In the 21st century, the world is embracing the feminist movement, and continually progressing to a place where women are treated as men’s equals. But what about the women who started the feminist movement before it became “the feminist movement”? Women now freely speak ideas, demand equality, and vote… but what about the women who did so before it was socially acceptable? While we might all claim to be feminists, we can’t truly be unless we recognize the courageous women who paved the way for us to even define ourselves as that.
Mary was considered crazy and promiscuous, but – in actuality –she was a genius. She wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in which she accurately explained how women were not treated seriously because they were conditioned to believe that their worth was based on their ability to be beautiful and please men. She offered a plan for equality: that men and women be educated together so that they might view each other as equals. Aside from that, she spoke of how women only aspired for passion with a man, but passion fades, so it’s better to have a friendship when the passion is gone, than to entertain the idea that passion lasts forever. Preach, woman, preach!
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Elizabeth Cady Stanton is a powerhouse woman. When she was a little girl, her father said to her “if only you had been a boy” (Coleman) because she was so naturally smart and inquisitive. She was an abolitionist, and helped organize the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. Yes, she was married, but all she wanted was for men to treat her as an equal. She helped spawn the suffragist movement, and worked hard for it the rest of her life.
Being married to the second president of the United States, you would think that Abigail would be the epitome of the submissive and obeisant woman of her time. Not so. President Adams and Abigail were separated when he first became the President, and he told her that he needed her to come be with him in the White House because he needed her counsel (Roberts). Not only that, but she was bold. Her boldness got her into trouble, and she didn’t really enjoy entertaining large parties as often. Bottom line: she was independent, an intellectual, and she didn’t need a man, but the man needed her.
It was alleged that Aemilia was one of Shakespeare’s lovers, but aside from that, she stood up for women in her writings. She wrote “Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women” where she defended Eve, recognizing that it wasn’t her fault that mankind fell, and that it is unfair to place such blame on women (Lanyer). Essentially, she challenged the great John Milton – author of Paradise Lost – and refused to let women be considered the lesser. Slay.
While we could list thousands of other women who were powerful influences before the feminist movements, these women deserve more credit than they’ve been given. Let us always remember!