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The Advancement of Women

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The Advancement of Women
Tammy Phillips
HIS 204
Instructor Vera Parham January 8, 2014

The Advancement of Women Through History

Women’s Rights have grown stronger through the years. Women have gone from being seen and not heard to having a voice, supporting war multiple war efforts, and becoming politicians. In the landmark case of Roe verses Wade gave women the right to own their own body with the decision of whether or not to have an abortion. Women were battling for equality as well as the right to vote. This suffrage was a long drawn out battle through the years but finally was won. Women’s roles during all three wars, the Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II, included nurses, clerical positions, and they back filled spouse’s duties at home. A “New Woman came about in the 1920s as women changed their attitude along with hair, make-up and attitude. All of the progressions were won due to persistence. Women have played a significant throughout the wars in America, not just stateside but abroad. “The Spanish-American War created a substantial need for military nurses” (Small, 1998). Dr Anita Newcomb McGee became the nurse’s bureau chief. This was the first time contract nurses were hired to in military hospital. In September 1918, 1,100 nurses were serving in the United and overseas. During World War I women were allowed to serve in non-nursing positions performing clerical duties. 34,000 women served in the military and 10,000 served as nurses in World War I. During World War II nearly 350, 000 American women served in uniform, both at home and abroad (NationalWW2museuum, ND). These women took clerical jobs, drove trucks, worked on planes, served as radio operators, and any other job a man did. They were there to support their country. “Franklin D. Roosevelt's effectual Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, remarked that he wanted to "warn men that when the war is over, the going will be a lot tougher, because they will have to compete with women whose eyes have been opened to their greatest potentialities”(Stewart, 2000). The advancement of women during and after wars was a step in the right direction for women’s tights. After the Spanish American war the Army and Navy leaders took steps to Include women in the military due to their excellent services as nurses. In 1901 Congress established the Army nurse corps as an auxiliary and seven years later the Navy followed suit. Though not granted full military status, they were still denied equivocal pay scales and rank as men. Of the 44,000 women who served as nurses overseas and in the armed forces after World War I only three women received the Distinguished Service Cross and 23 received the Distinguished Service Medal. 38 died overseas mostly to illness. During World War II women’s roles were altered. The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corp was created in May 1942. This was supported by Chief of Staff George C Marshall. He stated, "There are innumerable duties being performed by soldiers that can actually be done better by women"(Stewart, 2000).
World War II affected women’s roles in society. Job opportunities were now open to women of all ages. They had filled the workforce creating the icon of Rosie the Riveter. “Despite the toughness she displayed, the sight of a feminine, pretty woman taking on industrial work inspired many young women who were eager to help out in the war effort”(Bowles 2011). After the end of the war, women veterans encountered road blocks when trying to receive their benefits. “The nation that need their help in a time of crisis was not yet ready for the greater social equality that would slowly come in the decades to follow” (Nationalww2museuam, nd) Women’s rights were nowhere close to those of men. They were to be equal but were not and many women were fighting for that cause. “Elizabeth Cady Stanton developed the Declaration of Sentiments, Grievances and Resolutions which echoes the preamble of the Constitution for Women’s rights” (History, Art & Archeives, Historian, 1917-2006). This was signed by 68 women and 32 men. This was a powerful symbol and the beginning of a long struggled for legal, professional, educational, and voting rights. The National Women’s Suffrage Association (NWSA) was formed after the Civil War focusing on changing federal law which opposed the Fifteenth Amendment because it excluded women. The American Women Suffrage Association (AWSA) though started by Stanton and S Anthony neither one saw the justice delivered before their deaths. At the time a woman’s place was a marriage and family or a limited career as a teacher, nurse, or social worker. A catholic woman could become a nun if they wanted to go down the spiritual path. On August 26, 1920 women were given the right to vote by the signing of the Nineteenth amendment to the Constitution. Not only did this give them the right to vote, but for them to be heard as well. The look of the woman changed in the 1920s. The hair got shorter, skirts got shorter, and makeup came into fashion. Smoking became a norm of defiance and freedom. The ideas of sex changed as the American Birth Control League was founded in 1921. This let women explore their sexuality without the concern of becoming pregnant. As stated in Flapper Jane,” Women have highly resolved that they are just as good as men, and intend to be treated so” (Bliven, 1925). The National American Women Suffrage worked as a nonpartisan organization focusing on gaining rights in the states. “The first state to grant women complete voting rights was Wyoming in 1869. Three other western states—Colorado (1893), Utah (1896), and Idaho (1896)—followed shortly after NAWSA was founded. But prior to 1910, only these four states allowed women to vote. Between 1910 and 1914, the NAWSA intensified its lobbying efforts and additional states extended the franchise to women: Washington, California, Arizona, Kansas, and Oregon” (History, Art & Archives, 2014, Jan 27). Montana received their right to vote a year later, along with Illinois. The feminist movement was pushed to create women’s clubs and organizations. The power of the radical one was in favor of economic independence and birth control. According to the national census in 1920, “Only one million, or less than one eighth of all women gainfully employed are engaged in professional work, labor, and listed high on the wage scale” (Guion, 1925, May, p. 614). Jane Adams created what was known as the Hull House. She pushed for social justice and created a settlement for girls. The first Hull House opened in 1889 in Chicago as a foundation for 400 similar across the nation by the 20th century. The houses aided young girls to have a career other than just a marriage. This was a home where young women assisted the needy and provided social uplift for the “wrecked foundations of domesticity. This movement later became known as the profession of a social worker today (Bowles, 2011, p105).
During the industrial revolution women and children were thought of less and paid less to work long hours. On average they were paid six to eight dollars per week. There were no safety regulations or government oversight. Women were working 10 hours or more a day six day a week in sewing factories. They developed back problems being bent over so long. In March 1911 The Triangle Shirtwaist factory caught fire and killed over 150 people, mostly women and children. Eleanor Roosevelt, niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, was taught about Labor Unions and basic labor issues into a core belief about unions and their ability to improve people’s lives. “One of the League for the Promotion of Settlement Movements ’s major goals was to enact child labor legislation to end the kind of sweating work for children that ER observed”(O’Farrell, 2010). The Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor was formed to collect information about women in the workforce and safeguard good working conditions for women.
Roe verses Wade gave women abortion rights up through the first trimester of pregnancy. This is still a controversial issue throughout the nation and world abroad. According to court documents during the Roe verses Wade case to the Justice Blackmun noted in his deliverance of his decision, “One's philosophy, one's experiences, one's exposure to the raw edges of human existence, one's religious training, one's attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe, are all likely to influence and to color one's thinking and conclusions about abortion” (United States Supreme Court, 1973, Jan. 22). “In a 7-2 opinion by Justice Harry Blackmun, the Court ruled that a right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion”(The Heritage, nd). This has been controversial for decision for women, but was also another rung on the ladder of equality for women.
Women have struggled through the years for not only fairness but equality. They have stood up for their country and took the place of their husbands on the farms, in factories, and stood beside man in war. They were paid less and worked just as hard. Once women got their right to be heard in the 1920s a “New Woman” appeared. Better wages, social justices, and working conditions were fought for and won over a period of time. Today women hold political offices and can do any job a man can do. Women’s rights drastically changed significantly since the beginning of the 1900 to the 2000 era. Women advanced in politics holding offices once held by men only. In 1919 Nancy Langhorne Astor became the first woman to serve as the Member of the British Parliament. Montana’s Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected into the House of Representatives and served until 1919and was reelected in 1940. “.. fortified by the constitutional victory of suffrage reformers in 1920, the handful of new women in Congress embarked on what would become a century-long odyssey to broaden women’s role in government, so that in Carrie Chapman Catt’s words, they might “score advantage to their ideals”(History, Arts and Archives, 2014, Jan 27). Women in Congress went from a complete lack of representation from 1917 to advanced party leadership at the start of the 21st century. With women serving in Congress a subtle shift in women’s committee assignment occurred after World War II. 1992 was declared “Year of the Woman” elections. There have been a total of 298 women holding seats in Congress from 1850 to present day. Women have joined the justice the ranks of the justice system as well. Sandra Day O’Connor was the first female on the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1981 there were 43 full-tiem women appellate and district court judges. This is 7.3 percent of the judges. According to the Federal Judicial Center women make up 235 of the 772 full-time judges in the U.S. District Court and Court of appeals. Over the last 100 years there were many changes in the women’s world. Feminism reshaped attitude, public policy provided new opportunities, household demographics changed, and the economy offered up opportunities and obstacles. “The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution guaranteed women’s right to abortion. The Nineteenth Amendment provided them the right to vote. Women’s rights and suffrage have been a battle through the years. From fighting in the wars and picking up where men left to go to war to becoming political leaders to justices in the court rooms. While working during the wars this gave women and sense of pride. They pushed forward for their equal rights to become mans equal. With the passing of the Fourteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote to the Nineteenth Amendment granting them to right to have an abortion women have proven they will not stop until they equal. Thanks to Jane Adams and the Hull House the position of the social worker was founded. As Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong stated,” “We haven’t made as much progress as we may think in this country. The progress is undeniable, but there is always room for more progress” (Armstrong, 2013 March 29).

