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Home > Women's History Month > Part 1: Women's Rights Pioneers

Women's Rights Pioneers Information and Activities

A long time ago women were not treated as equals to men. Women were not allowed to go to college or to vote. If they were married they couldn't own property either, or even keep money that they earned. They had very little control over what happened to their own bodies even! In the 1880's and early 1900's many women tried to change the laws that made things unfair to women. Some of these women were Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott and Margaret Sanger.

Many of these women (including Susan and Lucretia) were Quakers - their religion had always taught that men and women were created as equals. When Elizabeth was a girl her father told her that he wished that she was a boy. I imagine this made her very sad. When she grew up and got married she made sure that the word 'obey' was left out of her marriage vows because she knew that women were equals to men.

Elizabeth and Lucretia first met each other in 1840 at a meeting to help end slavery. People who wanted slavery to end were called an abolitionist. At this meeting they found out that they were not allowed to sit with the men or to speak so they decided to have a convention for women's rights. Elizabeth and Lucretia and 3 other women organized this meeting in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York and it was the first Women's Rights Convention. All of these 5 women except Elizabeth were Quakers. At this meeting Elizabeth wrote and presented 'The Declaration of Sentiments', which was written similarly to the 'Declaration of Independence'.

Elizabeth met Susan at this meeting and they became friends for the rest of their lives. They both wrote about women's rights and made speeches all over the country about it. Susan was especially interested in suffrage - the right to vote - for women. Susan believed that women did have a right to vote already, so one time she did it, but was arrested because of it. Elizabeth was also very interested in other rights of women too. One of her most famous speeches was called 'Solitude of Self'.

Lucretia was a fourth cousin of Benjamin Franklin. She believed so strongly that slavery was wrong that she would not use sugar or cotton because they were made by slaves. She even let slaves who had run away hide in her house.

Elizabeth, Susan and Lucretia all died before women had the right to vote - the first election women could vote in was in 1920. Eventually a one dollar coin was made with a picture of Susan B. Anthony on it though, since she had done so much to help allow women to be able to vote.

Margaret Sanger was a nurse who was very concerned about women who had more babies than they really could. Back then some women had 12 or more babies in their lifetime! After a while most women became weak from having so many babies and it was hard for them to take care of them all. Some families didn't even have enough food for that many kids. Margaret wanted women to have more control over their own bodies so they could limit the number of babies they had. She wrote and gave many speeches all over the world about birth control.

Betty Friedan lived way after these other women. She was interested in making sure that all women could live up to their full potential. When she was young, many women could work if they were married, but it wasn't easy for them. For example, Betty was once fired from a job just because she was going to have another baby! To help women she started an organization called NOW or National Organization for Women.

All of these women were very brave and stood up for things they knew were right. If they had not done these things, life would be very different for women now.

Women's Rights Activities

Read biographies about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Margaret Sanger and Betty Friedan.

Do a word search of words about women's rights! (printer friendly)

Solve a crossword puzzle about women's rights! (printer friendly)

Other Learning Activities: Answer questions, Match-The-Quotes, and unscramble words about the women's rights movement! (printer friendly)


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