Women’s Rights: A Look Back at How Far We’ve Come

The struggle for equality for all people regularly dominates the headlines, and there is still, without a doubt, a lot of ground to cover. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, first established in 1909, let’s take a look at how much has changed regarding women’s rights.

If you were a woman living in the United States in the early 1900s, you:

  • Couldn’t vote.
  • Could be fired from your job for being pregnant.
  • Couldn’t smoke in public in New York City.
  • Were welcome to work in a factory to replace men who were off at war — as long as you gave the men their jobs back when they returned.
  • Were banned by law from working at all in some states during the Great Depression.

As far off as true equality may have seemed at that time, the early 1900s also saw important victories for women:

  • In 1916, Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
  • In 1920, the U.S. ratified the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.
  • In 1925, Wyoming elected Nellie Tayloe Ross governor, making her the first female governor in the U.S.
  • In 1931, Jane Addams became the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • In 1932, Arkansas elected the nation’s first woman, Hattie Caraway, to the U.S. Senate.
  • In 1933, Frances Perkins became the first female cabinet member after President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her secretary of labor.
  • In 1942, Congress moved to allow women to serve in the U.S. Army.

Today, women have achieved heights that would have thrilled the women of the early 1900s. While there are still some obstacles to overcome, such as equal pay, a little girl growing up in America today has every reason to believe that she can be anyone and do anything she desires. For that, let’s give a nod of thanks to the women who came before us and made the first big strides toward women’s rights.

Image source: Flickr