Contemporary Women's Rights

For centuries, women were oppressed and seen as inferior in the workforce and society. However, in the 1900's, women took charge to change this. Specific rights they were determined to earn were equality with wages and credit, reproductive rights, family law, and education.

Historical Forces


*The 19th amendment gave women the right to vote. Other rights that were earned along with this right included:
-Right to inherit property
-Right to manage property
-Right to earn wages/profit
-Right to associate freely in public for business

(Library of Congress)

*Equal Rights Amendment Proposal (1923)
*The Equal Rights Amendment was first proposed in 1923 and remained a question until it was finally defeated on June 30th, 1982.
*"Although the legal status of women has changed more rapidly in the last two decades than in the previous two hundred years, the fact remains that the U.S. Constitution still does not explicitly protect women against discrimination." (Legal historian Joan Huff, 1991)
*35 of 38 necessary states have ratified this ... All 38 states' ratification is necessary to make this amendment part of the United States Constitution, as well as a 2/3's majority in the House of Representatives and Senate

"Equal rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."
"Equal rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."
external image womens-rights.gif
(Business and Professional Women's Foundation)

*World War II (1939-1945)

*Women in the workforce during World War II

*There are several organizations of women who helped fight in World War II. Such organizations included WAVES, which stood for "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service". However, the word "emergency" in the name implied that women would only be helpful during the wartime crisis.
*A labor shortage led to companies to ask for help from women because the majority of men were off fighting the war
*The government launched a propaganda campaign to lure women into the workforce by publicizing how their work would be beneficial
-"Rosie the Riveter" was a character the government created who portrayed the ideal female worker who was hard-working, efficient and pretty
*Unlike the pre-war United States, many mothers and wives began working because the demand was so high - despite many husbands not wanting their wives to work or the women having large, young families
-Sometimes mothers with children younger than 6 years old were working
*By the end of the war, 18 million women were now in the workforce, compared to the 12 million who were employed before the war

(National Archives and Records Administration)

("Rosie the Riveter song")

*The Equal Pay Act of 1963

*Passed on June 10, 1963
*Has positively affected women's salaries
*Although a wage gap is still present between men and women's salaries, it has drastically improved from the 1950's gap when women earned half of what men did
*The Act claimed that wage differences based on sex:
"1.) Depresses wages and living standards for employees necessary for their health and efficiency;
2.) Prevents the maximum utilization of the available labor resources;
3.) Tends to cause labor disputes, thereby burdening, affecting, and obstructing commerce;
4.) Burdens commerce and the free flow of goods in commerce; and
5.) Constitutes an unfair method of competition."

*The Feminine Mystique and Betty Friedan

*Betty Friedan wrote and published The Feminine Mystique 1963

*Friedan was the epitome of a successful woman, she herself being a achieved writer, wife, and mother.
*She wrote her book to describe why women were unhappy and how they were being oppressed by their own society which was only allowing them to fit the particular mold of a dutiful housewife.
The Feminine Mystique was responsible for first voicing the desires of the common housewife.
*It presented the issue of the "is this all there is" feeling - women felt confined and were prevented from realizing how much the world had to offer.
*"... Friedan pins the blame on an idealized image of femininity that she calls the feminine mystique. According to Friedan, women have been encouraged to confine themselves to the narrow roles of housewife and mother, foresaking education and career aspirations in the process. Friedan attempts to prove that the feminine mystique denies women the opportunity to develop their own identities..."
*"[The Feminine Mystique]... sparked a national debate about women's roles..."
*"[The Feminine Mystique]... was recognized as one of the central works works of the modern women's movement"

*Title VII

*Passed in 1964
*States: "Title VII, the federal law that prohibits most workplace harassment and discrimination, covers all private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions with 15 or more employees"
*Title VII also states:
"It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer--
(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;"

*Title IX

*Passed by President Nixon on June 23, 1972
*It was a law that was, "passed in 1972 that requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding."
*The law states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
*An important factor of Title IX: "Most people who know about Title IX think it applies only to sports, but athletics is only one of 10 key areas addressed by the law. These areas are: Access to Higher Education, Career Education, Education for Pregnant and Parenting Students, Employment, Learning Environment, Math and Science, Sexual Harassment, Standardized Testing and Technology."

