The history of feminism summarized in 18 key moments

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Feminism is made up of various movements, each of which emphasizes a specific aspect because, even in societies that have made the most progress in equality, there are important differences in the recognition of rights that derive from conditions such as women’s poverty, ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation.

All this makes it necessary to understand which are those key moments in history that have shaped the identity and diversity of the feminist movement at the international level, and the reasons why this movement still has a lot to do.

Howard Miller: We can do it! (we can do it). Advertising poster for Westinghouse Electric.
It was designed with the purpose of boosting the morale of female workers during World War II.

1. 1791: publication of the Declaration of the rights of women and female citizens

The French writer Olympia de Gouges was aware that the proclamations of the French Revolution were only conceived for men and that women had been relegated to the private sphere.

Gouges published his controversial Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, in an obvious wink at the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

As a consequence, the Girondins ordered a trial against Gouges and sentenced her to the guillotine, an event that occurred in 1793. This moment highlighted the naturalization of discrimination and violence against women.

2. 1792: edition of the book Vindication of the rights of woman

In the year 1792, the writer Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the first to live independently as a writer, published the book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

In it, Wollstonecraft reflects on ethics and the place of women in society. All this under the values ​​that the Enlightenment had instilled in that generation, such as the principle of individual freedom, reason, equality and fraternity.

3. 1848: Seneca Falls conference

The Seneca Falls conference in New York was the first women’s rights convention in history. It was organized by activists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

From this convention, a controversial document emerged that, inspired by the North American constitution, denounced the implicit and effective prohibition of women participating in the vote, in elections and in public office. Also the express prohibition of joining political organizations or attending meetings of this court.

4. 1869: start of the suffrage movement

suffragistsSuffragettes in England, year 1908.

With the book Subjection of Women, the writers Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill open the battlefield for the suffrage movement in Great Britain. The text promotes the transformation of some laws, such as the law of marriage. Also, it proposes women’s access to education and denounces the manipulation of female sexuality as an instrument of control over women.

That same year, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded a women’s right to vote movement in New York called the National Woman Suffrage Association.

Lucy Stone would do the same, calling her association the American Woman Suffrage Association.

5. 1893: Women’s suffrage in New Zealand

New Zealand will be the first country to admit women’s suffrage in the context of the contest. Although the Pitcairn Islands, in Polynesia, had already done so in 1838, but it had no impact because the islands were uninhabited the following year.

6. 1908: Beginning of feminist labor movements

On March 8, 1908, a labor protest began in the US to demand days of less than 12 hours, better wages, an end to sexual harassment at work and an end to child labor. This will be the day that working women’s unions in the US take as a reference to celebrate Women’s Day.

7. 1947: equal pay between men and women in Sweden

Equal pay is not yet a universal reality. However, since 1947 Sweden has stood out for being the first country to declare the right to equal pay for equal work.

8. 1948: Declaration of Human Rights

In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This document makes explicit the mandate of recognition of gender equality before the laws in all its areas. Likewise, the principle of equal rights is recognized without distinction of ethnicity, belief system, age, social class, etc.

See also: Feminism: know its characteristics, works and most representative authors.

9. 1949: Publication of the book The Second Sex

In this year, Simone de Beauvoir’s book called The Second Sex is published in France. This work is a key piece in the reflection on the place of women in society and their rights.

You may also be interested in: Simone de Beauvoir: 7 keys to understand who she was and her contributions to feminism

10. 1968: debate on the reproductive rights of women

This event has an important weight in the feminist debate. In 1968 it was the first moment in which awareness of women’s rights over reproduction was raised.

By then the pill had been invented, which was a revolutionary change. The UN agenda included the discussion on the right to control reproduction, sex education, sexual health and legal abortion.

11. 1973: first precedent for the legalization of abortion

Although this issue continues to generate much controversy, voluntary and legal abortion has been a point on the agenda of feminism, with the purpose of avoiding the deaths of women due to illegal abortions.

