Colonial women during the late 18th century shared some equality with men, though mostly it was derived from the State governments and not the federal. Due to this, the disparity between northern and southern women was a pronounced one. To some small degree, Northern unmarried or widowed women enjoyed some on the same rights as their male counterparts.
Most could own property, enter into contracts, and retain sole custody of her children. Conversely however, a large charity of Southern women during this time did not have the same political stature as their Northern counterparts; largely due to their influence being subject to marital status. The political advancement of women nationwide can be easily traced through the legal breakthroughs experienced decade after decade. Permanent and powerful influence became possible by traversing the civic waters of an unsure nation.
Through perseverance Northern, Southern, but more importantly all American women did progress into an egalitarian society. Abigail Adams, possibly the greatest proponent of women’s rights and a corner tone of female influence in America, regularly counseled her husband on various responsibilities related to his presidency. Well respected by her husband and ultimately the history books, Abigail encouraged legislation, through her husband John, improving the values of early American females.
During a letter to her husband during the drafting of the constitution of the United States, Abigail famously wrote, “l long to hear that you have declared an independence. And, by the way in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would member the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors”. This statement, as well as many others included in letters between Abigail and other political dignitaries, laid the foundation for what the expectations would be in regards to equality going forward.
Through a thorough examination of her writings we have the groundwork for the legal and political battles that would be fought throughout the next two centuries. Such as “[if] attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to formant a rebellion”. The direct correlation of this previous statement appeared during the retests down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1913 during the inauguration of the recently elected President Wilson. During the founding of political values early on in the infancy of America we were presented with snapshots of how the role of women would change in future generations.
Many legal cases and decisions impacted, if not directly confronted, the issues that became the platform of women’s suffrage through the years leading up to our modern period Women for the most part during this period were seen primarily as home makers. Women were responsible for child rearing and maintaining the homestead whilst heir husbands were performing their agricultural or political duties. From a legal standpoint, women who were married had their status changed dramatically once their nuptials had commenced. The law utilized the term ‘coveter’ to describe a married woman’s existence.
The courts recognized women as falling under the umbrella of a man’s assets. Quite literally this meant that women, by taking a husband, consigned their free will to the rest of the family, retaining for themselves only whatever influence the male of the household permitted them to keep. This social and legal position provided the groundwork for women to slowly find their position unacceptable. The advancement of status could be more accurately described as a suggestion more than a demand as the social stigma of being a rebelliousness woman was considered to be in bad taste.
For this reason the movement from draconian rule within the genders to a status of equality was a slow, but consistent advance. When looking into the modern age with the pre-stated obstacles firmly between the American female and equality we need to address how what had happened ultimately foretold what we would see going forward. As the aim of this argument is to document the advancement through legal decisions and political writings it is appropriate to cite various court cases drawing a clear line to basic human rights.
Although it seems antithetical to the ideas of the founding of this country, many states wrote into law various edicts banning women’s suffrage. Most notably New Jersey, in 1797, passed a law forbidding women’s suffrage to even be addressed for 20 years. Legalities such as these created monumental problems to be overcome since large portions of time during which women were forced to conform to the tutus quo were written into court documents and not Just the minds of the prevailing public at the time.
It is important at this time to point out that legal and political successes for women throughout our history have been marked by striping of existing rights that ultimately have to be reinstated instead of retaining what was already had. As stated previously, Northern women that were unmarried were already ceded the right to own property in their own right, however this sentiment was not written into law. Thus, it was that there was essentially no obligation to uphold the standard seeing as how there was no legal protection for property ownership in existence until 1839.
The Married Women’s Property Act, as it was called, was passed at this time, finally putting on the books some, albeit minimal, protection for women during property disputes and ownership. Now that we have established a firm foundation of the difficulties women faced during the colonial period it is now necessary for us to address what it is that they did gain for the price paid in the early 18th century. From a purely legal standpoint, one of the biggest advancements was simply the fact that the grievances of women ere heard in front of the higher federal and state courts.
This point requires further explanation for the central argument of this paper. In American history there is a clear precedent that the people cannot be expected to alleviate their own societal inconsistencies. All of the significant progress made in any social cause reaches the apex once the cause is converted trot a moralistic idea into a legal expectation. Once a law is passed, to think that great advancement will happen immediately is unrealistic, however, it provides a safety net for those fighting for progress.
Law, Ewing created by logical reasoning, makes the adverse into a crime giving the unequal a reliable defense in moments of disparity. The exponential result of these decisions are colossal because of the immediate future impacts. Legal decisions in favor of a cause provide a muse for those on the frontline. We see after landmark decisions clusters of cultural and literary explosions related to the topic included within the cases. For example, the Married Woman’s Property Act was followed by the first women’s rights convention less than 10 years later.