More Important Figures

*Sandra Day O'Connor (1930- )

*Nominated on July 7, 1981 by President Ronal Reagan as FIRST female supreme court justice
*Was replacing Justice Potter Stewart - who was retiring
*Confirmed by the Senate 99-0 on September 21, 1981
*Sworn in on Thursday, September 24, 1981
*"As if in anticipation of her arrival, the Court abandoned its formal use of "Mr. Justice" as the form of address, opting for the simpler and gender-neutral, "Justice."
*Left office on Monday, January 30, 1006
*Served the Supreme Court for 24 years, 4 months and 6 days
*Favored women having the right to have an abortion
-->In 1970: O'Connor voted to repeal Arizona's laws which nearly made abortions illegal procedures
*Continued to demonstrate her favoring of abortion by:
-Opposing a resolution that was seeking to create a constitutional ban on abortion
-Opposing an attempt to limit women's access to get an abortion
Sandra Day O'Connor
Sandra Day O'Connor

*Hillary Clinton (1947- )

*Nominated as a United States senator for the state of New York in 2000 and again in 2006
*Ran for president in the 2008 presidential election... She lost
-Before Clinton, "No woman has ever been nominated by a major party for President of the United States"
*Nominated by President Barack Obama as Secretary of State
*Women's rights advocate
-February 2009 visit to Asia to encourage equality amongst men and women
~"Clinton repeatedly promoted her view by claiming that, "The best way to improve economic and political conditions around the world is to empower more women."
~Mrs. Clinton to a group of leaders and female academics in Beijing, China: "I believe strongly that if women are not full participants in society, the society does not advance the way that it could. And if women are denied their rights, it affects children, families and the entire social structure."
~Also speaking on her trip to Asia: "We need to remain vigilant against a backlash that tries to turn the clock back on women and human rights, countries where leaders are threatened ... by democracy and women are made the scapegoats."
*Clinton still believes that there is work to be done and that, "In no society are women treated equally yet..."
^However, she also stated that, "It's a wonderful time to be a young woman." (February 2009)
Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton (Photograph taken August 2009)
Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton (Photograph taken August 2009)

In a recent study, "Women have achieved greater equality, according to 72 percent of [American] men and 69 percent of [American] women."

Works Cited

´╗┐The Oyez Project, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. 3 June 2010. <>

"Women's Rights." Global Issues in Context Online Collection. Gale, 2010. Web.
29 Apr. 2010. <

"Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - Title VII."
HRhero. M. Lee Smith
Publishers LLC, 2010. Web. 23 May 2010.

" - History ."
Title IX. N.p., 2010. Web. 23 May 2010.

"Rosie The Riveter."
County College of Morris. The Learning Resource Center at
the County College of Morris, 1 Nov. 2007. Web. 3 June 2010.

Marie, Napierkowski Rose. "The Feminine Mystique: Introduction.'"
Classics for Students. Gale, Jan. 2006. Web. 23 May 2010.

"Increasing Equality for Women."
Global Issues in Context Online Collection.
Gale, Cengage Learning, 2010. Web. 6 May 2010.

"The Image and Reality of Women who Worked During World War II."
Rosie the
Riveter: Women Working During World War II . National Park Service, n.d.
Web. 3 June 2010. <

Hymowitz, Carol. "Secretary Clinton Presses for Women's Rights."
Forbes. N.p.,
24 Feb. 2009. Web. 3 June 2010. <

"Hillary Rodham Clinton."
Wikipedia. N.p., 31 May 2010. Web. 3 June 2010.

"The Equal Pay Act of 1963."
Essortment. N.p., 2010. Web. 23 May 2010.

Coultan, Mark. "Feminist Icon Betty Friedan Dies on Her Birthday."
The Age//. The
Age Co. Ltd., 6 Feb. 2006. Web. 23 May 2010. <