Suffrage parade in New York City, 1912

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
Rebecca Latimer Felton of Georgia, the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, poses at her desk in the Senate Office Building. Felton’s appointment to an unexpired term in 1922 lasted a day.

Image Courtesy of the Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives and Records Administration Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a suffragist and peace activist, and the first woman to serve in Congress, delivers her first full speech on the House Floor on August 7, 1917. Rankin addressed the need for federal intervention in copper mining during a period of unrest between labor unions and mining companies.

Armstrong, S.,(2013, March 29), United States Courts, The Third Branch News, Decades After O'Connor, Role of Women Judges Still Growing. Retrieved from:
Bliven, B. (1925, Sept. 9). Flapper Jane. Retrieved from
Bowles, M. (2011). American history 1865–present: End of isolation. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc
Feminism and the Economic Independence of Woman. Guion Griffis Johnson. Journal of Social Forces, Vol. 3, No.4 (May 1925), pp612-616. Oxford University Press. Retrieved From:
History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Historian,Women in Congress, 1917–2006. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007. “The Women’s Rights Movement, 1848–1920,” (January 27, 2014) Lundblad, K.(1995). Jane Adams and Social Reform: A Role model for the 1990s. Social Work, 405
Nationalww2museuam(nd)AmericanWomen in World War II: On the Home Front and Beyond. Retrievd From: (January 26, 2014)

O'Farrell, Brigid. She Was One of Us : Eleanor Roosevelt and the American Worker.Ithaca, NY, USA: Cornell University Press, 2010. P. 9. Retrieved from
Stewart, J. (2000). Wacky Times: An Analysis of the WAC in World War II and its Effects on Women. International Social Science Review, 75(1/2), 26.

The Heritage Foundation, (nd). Leadership for America. Roe v. Wade Judicial Activism. Retrieved from:
United States Supreme Court. (1973, Jan. 22). Roe v. Wade majority decision. Retrieved from

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