Wednesday, February 16, 2011

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

By Miriam B. Medina

Women throughout the centuries have been perceived as inferior to men. This has frustrated and enraged them in regards to the lack of control they have had over their own destinies.

As a result of women vocalizing their displeasure over the way they were being treated and their overwhelming lack of rights, the first Women's Rights convention was held at Seneca Falls, New York. This took place on July 19-20, 1848, with the sole purpose of addressing Women's rights and issues. It was organized by Quaker leader and abolitionist Lucretia Mott and abolitionist lecturer Elizabeth Cady Stanton. There were at least 260 women that attended the meeting demanding political, social and economic justice for women, which was quite revolutionary for the 19th century. A Declaration of Rights and Sentiments fashioned after the Declaration of Independence was prepared by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It mentioned all the injustices that women had suffered for years.

Some of the highlights from that declaration included:

That women as well as men are created equal and that women have the right to own property in their own name.

The right, to work at any trade or profession of their choosing.

The right to an education and the right to vote.

The Seneca Falls Convention marked the inauguration of the Women's Rights Movement in America. Women were no longer going to be suppressed or remain silent, be treated as a commodity, or as a slave. The buck was stopping there. Enough was enough.

Prior to 1848 and other "Married Women's Property Acts" that were passed, when a woman married, she would lose the right to control property that was hers prior to the marriage. She wasn't able to acquire property during the marriage either. Married woman during that time were not able to make any contracts, transfer assets or even sell property, bring suit, maintain or control her own wages or collect any rents. Although Mississippi adopted the first married women's property act in 1839, the state of New York passed a much better known law in 1848.

With the passing of the 1893 Married Women's Property Act, this slow course of action was finally brought to fruition. As a result, married women now fully had legalized control over possessions of every kind. Possessions that they had owned at marriage or which they received after marriage, either by inheritance or which they had earned.

To be continued: Part II (c)

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