Women’s History and the American Experience

Feminism can be defined as a way of thinking in terms of power ownership; that is who has power, how power is used or misused by the ones who hold it in relation to gender. It looks into the way power relations are considering the chances that are available for different genders for instance the job opportunities and public service. Feminism is a subject that was declared lifeless, and beside the point so often that the works on the topic of feminism served as a reprieve from such assumptions. Ruth Rosen’s work which looks at the history of both the radical and the liberal feminists’ movement and the transformations that they have brought is an example of such books.

In a statement on the issue that the efforts of women had gone beyond the backlash, Rosen said that “the young women these days enjoy a lot of freedom in many fields. These fields include education, profession, writing, even the field of expressing themselves, and variety from which they can choose. As they enjoy these freedoms, they should always remember that other women in the past fought so hard and paid greatly for them to start enjoying such privileges in today’s world. In return, they are expected to show their gratitude to these great women by continuing the fight and bringing progress to the changes that the predecessors had laid a foundation for. They are expected to do this in accordance with the current trends in society. The change they should fight for should be helpful to them at that particular time and help those who will be coming after them in the future. Modern-day women are expected to take the fight a step higher than they found it. Because the feminists in the past fought for them, they should also fight for themselves during their time and fight for those who will come in then future.”(Rosen R. pg 345).

The above statement clearly articulates the need for the current generation to keep in mind whatever sacrifice was put up for their sake and carry on the fight for the sake of the future generations. It calls for the memorization of the struggles that had been put forward for them and share the knowledge that they have about the struggle. This was the major reason why Ruth Rosen wrote down about feminism so that the females in the scene could have a glimpse of how the freedom they are enjoying came about. She even talks about the role of women in modern-day society concerning feminists’ struggles, which is her major concern in the writing. (Rosen, R. pg 346).

Rosen has started her work by looking at the world before feminism. She has described the world before feminism as a world that, if brought back to this time, we know would be unrecognizable to the young women today. There have been key changes in society that were brought about by the feminist movements. Young women rejected the old ways of their mothers and started embracing news liberal ways that were defined by feminism. Although in this struggle they were branded anti-motherhood, they pressed on and never gave up. Before the feminist movements, there existed a patriarchal society in which the power was in the hands of men, and women were discriminated against, not because of any particular reason but simply because they are women. With the rise of feminist movements, there was the questioning of the system. This was not an easy thing. There were many challenges that the women went through that slackened the success. Among other numerous challenges was the backlash. This refers to the criticism, counterattack, and the hostile response that came from the men and the women alike to stop them from achieving success in the fight against discrimination of women. Some of the areas where they were criticized include the demand for equal participation in the labor force. (Rosen, R. pg 20) Although there were demands in the labor market for more jobs, we see the way the men were so discriminative of the job areas to an extent that they would rather take the jobs that they considered were for the black men, in areas of racial discrimination than being found taking up the tasks they believed belonged to the women. In relation to this, they totally did not consider it a possibility for there to be an equal opportunity for both men and women in the job area. As a result, there was resistance to the attempt to amend any laws that could allow for such conditions. Even though this was a difficult thing, the women applied all the force that they could to ensure that their demands were met. In an attempt to show that they would meet the match in whatever field they were in, they excelled whenever they were given a chance to work in the various areas initially reserved for being for men only. This already sets the ground for the modern-day woman and she learns that to keep up the fight, there is a need to excel in whatever it is that she does so that she can prove worth the job. This is just one of the ways in which she is supposed to carry on the light of feminists’ struggle. Success comes by merit.

By looking at the weaknesses that were there in the feminists’ movement, Rosen equips the modern-day woman with a choice to ensure that they escape the weaknesses as they can learn from the mistakes made by their predecessors. There were divisions in the feminists movement. There were the liberal feminists and the radical feminists. There was a lack of trust among these two groups such that the government had dismissed them “as people without a leader or direction” (Rosen, R. pg. 246). While the liberal feminists looked into the welfare the woman all around, the radical feminists sought to transform the sexual culture in America. They addressed issues on prostitution, abortion, pornography, rape, and sex. They looked at the involvement of women in these activities and aimed at creating awareness to the whole society, not only among women. This is when the women started to show the rebellious tactics that were believed or rather associated with masculinity. When the target of radical feminists changed and started addressing the sexism issues, the media coverage for them increased and as a result, created publicity for the liberation hence, the liberation started, despite the criticism that they had faced earlier. This gives the women an example of the ways in which they should carry out their fight. They should apply diplomacy and check their unity to ensure that they get results as a group.

The feminist movement’s initiative brought about changes in the women’s lives in communities whereby there was an initiative from them to excel in academics, religion, and even at job areas. Women developed in academic leadership, entrepreneurship, and even in politics. Their participation and success created a completely different picture which eventually brought about permanent changes for instance women being employed in key positions in American society, later. Initially, the success was ignored by all including the media and the leaders, but they had to work for attention. “They wanted equal rights that men had at work in the society.” (Rosen, R.: How pg 242). With these in mind, the modern woman is ready for all the challenges that they might face. Even in these times, the challenges are still so common and as a result, there can be discouragements. The message Ruth passes across is, if the women in the past made it, what would hinder those in the present time from succeeding? The role of the modern woman now was to ensure that they carry on with the fight strongly because they owe their predecessors for fighting for them.

