History of Feminism


Kaeden Wise

Feminism has a long and challenging history. French philosopher Charles Fourier coined the term feminism in 1837. The first attempt to organize a women’s rights movement was around July 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York at Wesleyan Chapel, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Quaker abolitionist Lucretia Mott. Later joined by Mary M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright (Mott’s sister), and Jane Hunt (M’Clintocks extended family member). Elizabeth and Lucretia had met eight years before the movement in London at the World Anti-Slavery Convention. They were both brought to the women only section, and they were not allowed to sit or speak during the whole convention. This event inspired the Seneca Falls Convention. 


‘We are assembled to protest against a form of government, existing without the consent of the governed– to declare our right to be free as man is free, to be represented in the government which we are taxed to support, to have such disgraceful laws as give man the power to chastise and imprison his wife, to take the wages which she earns, the property which she inherits, and in case of separation, the children of her love,”’ Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The Seneca Falls Convention eventually launched the women’s suffrage movement, which more than seven decades later in 1920 gave women the right to vote. Stanton mentioned that Jefferson’s principles were created only for men. Jefferson’s principles included, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” On July 20th, the Declaration was signed by the assembly. There was an argument regarding one resolution; the ability to vote. Not everyone who heard about this agreed that women being able to vote was of utmost importance, and some, including Stanton´s husband, disagreed with it all entirely. However, Stanton, including abolitionist Frederick Douglass, argued the importance of women being able to vote and adopted the resolution. Signed off by 68 women and 32 men, including Douglass, the Declaration, and the Seneca Falls Convention, still stand as landmarks in the history of women’s rights. 


Most recently, the #MeToo movement has made headlines. In 2017, the #MeToo hashtag went viral and opened up the world’s eyes to how large the problem of sexual violence really is. What had started out as local work had become a worldwide movement almost overnight. Within six months, this message reached a global audience of survivors. All of a sudden, there were millions of people from all groups of people saying “me too.” 


Today, feminists work harder and harder to put a stop to sexual violence or at least slow it down. The #MeToo movement has grown huge support from many people, the people of color community, young people, and the queer and trans community are great examples. 


Four years after the reporting that spread the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse and harassment into the light, almost half of Americans say the attention that the #MeToo movement has given sexual misconduct has had a positive impact on the United States overall, and 61% say it has been beneficial for women all over the world.


 When asked about the impact the movement has had on women’s lives and different groups, there have been signs that the impact has been unequal, with less of a positive impact for women of color than for women in general. The woman who first founded the #MeToo movement is Tarana Burke. Burke started this movement and first started using the saying “Me Too” back in 2006 to raise awareness of the spreading of sexual assault and abuse worldwide. The phrase had been brought into a broader movement after the Harvey Weinstein accusations came to light. Alyssa Milano, in October 2017, encouraged women to start using the #Metoo hashtag if they had been sexually assaulted, and the hashtag went viral from then on. Milano was quick to realize that the hashtag had originally come from Burke, and posted on her social media, “I was just made aware of an earlier #MeToo movement, and the origin story is equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring.” Since then, Burke has been more than supportive of the #MeToo movement. Since the #MeToo movement evolved in 2006, companies have started training their employees on how to handle sexual misconduct in the first place and have put anti-harassment policies in order for their employees. One of the largest ways the movement has impacted people worldwide is by showing us just how bad this problem really is and how widespread sexual harassment truly is. 

Another woman who shaped how feminism is today is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For more than 50 years, Ginsburg worked to end sex and gender discrimination in U.S. law. First as the founder of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project in 1972, where she successfully argued five out of the six cases in front of the Supreme Court, and then being only the second woman serving on the U.S Supreme Court.