Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Struggle for Freedom: The Impact of Women's Movements in the United States Part II (c))

By Miriam B. Medina

After the Civil War, industry began to grow as new cities were being built. This in turn provided better paying jobs to men. For women, jobs like telephone operators, stenographers, clerks, teachers and nurses were all becoming available.

The Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), which was the largest women's association of the 19th century, was founded in 1874. It addressed the issues of men's alcoholism and its detrimental effect upon the family. Their primary concern focused on the saloons because that was where men spent most of their time, where they spent their wages on alcohol, gambled away their livelihood and where prostitution flourished. It was a man's world. In the saloon, the man would always find a warm welcome, It was their hide away from the whinny complaints of their wives and where they could avoid endless domestic issues. These dedicated WCTU women would aggravate the saloons, urging the saloon keepers to lock their doors. The more they were pushed aside, the more they would fight back. They were relentless in their efforts, which eventually resulted in 3000 saloons being closed.

The National Woman's Suffrage Association, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as President, was formed in 1869. The American Women's Suffrage Association, with Henry Ward Beecher as President, was also established the same year. Their goal was to ensure women's suffrage. In 1890, the two groups merged into the "National American Women's Suffrage Association" with Susan B. Anthony as President. She was assisted by Carrie Chapman Catt. In 1920, the National League of Women Voters was established. This replaced the National American Woman's Suffrage Association. The Women's Rights Movement continued to gain momentum as the "newly liberated woman "began emerging around the 1890's. They proudly wore full-cut men's trousers, argued over women's rights openly in public places, and competed in strenuous sporting events. So what do you think about that? These women were real jocks involved in all sports and could handle smoking too.

A leading woman's revolution took place in 1916, as women were liberated from simply acting as reproduction machines. At the time, many women were going through with unwanted pregnancies, and many others had died as a result of self-abortion. Margaret Sanger, a maternity nurse in lower Manhattan, New York, aware of the trauma, decided to open the first birth-control clinic. Margaret Sanger also formed the National Birth Control League in 1917, which became the Planned Parenthood Federation in 1942. At the end of the war, a ruling from the Federal Court allowed condoms to be legally advertised and sold for the prevention of disease, although there were still a few state laws that were against condoms as a birth control device. In part three of this three-part series, I'll conclude with the recent history and impact of the feminist movement in America, and how birth control and organized effort helped advance women with the equality that they always deserved.

To be continued: Part III (a)

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