Strong Women: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them


At the Washington, D.C. Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, thousands of feminists walked in solidarity to show their support for women’s rights. Similar marches took place all over the country on this day, many in protest of President Donald Trump’s presidency.

From Rosie the Riveter, to Gloria Steinem, to Meryl Streep: these women, and a countless number of other admirable women, have been part of one of the world’s most unifying and widespread movements of the past century, the feminist movement. Of course, the fight has been going on for centuries, but women’s rights have been getting special attention and consideration in recent years. Discussions regarding equal pay, the right to choose, and contraception are as important and common as any other political conversation. Women are refusing to be shut out.

The term ‘feminism’ was coined in 1852 by French socialist Charles Fourier. The Oxford English dictionary defines the word as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” Unfortunately, feminism is o en misconstrued as female supremacy, or misandry. There is also a misconception of what feminism looks like to most people. A feminist is by no means a term exclusive to women. Anyone, of any gender, can identify as a feminist. Some people who do not identify as female believe they cannot be a feminist because they are not women. However, this is completely contradictory of the fact that feminism merely means equality, not supremacy.

The key focus of the feminist movement has shifted throughout the decades. While earlier feminists focused primarily on suffrage and property rights, today’s feminism is focused on issues such as the
wage gap and reproductive rights. There has also been an increasing emphasis on intersectional feminism in recent years. Intersectional feminism promotes inclusivity and extends to women of all races, genders, and sexualities. Unfortunately, gender inequality has existed for centuries, but as long as misogyny has persisted, there have been early feminists who have countered sexism with reason and suggested equality of the sexes. In the Book of the City of Ladies, written in 1405, French-Italian authoress Christine de Pizan denounces misogynists and slander against women and writes that women need to be included in conversations about gender roles so that society can abandon harmful stereotypes.

Modern feminism would not be what it is today without the support of dozens of organizations and activists all over the world.  The League of Women Voters is one such group.  The LWV formed in
1920 in order to help women exercise their newly acquired suffrage rights. Today, the LWV is open to
men as well and promotes political advocacy and equality on all levels. Modern feminist protests rely less on smaller organizations and more on mass movements.  The rise of social media has made this
possible, and feminists all over the world have been able to publicize their messages with hashtags such as #YesAllFeminism and #MeToo.

Since the 1800s, New Yorkers have long led the struggle for women’s rights. Seneca Falls is often considered the birthplace of the women’s rights movements in the United States since the Seneca Falls Convention was the first women’s rights convention. Organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth
Cady Stanton, 200 women gathered at the Wesleyan Chapel as Stanton read the “Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances,” which shed light on the injustices inflicted upon women. The Seneca Falls Convention marked the beginning of annual women’s rights conventions, which ultimately launched the feminist movement into action.

In addition, many prominent feminists did their pioneering work in the Empire State. Susan B. Anthony did much of her early work in New York. Along with Stanton, Anthony co-founded the National Woman Su rage Association in 1869. Furthermore, the pair created The Revolution, a weekly publication that lobbied for women’s rights, particularly, the right to vote. New York was one of the first states to pass women’s suffrage in 1917, fueling the momentum for the entire nation to follow three years later.

“Don’t take what the men hand out to you. Take for yourselves the kind of things you want in the platforms and tell the men so. Keep your backbone at the conventions,” wrote Mary Garrett Hay, one of New York City’s best-known suffragists, in 1917.

Through Anthony’s efforts to promote the issue of women’s su rage, the nineteenth amendment was passed twenty years after her death, giving women the right to vote. In 1970, New York stunned the nation when it was one of the first states to legalize abortion, three years before the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide. Even though other states before had legalized abortion, these laws only applied to residents of that state. However, New York expanded their legislation, having no residency requirement. In the first two years of this law being passed, 60% of women having abortions in New York were from out of state. The legalization of abortion in New York was a monumental breakthrough for women’s rights.

In regards to the issue of equal pay, the current situation is far from ideal. Data from the U.S. Labor Department reveals that in 2016, women earned approximately 82 cents for every dollar a man made. This gender pay gap is most noticeable in the highest-paying  fields, which includecareers that tend to be male-dominated, such as engineering and architecture. In addition, according to a report from Georgetown University, women’s earnings still fall behind those of men with the same majors at every education level. When accounting for the impressive growth of women’s educational progress over the past few decades, this present wage disparity is extremely unsettling.

This month, Goldman Sachs, one of today’s most prestigious global banks, released a report exposing that in Britain, the average hourly wage of its female employees was 56% lower than their fellow male employees. It attributed the huge difference to the small number of women in its senior positions and stressed that it was working on addressing the issue. This shocking statistic emphasizes the urgent
need for change, as women are often not only openly discriminated for their gender but also have limited access to many professional networks.

The fight for women’s rights has only been strengthening in recent years and numerous countries have been working to fight for a decreased gender wage gap. Most notably, Iceland recently made a huge step forward for the case of equal pay. As of Jan. 1st, it became the first country to make it illegal to pay men more than their female coworkers for doing the same work. Other countries should consider following Iceland’s forward-thinking footsteps and pass legislation that will make the world a place where equal pay for equal work is a reality.

As you may have learned in your American history class, the fight for women’s reproductive rights has many subsections and parts. Women’s reproductive rights include abortion rights, contraceptive rights, and child birthing rights. Celebrities, activists and politicians alike have contributed their popularity to advocating for or against these rights.

In most recent history, abortion rights have gotten special attention in the face of conservatism.  The Christian right, orthodox Judaism and other conservative religions consider abortion a sin. Countries where abortion is completely illegal include Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Canada has no legal restrictions.

Here in the United States, abortion is legal nationally, thanks to the 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade. Despite this, states are able to regulate or limit access to abortion. Twenty-nine states have at least two abortion restrictions of some kind. On the other hand, in 2017 alone, twenty-one states have expanded or protected access to reproductive health and rights.

The antiabortion vs. prochoice argument has been a significant part of political discussions for a long time. Generally, someone who is pro-life believes that the government has the right and the obligation to protect all human lives, no matter how they came to exist.  They generally believe that abortion should be illegal in the United States. Those who are pro-choice believe that what one decides to do with their body is their decision, and should have nothing to do with the government. These people often argue that abortion should remain legal.

Within the past few years, women have begun to vocalize their support for women’s rights more than ever. On Jan. 21, 2017, one day a er the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the first Women’s
March took place. The march was organized in response to Trump’s demeaning comments about women, and was also a reaction to his other controversial stances and proposed policies. Although the main march occurred on the streets of Washington, D.C., women’s marches took place all over the country and world, including in Manhattan.

Those participating in the march vocalized their opinions about the current state of various issues concerning women, such as reproductive rights and equal pay, and advocated for change. The march was also focused on drawing attention to more national and universal issues, such as LGBT rights, immigration, and healthcare. With millions participating across the globe, the momentum carried over into a second march that took place earlier this year on Jan. 20.

“I think it is extremely important for women to stand up for what they believe in, and to not rest until our voices are heard. Although not perfect, the Women’s March is an incredible step in the right direction,” said senior Isabella Henderson.

Within the past century, women have made immense strides in the fight for their rights. From the 19th Amendment back in 1920, to the global women’s marches going on today, women are continuing
and expanding upon the precedent set. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go in order for true
equality and recognition of rights to be achieved. Ultimately, the current and future actions of our generation will help to foster in a new wave of activism and involvement, one that will hopefully bring us one step closer to equality.