people's roles were defined according to their sex, human development was severely limited (see notes on Fuller & other Theoreticians of the Women's Rights Movement. See also Emily Collins' "To Keep a Wife in Subjection,"
ca. 1848, inspired by Fuller's writings.)
"We hold these
truths to be self-evident:
|1848||July 13: Lucretia Mott, Martha C. Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary Ann McClintock are
invited to tea at the home of Jane Hunt in Waterloo, NY.
They decide to call a two-day meeting at the Wesleyan
Methodist Chapel in Seneca Falls for the purpose of
discussing woman's rights.
July 19-20: Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton convened the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Three hundred people attend the first convention held to discuss women's rights. After debate of so radical a notion, equal suffrage is adopted as one of the resolutions of the convention. 68 women and 32 men sign the "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions," modeled after the Declaration of Independence, calling for women's educational opportunity, equality under the law, and right to vote. Written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the "Declaration of Sentiments" claimed that "all men and women are created equal," that "the history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman," and that "it is the duty of the women of this country to secure for themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise." (See Upstate New York and the Women's Rights Movement, a 1995 exhibition of the University of Rochester Library, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the passage of the nineteenth amendment, which gave women the vote in 1920. See also Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Answers Newspaper's Objections to Women's Conventions, Rochester, N.Y., 14 September 1848.
|1849||Lucretia Mott delivers "A Demand for the Rights of Women," at the Assembly Building in Philadelphia.|
|1850||Oct. 23-24: First National Woman's Rights Convention, planned by Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott and Abby Kelley, is held in Worcester, Massachusetts. It draws 1,000 people, and women's movement leaders gain national attention. Annual national conferences are held from 1850 through 1861 (except 1857). (See Proceedings of the 1850 Convention, and an October 1850 New York Herald article entitled "The Worcester Fanatics--Progress of Socialism, Abolition, and Infidelity.")|
|1850s||Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-?), African-American author, orator, and social reformer, is notable for her poetry, speeches, and essays on abolitionism, temperance, and woman suffrage. Harper became active in the Anti-Slavery movement in the 1850s, using her gift for language as lecturer (see drawing & bio). At one time in her career as a lecturer, she made her home in Philadelphia at the station of the Underground Rail Road, where she frequently saw passengers and their melting tales of suffering and wrong, which intensely increased sympathy in their behalf.|
|Harriet Tubman singlehandedly led over 300 slaves to safety as a "Conductor" on the Under Ground Railroad. (See Tubman photo and also student essays on Women and Slavery)|
TOP of this page Part III: Modern
Struggles for Equality
Women's Studies Historical Timelines were prepared by Cora Agatucci, 1997
Part I: Women Make Early History
Part II: 17th & 18th Century Women
Go to Part IV: Struggle for the Vote
V: U.S. Woman Suffrage Is Won Part VI: Women in the 20th
Century & "Second Wave" Feminism
Part VII: Women of the 1990s & Sources and Resources for Further Study
WS 101 Syllabus Cora's Classes Cora's Home page[../../../footer.htm]