RP#2: Suffering for Suffrage

HIST 112 RP #2


Women in colonial and early United States times are all but vanished from American History, with only a few minor exceptions (Sacajawea, President’s wives, etc.). So where was half of the country at this time? According to Zinn, “the very invisibility of women, the overlooking of women, is a sign of their submerged status” (103). However, women have pushed hard for the rights they have today, which I would call almost but not quite on par with men (Still $0.77 to the dollar, anyone?). This paper will address the new identity gained by the “other” half of the country’s population, and how this impacted not only the women, but the view of women by men and the country overall.

When reading chapter 6 of Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, I was quite surprised at the blatant sexisms that ravaged the country up until a few decades ago. Of course, in history class I wasn’t taught about the mistreatment of women during these times. All I knew going into this chapter is that a bunch of women got together and rallied for suffrage which started the whole “women’s rights” thing. Men in this country, probably because of being the physically dominant sex and from their hereditary views on gender roles, definitely saw the women as inferior, and treated them as such. Not being able to vote (especially as tax payers), being expected to live of the highest value when men did not, giving all their property and resources to their “masters”, and not participating in public affairs or even getting the same jobs men did had to add tension building up to the women’s rights movement. I definitely think that it was only a matter of time before enough women felt the oppression and got together to rise up against the country’s principles. The same thing happened with slavery and segregation. After gaining the right to vote there must have been a very good sense of independence felt by the entire women population overall. This new identity that women gained definitely set the stage for women’s independence. But this makes me wonder how the men felt about the change. There must have been some tension in this regard, but still, at the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention, 1/3 of the people that signed the Declaration of Principles were men, so that’s got to account for something. Also, in chapter 6, Zinn talks about how the women rallied to support the abolition of slavery. I think this was a very good strategy to get the gate open for women’s rights. Who knows, maybe without the support of the women slavery would have lasted even longer than it did. The abolition of slavery must have been a great success for the women as well, and raised their spirits for the rights that they truly deserved. The one question I still have about this, however, is when the mind shift happened on the men’s side. At the time, all three branches of the Federal Government was probably completely composed of white males, and they are the ones that voted on giving women the rights they deserved. I think this could have been because of the abolition of slavery, and the men being able to open their eyes afterword and really see the despair and hopelessness they were causing these women.

So what are my views on this problem that women have faced for most of our country’s existence? I think that the mistreatment of women, like slaves and Native Americans, is another untouched part of our history that needs to be further addressed in all aspects of American education. This is our history, whether we would like to admit it or not, and this needs to be addressed. However, with that in mind, women’s rights have developed greatly over the years. Women can now live completely independent of a male spouse, if so desired, and they can run for office and get the same types of jobs (mostly) that men do. But is there still a gap? Of course there is. I think it would be pretty hard to stop the mistreatment of women all in one day, especially if that is the way it has been for multiple centuries. We saw this with slavery, where, after that was abolished, there was still segregation and not as many rights. So are women as equal as men today? I don’t think so. Men still dominate the political areas of our country. Congress today is still majorly dominated by elderly, rich white men. And women still definitely, while being able to take lower end jobs, don’t have much chance as business partners or CEO’s. Furthermore, women still make 3/4 of what men make in an average job, for the same if not more amounts of work. However, the statistics are improving, and hopefully sometime soon, women’s rights will no longer be an issue in this country.