Feminism is a word used to describe the never ending campaign that continues to establish equal rights. At the same time, they have worked exhaustively to put an end to the discrimination and sexism that the minority community has constantly faced. The term “feminism,” which originated from the French word feminisme, was coined by utopian socialist Charles Fourier, but it wasn’t until the 1890’s that the word was properly used. He was a strong advocate for women’s rights in a time where females were still subjugated by an extremely patriarchal society that belittle them as ornaments and reproductive partners. However, even though there wasn’t a word created for it, the movement has been tightly knitted with human history. Nonetheless, there have been many instances in history where feminist achievements have been either forgotten or simply hidden from the masses.
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883):
Sojourner Truth (born Isabella Baumfree), was an African-American spokesperson for the abolition of slavery as well as a women’s rights activist. She was born into slavery, but escaped to freedom with her infant daughter in 1826. In addition, she grew up speaking Dutch and was the first black woman recorded in history to win a court case against a white man to recover her son. Truth is best known for her impromptu speech, later transcribed as “Ain’t I a Woman?” given at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. In it she urged for equal rights for all women including black people. Furthermore, she travelled across the nation giving speeches and raising awareness in favor of the civil rights movement and women’s rights.
The Feminine Mystique (1963) by Betty Friedan:
This is considered to be the book that sparked the Second Wave of Feminism in the United States. It explores the unhappiness and unfulfillment that women were experiencing in the aftermath World War II, since the country was in a state of regression where the role of women was reduced to being a wife, mother, and housewife. In addition, due to the limited role they had in society, their despondency was reflected unto their families as well. Friedan called this phenomenon in the book “the problem that has no name.” It all started when Friedan conducted a survey where she interviewed her former Smith College classmates for the 15th anniversary reunion and the results showed that that the majority were unhappy with their life as suburban housewives. This prompted Friedan to conduct further research which she called The Feminine Mystique. It was originally intended to be an article; however, no magazine wanted to publish a potential controversial piece. That was when she decided to publish it in book format, which later became the bestselling nonfiction book, selling more than one million copies.
The National Organization for Women (1966):
Following the success of the book The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan, alongside 27 other women, co-founded The National Organization for Women (NOW). This was and still is, the first and largest women’s liberation organization. It was founded out of frustration with the federal government for not forcing the, then recent, anti-discrimination law. Even with the new law, employers were still discriminating against women by seldom hiring them, as well as unequal pay compared with men. The founders believed that if the feminist groups did not put pressure on this matter, discrimination will not cease to end. They continued to advocate for things such as equal rights, maternity leave, LGBTQ+ rights, amongst others.
Consciousness Raising Groups (late 1960’s):
The Consciousness Raising Groups were formed by New York Radical Women, which was an early Women’s Liberation Group located in New York City and it quickly spread throughout the nation. The original consensus was that a small group of women were going to meet to discuss various social and political issues that were happening in the late 1960’s. It prompted women to speak up about either personal problems they were facing or to bring awareness towards more serious issues such as oppression by a patriarchal society, diseases, any global conflict that was taking place at the time, other types of movements, political parties, amongst other. The whole point of the group was to freely express themselves without the patronizing presence of a male figure and become fully conscious of the their role in society.
Women of the Young Lords (1969-1976):
This was a Puerto Rican nationalist group comprised of both men and women, that originated in the United States. They were advocates for gender equality, questioned the male authority in the workforce, and exalted their pride as Puerto Ricans. However, the women within it faced discrimination by the males in the group, but the women did not shy away from the ill-treatment and decided to reform it by adopting the slogan: ¡Abajo con el machismo! Many distinctive women rose to become leaders in the Young Lords Party, such as, Connie Cruz, Luisa Capteillo, Denise Oliver, and Bianca Canales. One of the major contributions women made for the group was working on the Young Lords Party Position Paper on Women (1970). In it they tackled issues like race, class, role and value of women in society. Nevertheless, it also accused the practice of sterilization that had been happening in Puerto Rico since the 1930’s and the testing of birth control pills done on Puerto Rican women which had been tied to cancer and blood clotting.
Karama: Rising for Dignity (2005):
Founded by Hibaaq Osman, Karama is an organization based in Cairo, Egypt that operates through the Arab region. Its mission is to end violence against women in the Middle East and North Africa. They also seek to reform the discriminatory laws and provide a safe space for women to advance in their careers and security. They continue to fight for women’s rights by partnering with thirteen other Middle Eastern and North African countries to bring awareness and find solutions amongst their communities as well as governments.