WOMEN’S EQUALITY

Nassau County Police
Officer Mary Farrell
at the Belmont Stakes
Parade, 1991. Farrell
is currently a
detective sergeant.

At the Seneca Falls convention of 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton remarked that the right to vote would make women “free as man is free.” Her understanding that participation in democratic processes was a doorway to greater freedoms has influenced the women’s movement ever since. Susan B. Anthony, Stanton’s contemporary, was also ahead of her time. She stated that to be free, a woman must have “a purse of her own.” These two women started the first modern feminist movement in the U.S., which culminated in the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, giving women the right to vote.

Veteran activist Goldie Chu
demonstrates at a pro-ERA rally.

In the decades following their suffrage victory, some women’s rights activists put their energies into voter education while others led reform groups, joined radical political movements or forged careers as labor organizers, lawyers, doctors, social workers, secretaries and writers, among others. By the mid-1950s, more American women were working for wages outside the home than ever before. Yet full equality proved elusive and, by the early 1960s, many women were publicly voicing their dissatisfaction with the barriers to full participation in society. Second-wave feminists wanted access to birth control and abortion, as well as equality in sexual relations. Together, radical groups such as Redstockings, liberal groups like the National Organization for Women and many grass-roots groups of women formed a newly emboldened women’s movement that called for an overthrow of the traditional roles of women and men.

Florence Howe is a founder of women’s studies and the Feminist Press/CUNY, where she is currently publisher

Campaign button of Margaret Chase
Smith.

A woman holding a birth control dispenser, August 1974.

Sarah Weddington is believed to be one of the youngest people ever to win a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. She successfully argued her case in the landmark lawsuit Roe v. Wade at the age of 26.

Diana Reyna is the first Dominican-American
woman to serve in the New
York City Council.

Campaign button of Bella Abzug.

Campaign button of Shirley Chisholm.