A Short History of Feminism
The Book of the City of Ladies-
One of the earliest accounts of feminism, Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies was written in 1405, and tells the story of the author being told by three muses that she must build a utopia for women. There were few pieces of literature that made insights into misogyny during her time, and even fewer that did it as openly and directly as Pizan. In a time where not only feminist stories, but stories written by women were scarce, Pizan blazed trails for women and writers.
The Seneca Falls Convention-
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a recognized abolitionist, also organized the first ever women’s rights convention in the USA, called the Seneca Falls Convention. Stanton and another abolitionist named Lucretia Mott read their “Declaration of Sentiments,” in which they held Thomas Jefferson’s quote claiming the equality of men to a higher standard and demanded that women also be allowed the right to vote. This convention also set the ball rolling for what would be called women’s suffrage.
Rosie the Riveter-
During World War II, many women joined the workforce as more and more joined the army. There were lots of jobs left undone by the men who’d left for war, so women filled them. After the war ended and men were able to return, many women simply kept their jobs, and the amount of women in not only manual labor, but jobs in the army and in places of expertise had greatly increased. Rosie the Riveter was a symbol used to recruit women to work, but after they had stable jobs, she became a symbol of power in demanding that equal pay be granted, which caused the Equal Pay Act in 1963 to be passed, though the wage gap proves that her fight is not over.
Roe v. Wade-
Abortion is one of the most controversial discussions about feminism in the 21st century, and for a very long time it was not a choice woman were able to make. However, as feminism and knowledge about women’s rights grew in the 20th century, the necessity of legal and safe abortions became abundantly clear to feminists. The case of Roe v. Wade was based on a woman named Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe in legal documents), who had an unsafe abortion and filed a lawsuit against the District Attorney of Dallas County (where she lived), Henry Wade. After the court ruled in Roe’s favor, abortion was legalized country-wide.
A metaphor for the changing face of feminism, Audre Lorde was a queer Bblack poet who criticized first and second wave feminism and helped introduce the idea of intersectionality. In a famous essay of her’s called “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference,” Lorde explores the way that identities differing from straight, white, and upper class were not included in the way they should be in feminism. Though there were many intersectional feminists who fought the more narrow views of “White feminism,” Audre Lorde was a more vocal example.
Read more about the history of feminism at History.com.
No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women by Estelle Freedman is another great resource!