Out of the Seneca Falls convention women ere given a clear voice through the Declaration of Sentiments. The Declaration imparted a strong voice to women which, in turn, lead to Supreme Court hearings regarding the legalities of women during inheritance disputes. Myra Gaines in the same year was disinherited from her father’s estate due to an alleged illegitimate lineage. Upon speaking at the hearing Ms. Gaines was rightfully awarded her father’s estate. Once again all of these seemingly small advancements are creating important benchmarks that are progressing society past the point of no return.
For the first time n world history we see a social cause, women’s rights, being won and legally protected from being rescinded. In relation to the cultural and social explosion following these land mark decisions we see women producing historically important pieces of art and prose. Take Jane Addams for example. Ms. Addams took advantage of the improved climate towards the female opinion by writing about social injustice and war. This is a zenith in women’s literature where the prose of women is Judged on the content of their writing instead of the gender behind the hand that wrote it.
During this time frame e also see great work being done by the likes of Emily Dickinson and a revolution in appreciation for Jane Student’s work. We see during the middle sass’s the women’s suffrage movement relying on the excellent works and efforts from the previous 40 years of women advocates to invigorate their zeal for progression, unifying the cause. In contemporary times we see women prominent within the political and legal environment. We have seen female speakers of the house, Supreme Court Justices, Senators, High Powered lobbyists and elite universities’ presidents.
In Juxtaposition to Leonia and early civil war years the modern environment is far closer to leveling the playing ground nationwide between men and women. For example, in colonial times young girls were taught strictly basic skills. The alphabet, mathematics, basic spelling and writing at a rudimentary level was all that was required. In this modern age, young girls are encouraged to focus on education equal to that of their male counterparts and pursue higher education at practically any university they see fit.
In the area of religion, historically a staunch adversary to progression, we see much growth from the colonial to modern times. The rules of the early American women inside the church were much more restrictive than we see today. Women were not allowed to hold any political position within the church, oaten they were not asked or even permitted to give feedback regarding changes to dogma and were not allowed to attend church without their husbands present unless they were still unmarried or widowed.
Much of this changed due to the Revolutionary war but we really didn’t see leaps of improvement until the late sass’s. It was around the turn of the century that women were allowed to serve in lesser roles of the church hierarchy. Women were also given the opportunity to teach small women’s or children’s classes held before or after the main sermon. After WI and into modern times we see sweeping changes within all religions allowing women to serve as preachers or deacons in their own right. The nature of law in the case of religion is an anomaly in the case of legalities.
The law can wade into the waters in the manner of an umbrella the church hierarchy. Women were also given the, offering protection for all religions to be legally practiced. However this guarantees no promise of regression within the religion due to the separation of church and state as well as the dogma itself. So the advancements in this area are the most inspiring and most impressive because these changes happened within their own microcosm without the benefit of the Government and law on their side.
In conclusion, we have illustrated the various ways that change and progression have been enacted in American History specifically for the female population. The methods and tools are varied with some majority settling on a mixture of determination and solid legal arguments. We can see throughout the mid to late ass’s that once the legal backbone is cemented, then the progression in the public and political world is much less impeded in its strides toward progress. Once women were guaranteed the right to vote in 1920 we see the female vote strongly impacting the outcomes of gubernatorial as well as presidential elections.
Just 40 years after the right to vote was granted to women they were properly awarded the Equal Pay Act, thereby making it illegal to pay the genders differently for the same Job. This law is particularly interesting because it is directly correlated to the fact that in between 920 and 1963 we experienced one international war and multiple smaller conflicts. Consistently in these circumstances, while men are overseas fighting, we see women doing the Jobs of their male counterparts, often more efficiently.
For this reason there became a confidence within the female community that demanding equality would now be met with reason and not be dismissed. They had the benefit of the law and a resume of great works to support their argument. For today’s woman there are ever greater opportunities to grow and improve and considerably more foundation upon which to do so. One of the areas I believe there will be much more opportunity is within the scientific community. With many more female Pad’s, and a booming scientific market, woman have the chance to become the catalyst for this ever evolving industry.
Also women have a great opportunity within the military, we have seen laws enacted in recent years allowing women on submarines and, though still prevented from entering combat related military occupations, afforded the right to fight alongside men in front line combat. With these advancements it would not be farfetched to expect to see a 5 star general or Navy Admiral that is a female within the next 20 years. With these opportunities of course come challenges and no small part of them stem trot the nuclear household. Most American timeliest now are two income households.
However, due to social and familial expectations, women are given the large responsibility for taking care of the household in addition to tending to their careers. In order for these great strides to happen for women during the modern age there will need to be a much more delicate balance between domestic and professional responsibilities. If the expectations remain at home then the growth outside of it will be stifled. Lastly, the way that women continue to be portrayed in the media and in movies will present an obstacle going forward.
In order for these great advancements to happen we need a supportive social structure and a confident pool of strong female leaders to spearhead the cause. However, studies have shown that the current societal world is not encouraging to a budding girl population. For large leaps and continued successes, young girls will need to be shielded from the untruths of the media, such as how to look and act, as well as find consistent support room their educators and parent’s to cultivate the talents and strengths of the All American Woman.