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Issue - Watch Out Boy Here She Comes..... Part I
Posted by Preet Mohan S Ahluwalia Send Email to Author on Saturday, 7/28/2001 2:09 PM MDT
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(Part I)

Preet Mohan Singh Ahluwalia
July 28, 2001

On the summer afternoon of July 13, 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton of Upstate New York was invited to a tea party with four other women. When the conversation turned to condition of women Stanton, a housewife and a mother, was vsiibly upset about the lack of freedom women enjoyed in free America. This marked the begining of Women's Rights Movement. Two days later they ran an advertisement in the Seneca County Courier: "A convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman." The gathering took place at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls on July 19 and 20, 1848. The meeting was followed by the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions which stated, "all men and women are created equal." Except for Stanton all other particpants were Quakers whose beliefs advocated sexual equality.

As the Feminist Movement progressed it saw the acceptance of Elizabeth Blackwell as a physician. Her sister-in-law Antoinette Brown Blackwell became the first Ordained woman minister in the United States; and another sister-in-law, Lucy Stone retained her maiden name after marriage. Earlier, Emma Willard founded the Troy Female Seminary in 1821 and Catherine Beecher, the Hartford Female Seminary in 1823.

"Woman," Stanton wrote, "is the arbiter of her own destiny.... if we are to consider her as a citizen, as a member of a great nation, she must have the same rights as all other members." Her role as "mother, wife, sister, daughter" was "incidental" to her larger role in society.

A powerful anti-suffrage movement resulted with leaders like Anna Howard Shaw, a Boston social worker and Carrie Chapman Catt, a journalist from Iowa. Under their leadership, the National American Woman Suffrage Association grew in membership from 13,000 in 1893 to over 2 million in 1917. In 1910, Washington became the first State to extend suffrage to women. California joined a year later and in 1912 four other Western States did the same. In 1913, Illionis became the first State on the east of Mississippi, to accept women suffrage. In 1917 and 1918, New York and Michigan gave women the right to vote. By 1919, thirty nine states had granted women the right to vote in some form; fifteen allowed women full participation.

The Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920. This guaranteed political rights to women throughout the United States.

Discrimination against women is as old as civilization itself. Subjugation of women has been primarily promoted by major religious faiths. Since the Scriptures specifically consider women as inferior all attempts for equal right means antagonizing religious institutions. Even philosophers and writers looked down upon womankind. Perhaps, they too, were influenced by the religious beliefs of their respective communities.

In the early nineteenth century Britain, James Mill had argued that needs of women and children are to be addressed by the male in the household. Mill spoke against womens' rights because it was felt that the needs of men and women were common and not distinct. To him this would preclude any necessity for separate representation of women in the Government. In the poem, The Princess, Tennyson has highlighted moral and spiritual strengths of women. To him woman has a separate and distinct identity that she needs to express. Interestingly, the father of the heroine reflects male dominated thinking of that time. For the father declares:

Man for the field and woman for the hearth,
Man for the sword and for the needle she;
Man with the head and woman with the heart,
Man is to command and woman to obey;

On the subject of gender, Nietzche writes, "Comparing man and woman in general one may say: woman would not have the genius for finery if she did not have the instinct for the secondary role." Writing further, "when the woman has scholarly inclinations there is usually something wrong with her sexuality." No doubt, to Nietzche, female sexuality and feminine intellect were contradictory.

Dutch philosopher Benedict de Spinoza could not reconcile the thought of men being ruled by women. Spinoza writes, "Someone will ask whether women are under men's authority by nature or institution?" In response he says,"There has never been a case of men and women reigning together, but see that men rule, and women are ruled, and that on this plan, both sexes live in harmony. One may assert with perfect propriety, that women have not by nature equal right with men...and thus it cannot happen, that both sexes should rule alike, much less that men should be ruled by women."

Bertrand Russell exposed all fallacious thinking that encouraged male domineering habits. This, to him, had reduced the institution of marriage to that of an unequal partnership rather than one based on equality. Commenting on Aristotle's views on women, Russell wrote:"Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occured to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths."

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