Published 13 Jul 2017

The women’s right movement during the 19th century was concerned with women suffrage. In the 1800s women were becoming more educated, their roles were slowly shifting as society gradually adjusted to intellectual women who knew politics and other concerns previously under the male’s domain. This awakening period made most of these educated women question the norms, especially their lack of stand during elections. The movement at this time was focused on the right to vote, as the fighters believe that winning suffrage will just be the beginning of other women’s right in the society. It was also a struggle to prove that women can be just as good as men.

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In the 1960s, however, women’s right movements cover a broader scope. It was also called the liberation movement. Liberation in a sense that women were deemed as caged by the rules set by society. Gaining suffrage is not enough when a woman’s full potential as an individual is not met. Before the 1960s, women could not pursue a career, nor venture into affairs that were considered unfashionable for a lady, such as politics and business. Her main concern is the home, taking care of the family and always exuding that feminine grace and aura. The leaders of the movements rebelled against this painted picture of the woman, insisting that they have far greater substance to be considered as mere “beauty objects” and “sex objects” (Sawhney). At this time, the enlightened woman welcomed the arrival of the contraceptive pill, legalization of abortion and career life without the feeling of guilt. Male chauvinism was also deeply criticized.

The battle for female suffrage culminated on August 18, 1920 when Tennessee became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote. The magnitude of this achievement—after so many years of struggle—was captured in the following statement by Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Following approval of the Nineteenth Amendment, women made substantial inroads in political and economic life. The League of Women Voters was formed in 1919. At the same time, women’s branches of various professional associations sprang up, and the number of women appointed to positions of responsibility in government increased steadily. Nonetheless, women were still excluded from juries and from public office in many states. In addition, many state and federal laws discriminating against women in regard to property ownership and other matters remained in force.

During the 1940s and 1950s, organized political activity on behalf of women’s political and social rights dropped to a low point, although extensive social changes, such as the growing presence of women in the work force, heralded political developments to come. The 1980s and early 1970s marked a watershed in feminist activity and legislative attempts to secure full equality for women. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 required equal pay for equal work for the first time. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination in employment on the basis of sex. Through this measure, women gained significant legal protection in the work place, but it stirred up considerable controversy concerning just how far equality of the sexes should go. Also, many states began to eliminate or revise statutes that discriminated both for and against women in matters such as divorce and family law.

However, the step-by-step process of altering laws and customs to achieve equality for women struck many activists as too cumbersome and slow. In the mid-1970s, the women’s movement came to focus on the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution as a way of providing equality in one stroke. After a long political struggle, the amendment was finally defeated.

Today, women are enjoined to participate increasingly viable economic and decision-making opportunities that do not only promote economic efficiency but also promote their interests and address their concerns. There was a change in approach from “women need development” to “development needs women”. This approach is justified by the fact that isolating women from the mainstream of development process may eventually cause economic problems and thus hamper economic growth of society in general. Under this approach, women, instead are enjoined to participate increasingly viable economic and decision-making opportunities that do not only promote economic efficiency but also promote their interests and address their concerns.

This shift from “Women need development approach” to “Development needs women” also led women to take a new strategic move with emphasis on “women’s empowerment within the development process… It aims to support measures that empower women to contribute to setting development agenda, and to challenge socioeconomic systems that place them at a relative disadvantage to men” (Gender and Development: From WID to GAD, 2006, par. 46). The dynamic GAD approach involves strategies that are “widened to include women’s rights, women’s role as active participants and agents in development, and their role as actors with a specific agenda for development” (Gender and Development: From WID to GAD, 2006, par 47).

Under GAD approach, women’s role and status in society recognize their analysis on the relations between men and women relationship, and encourage men to cooperate with women and not be against them. By understanding the ways in which unequal relations occur is a way to find solutions for eliminating inequality. Using the gender and development approach focuses action towards facilitating “strategic, broad-based and multi-faceted solutions to gender inequality”, thus finds ways to redress gender inequality not only among women but also with the cooperation of men (Gender and Development: From WID to GAD, 2006, par. 49).

Today, as globalization and information technology advancement have captured the attention of people all over the world, there are always available opportunities to use to inform people of new and innovative ideas to approach problems and worldwide concerns. This does not discount the idea the issues concerning women or gender and development would also be taken into consideration. To propagate the ends of women empowerment and by providing them the machineries to advance their interests throughout the world, there are numerous innovative ways to resort to in order to attain their agenda. The great organization development work by doing tasks and pursuing development intellectually, physically, emotionally and spiritually (Whitney, et. al., 2006, par. Work globally with women and live globally, work closely with colleagues, clients, friends and lovers from across the world to share different perspectives yet address common interests.

Women today are well educated and very well informed about evolving concerns of society or societies. They are confident people who know how to play their roles in every situation they are involved with. They play vital roles in the economic, social and political development processes, and they find their place worthy in producing results of their initiatives and actions to attain notable developments in every field of interests.

The role of women today has evolved tremendously in terms of asserting their rights and their rightful place in society towards nation-building. What used to be passive, meek, and fragile women figures at home and in society have been transformed to become more responsive, sensitive and proactive women who know what their rights, their capabilities and abilities are, to make a difference.

Today, women have proven themselves worthy partners of men towards total economic and developmental transformations. Their roles are not limited to giving birth to children, to rearing children until full grown adults, to staying home and taking care of household chores and their families. Their roles have become more robust with productive responsibilities that are contributory to economic development as well as in the enhancement of the quality of lives of the people, not only among women but also among men.

The challenge now does not lie on how much women have done to assert their role in society, or to be recognized as effective leaders that bring change to humanity. What lies most importantly among women today is for them to focus their energies towards building a society where everyone is respected and treated with dignity for his or her worth, for his or her contribution in making this world a better place to live for everyone, regardless of race and gender.


  • Carnes, M. & Garraty, J. (2005). American Nation: A History of the United States, Longman, 12th edition. Gender and Development: From WID to GAP. (2006). Asian Development Bank.
  • Lipsitz, L & Speak, D. (1989) American Democracy. St Martin’s Press. New York.
  • Sawhney, Vintee. The Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1960s.
  • Whitney, Diana, Chandra, Dinesh, Khalsa, Gurudev, Watkins, Jane. (2006). Globalization.com: Mobilizing Human Spirit in Person and Online. Globalcitizenship.
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