In 1973, a US court approved the ruling known as “Roe v. Wade”, in which it recognized the woman’s right to voluntary termination of pregnancy, without implying a prison sentence. This sentence has been fundamental in the discussion on the subject and from it multiple debates have been generated.

12. 1977: Officialization of International Women’s Day

women's Day

This celebration finds its roots in the different manifestations that had taken place since the beginning of the 20th century.

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Although the commemoration is closely linked to an important milestone that occurred in Russia on March 8, 1917. On that day, Russian women took to the streets to protest against hunger and demand the improvement of working conditions in what are called strikes in demand of “ bread and peace”.

As a result of the citizen struggle, the Tsar abdicated and the provisional government granted the right to vote to women.
Shortly after, International Women’s Day was institutionalized in Russia, and it was also celebrated in other countries such as China in 1922 or Spain in 1936.

It was not until 1975 that the United Nations first commemorated International Women’s Day on March 8. But after World War II it had already spread to other parts of the world.
Finally, to unite international efforts that would make visible the achievements and pending rights in the fight for an egalitarian society, the UN decided to officially declare the date in 1977.

13. 1992: beginning of the third wave of feminism

In 1992, the feminist writer Rebeca Walker published a book called Becoming the Third Wave or Beginning of the third wave, in Spanish.
In this text, she introduces a series of themes that become important in the theories and actions of contemporary feminism, such as the right to sexual diversity, ecofeminism, the inequalities of feminism according to countries and societies, etc.

Since then, some problems have been added to the feminist pending list, such as the problem of the colonized mentality, ethnic origin as an aggravating condition of subordination, the relationship of feminism with the community, etc.

14. 1999: International day against sexual exploitation and human trafficking

This day does not only refer to women, but is of paramount importance in the context of the feminist struggle.

The seriousness of this scourge is such that human trafficking, for sexual purposes or not, has become an industry as profitable as drugs and arms trafficking.

Statistics indicate that 80% of the victims are women and girls. In the case of the female population, 95% of them are destined for sexual exploitation.

It was the World Conference of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Persons together with the Women’s Conference that took place in Dhaka (Bangladesh) that established September 23 to raise awareness about the problem of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

15. 2009: Cotton Field sentence

The year 2009 revealed one of the most terrible realities for women that has not been overcome: the gender violence.

In this sense, the case of the femicides in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, in which the negligence of the authorities has been an aggravating factor, was famous.

The Campo Algodonero sentence was promulgated by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in which the Mexican State was forced to apologize to the relatives of the victims of Ciudad Juárez and to facilitate the investigation processes into the crimes.

16. 2012: World Day of Zero Tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation

In its 2012 assembly, the UN approved the annual commemoration of the World Day of Zero Tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation every February 6.

This date aims to raise awareness of the fact that fundamental human rights cannot be subordinated to cultural traditions under any circumstances.

The UN thus recognizes that female genital mutilation is an act of violence against women and calls for its prohibition throughout the world.

17. 2015: Argentine march “Not one less”

Not one lessFirst march Ni Una Menos, Buenos Aires.

The fight for feminist rights has been revitalized, because despite all these achievements, a fundamental right has not been guaranteed: the right to life and to dignified treatment free from violence.

The number of femicides seems to increase, the proportion of rapes has not decreased, the disappearance of women remains unanswered by the authorities. Violence against women is a reality that overshadows the achievements to date.

For this reason, in 2015 the first march of the Argentine movement was held Not one less, which denounces femicide. This march mobilized more than 80 cities in that country and became a model of inspiration for many women in the world. The march has been replicated in countries such as Uruguay, Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, and has also become an annual event.

18. 2017: great international march for women’s rights

In the US, one of the most important marches of feminism took place, mobilized by the electoral victory of Donald Trump, whose conservatism is more than well known. At the international level, other similar demonstrations were held to raise awareness about the inequalities that continue to oppress women.

More than two and a half million women took to the streets in 2017 around the world to assert their rights and human dignity. Many more continue to fight by all the means they know, public and private, so that equality and peace become a reality.

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