Rosen looks at the various avenues through which the feminists fought their fights. By forming the organizations that supported the struggle, there were higher chances of succeeding. Initially, there had been women organizations that did not do anything to fight for the liberalization of women. They were sectarian, that is, they rigidly held on to the set of doctrines that had been laid down earlier without considering the views that the feminists wanted to bring in, those of having the rights of women respected and avoiding discrimination. This was through the creation of the movements through which they aired their views. An organization like the National Organization of Women (NOW) was considered to be one example of a sectarian organization. It was dismissed by the young feminists as being a mother’s organization. The young feminists wanted to form their own dogmas that could reflect their time and represent their need for a socially just society.

Because of the ignorance and lack of attention that the feminists got from the leaders and the public, including the media, they decided that they would use all means to ensure that their goals were met. This included even the advocating violently in their actions, which is associated with masculinity more that felinity. They took to this men-like ways because there had never been any women’s way of rebelling. They copied the male visions of rebellion in all its forms, that is, sexually, academically and socially. To them, success was inevitable.

Another book that addressed the feminist theory was Nancy Woloch’s “Women and the American Experience’ in this book that looked into the great dejection that the women suffered because of the roles they played in the society for example the at home, in public life and at work. Nancy clarifies the fact that there was need for additional labor in the production sector even though national leaders insisted that the women could not chip in- for the simple reason that their role is basically to dedicate herself to the domestic chores in the society. In her opinion, the economic emergency made it a mandatory requirement that the women be involved, there numbers be increased especially in the areas that were initially preserved for the men alone. Even though initially the African- American women and the poor whites were already involved, the middle class white women started to enter the labor force. Roosevelt E. and Perkins F. became the leaders who represented the exceptional women who worked in the government programs in the new deals instead of involving themselves sin what was considered then as inappropriate feminists’ politics. This set the grounds for the women who are now in the various positions serving the nation. With the opportunity to participate, the women are given a chance to improve the economy of their country. The participation in the development of the economy, the modern woman makes her contribution to the supplying of the labor force for her country.

Nancy Woloch did not just look at the participation of women in the government offered jobs. There were other areas that needed to be looked into to enable the nation progress towards the twenty first century. There was need for women participation in the political scenes in the country. In this line, the historian described the early suffragists’ effort as a “crusade in the political enlightenment carried out by women and it would benefit the women and its existence mostly benefited the women who were seeking votes so that they could get a leeway into the political scene.”(Woloch, Nancy; pg 354) Following this effort, there were some women who were selected to represent the women in the senate, for instance, Rebecca Latimer became the senator for Georgia in the United States senate. Even though there was still an under representation, there had been some success levels. This marked the opening of the chances of the women to start their participation in the political activities in the country. Modern woman has a role of ensuring that the women politics are a landmark to the society.

After having started the fight to have women representatives in the political scenes, there was no going back. The new fight, which is carried on even today, and which got support from the other women gained root. Although it has not fully reached the levels that are expected, there was a turning point in the late 1880s and the 1890s when there came up so many volunteers from among the middle class women and they were willing to be involved in the activists’ actions in progressive causes. They were from the women’s clubs, self-control campaigner clubs, professional societies, and those who used to take part in the charity and local community organizations. These women were determined to expand the scope of activities further than the homes where they had been confined, and this helped in the process of speeding up the legitimization of the suffrage movement. The suffrage movements like American Women Suffrage Association (AWSA) and the National Women’s Suffrage Association (NWSA) got new impetus to carry out its activities. By 1890s, the two groups NWSA and AWSA came together to from National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA). (Woloch, Nancy pg 551) This has, however never been the end of the fight for the increased representation in the politics of a given country. The modern day woman is expected to continue with the fight to a level of totally equal representation in the politics of their particular countries. It is sad to mention that even though the general population of women is higher than that of the men, we still have the inequalities in which there are more men in the political scene than women. This is what, as a feminist, women should fight to see these discrepancies should be scraped from our society.

At the time when the fight for the rights of the women to be fought for coincided with the time when administration of the United States government was required to get involved in the First World War that was on. This played an important role in determining the acceptance by the government to grant the vote. This provided an opportunity for the women to be involved in running the government, something that provided a positive boost for their fight against discrimination on gender lines. As a result, there issues were well articulated due to the representation they got from the women who had made it to the senate and the congress. The modern-day woman with a feminist mind should be grateful, and make most of these opportunities. It is all for the benefit of the feminists, that is, the women.

In conclusion, feminism is a tool with which the modern-day woman should use to give their contribution to their community. Following the base that was put to ground by their predecessors, the present day feminists should create a better world for the women who are coming in the future. Although feminism is not presented as a single voice, and might never be presented in the same way by different groups and their procedures are not unified, it inspired, and still inspires people with its impressive notion that is far reaching that the future of a baby should not be controlled by the mere fact that it belongs to a certain gender, but it reflected by the ideals and the creativity the baby is born with.

Works Cited

Weiss, J. Review of Rosen, Ruth, The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. The H-Women H-Net. 2002. Web.

Woloch, Nancy A History of the American People: Women and the American Experience, A Concise History. McGraw Hill Professional 4th ed. 2001.