Women's Movements Timeline
How It All Went Down
Angelina Grimké Becomes Leading Abolitionist
Angelina Grimké writes a letter to abolitionist leader William Lloyd Garrison endorsing his efforts and calling antislavery a "cause worth dying for." As Grimké is a southern woman and the daughter of a prominent slave-owning judge, her letter makes her a celebrity within the antislavery movement.
Grimké "Parlor Talks" Against Slavery, For Women
Angelina Grimké holds her first "parlor talk" for women under the auspices of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Over the next year, she and her sister Sarah will give more than 70 lectures before an estimated 40,000 people. When criticized for speaking to audiences filled with men as well as women, Grimké will launch a defense of the right of women to speak in public and participate as equals in public affairs.
Grimké Riot in Philadelphia
Abolitionist and feminist Angelina Grimké speaks in the recently completed Pennsylvania Hall. As mobs riot outside, she urges the abolitionists to stand fast in their work for the slave. The next day, mobs burn the building to the ground.
Snub of Woman Delegates to World Antislavery Convention
The World's Antislavery Convention is held in London. The British and Foreign Antislavery Society sponsoring the convention refuses to seat women delegates from American antislavery societies. Forced to sit in the gallery, the women, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, discuss the need to hold a convention to discuss women's status in society. This conversation leads to the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848.
Seneca Falls Convention
About 300 people, including 40 men, meet at America's first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. There they adopt a Declaration of Sentiments, modeled closely after the Declaration of Independence, asserting the "self-evident" truth that "all men and women were created equal." The delegates also adopt eleven resolutions, including one declaring it "the duty of women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise."11
American Equal Rights Association Founded
The American Equal Rights Association holds its first meeting. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are among the founding members. The AERA unites abolitionists, African-American activists, and feminists in pursuit of racial and gender equality.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, explicitly protecting the voting rights of only the "male inhabitants" of the United States. This marks the first instance in which the Constitution clearly links citizenship and voting rights to gender.
Stanton & Anthony Found NWSA
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony found the National Woman Suffrage Association to campaign for women's right to vote. The association is founded largely in reaction to the narrow framing of the Fourteenth Amendment, which explicitly extends protections only to men, and the narrow interpretation of the Fifteenth Amendment. In 1890, the NWSA will merge with the more moderate American Woman Suffrage Association and be renamed the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, stating that "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and other feminists will develop a complex constitutional argument stating that the Fifteenth Amendment's gender-neutral language and the transfer of control over suffrage from the states to the federal government, coupled with the privileges and immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, results in a constitutional protection for women's right to vote.
Susan B. Anthony Arrested for Voting
To test the argument advanced by many feminists that the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments guarantee women the right to vote, Susan B. Anthony attempts to vote in the 1872 presidential election. She is arrested and found guilty of casting an illegal ballot.
Minor v. Happersett Rejects Right to Vote
In Minor v. Happersett, the United States Supreme Court rules that the right to vote "was not necessarily one of the privileges or immunities of citizenship" and therefore "neither the Constitution nor the Fourteenth Amendment made all citizens voters." This ends feminists' attempts to secure voting rights under existing constitutional amendments.
Women's Suffrage Amendment Introduced in Senate
Senator A. A. Sargent of California introduces into the Senate a women's suffrage amendment drafted by Susan B. Anthony. The text of the amendment will remain unchanged through its ratification as the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.
Alice Paul in England
While studying in England, American Alice Paul meets Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, leaders of the Women's Social and Political Union. Paul will bring their more militant tactics in pursuit of women's suffrage back to America in 1910.
Alice Paul Founds National Woman's Party
Impatient with its moderate tactics, Alice Paul breaks from the National American Woman Suffrage Association led by Carrie Chapman Catt to found the organization that will become in 1916 the National Woman's Party.
"Silent Sentinels" March on White House
Alice Paul's National Woman's Party dispatches "silent sentinels" to the White House gates to pressure President Woodrow Wilson to support women's suffrage. Carrying banners with slogans critical of the president, the protestors will maintain their silent vigil until Congress approves the Nineteenth Amendment in June 1919.
Alice Paul Arrested & Jailed
Alice Paul is sentenced to seven months in jail for picketing the White House. She is one of more than 500 "silent sentinels" arrested during 1917 and 1918, and one of 168 sentenced to time in jail.
19th Amendment Passes Congress
The United States Senate passes the Nineteenth Amendment. Having already passed in the House of Representatives (21 May 1919), the amendment is sent to the states for ratification.
19th Amendment Ratified
Tennessee becomes the thirty-sixth and last state needed to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.
Equal Rights Amendment Introduced in Senate
The Equal Rights Amendment, drafted by Alice Paul, is introduced in the Senate. It reads, "Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction." Although the amendment will be introduced in every session of Congress, it will not reach the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote until 1971.
GOP Endorses ERA
The Republican Party endorses the Equal Rights Amendment.
Dems Endorse ERA
The Democratic Party endorses the Equal Rights Amendment.
The Feminine Mystique
Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique exploring the "nameless, aching dissatisfaction" plaguing middle-class women and, according to many, launching the modern women's rights movement.
National Organization for Women Founded
Betty Friedan and a small group of women, gathering in Washington, D.C. for the Third National Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women, found NOW—the National Organization for Women. NOW will hold its organizing meeting in October and Friedan will be elected president.
ERA Passes Congress, Moves to States for Ratification
The Equal Rights Amendment, with language revised by Alice Paul in 1943, is approved by the Senate. Having already passed in the House of Representatives (12 October 1971), it is sent to the states for ratification. The revised language of the essential phrase reads, "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."
Phyllis Schlafly Blasts ERA
Phyllis Schlafly publishes "What's Wrong with 'Equal Rights' for Women," launching the campaign opposing ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Arguing that the ERA will force women into the military, jeopardize benefits under Social Security, and weaken existing legal protections under divorce and marriage laws, Schlafly plays a large part in bringing the movement toward ratification of the amendment to a halt.
The United States Congress enacts a series of Educational Amendments including Title IX, which states that "no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." While Title IX impacts multiple areas of federally subsidized education, its impact on athletics is the most controversial. Within 30 years, the number of girls participating in high school sports will double.12
Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Sex-Segregated Job Ads
The United States Supreme Court rules in Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations that ordinances prohibiting sex-segregated employment advertisements do not violate the First Amendment. The ruling successfully concludes a five-year campaign waged by the National Organization for Women against sex-segregated job ads.
Deadline for ERA Ratification Extended
The United States Senate joins the House of Representatives in extending the deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, originally set for 22 March 1979, to 30 June 1982.
ERA Fails to Gain Ratification
The deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment passes with only thirty-five of the needed thirty-eight states approving the amendment. Opposition to the amendment is strongest in the South and Southwest.