Women’s Rights

Sonia Harder

“Miss Anthony came away from the Syracuse convention thoroughly convinced that the right which women needed above every other, the one indeed which would secure her all others, was the right of suffrage.”

—Ida Husted Harper, Anthony’s authorised biographer

The fight for women’s rights is an ongoing struggle to instigate and maintain their basic rights. Since the seventeenth century, philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Russeau, and John Locke have been writing about natural rights of man. Women have been, since then, constantly demanding equality in terms of those rights. The most widely known in the US is the struggle for women’s votes, in the nineteenth century. Today, gender still causes a barrier. Women are paid less, are less likely to have jobs, and, in some places, unable to even leave the house without their husband’s permission. Slowly, however, women's access to these natural rights has been increasing, resulting in the women's rights reform movement.


  • 1848—First women's rights convention
  • 1850—First National Women's Rights Convention held, signing of the Declaration of Sentiments
  • 1869—May: Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form National Women's Suffrage Association. November: Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and others form American Women's Suffrage Association, going state by state. December: The territory of Wyoming makes first women's suffrage law
  • 1890—NWSA merges with AWSA to form National American Women's Suffrage Association
  • 1893—Colorado first state to allow women to vote
  • 1896—National Association of Coloured Women is formed
  • 1903—National Women’s Trade Union League is formed to help wages
  • 1913—Alice Paul and Lucy Burns form Congressional Union for a federal amendment allowing women to vote
  • 1916—Margaret Sanger opens first U.S. Birth control clinic (shut down ten days later, but case found in her favour)
  • 1919—Federal women's suffrage amendment, written by Susan B. Anthony, is passed in Senate and House of Representatives
  • 1920—Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor is formed.
  • August 26, 1920—19th Amendment of the Constitution signed by Bainbridge Colby, allowing women to vote
  • 1921—Margeret Sanger forms American Birth Control League
  • 1935—Mary McLeod Bethune forms National Council of Negro Women
  • 1955—Daughters of Bilitis founded, for rights of lesbians
  • 1969—Food and Drug Administration approved birth control pills
  • 1961—President J Kennedy establishes President's Commission on the Status of Women to help defeat discrimination
  • 1963—Equal Pay act enacted, women have to get same wages as men
  • 1964—Civil Rights Act bars discrimination of sex/race for employment
  • 1966—National Organisation of Women formed
  • 1972—March: Equal Rights Amendment, drafted by Alice Paul in 1923, passes Congress, but fails in 1980’s. June: Education Amendments ban discrimination of sex in school
  • 1976—Nebraska makes it illegal for a husband to rape his wife
  • 1986—Supreme Court finds that sexual harassment is illegal job discrimination
  • 1994—Violence Against Women Act tightens penalties
  • 1999—Supreme Court rules women can sue for breaking anti-discrimination laws with malice or indifference