First-wave feminism refers to a period of feminist activity during the 19th and early twentieth century in the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands and the United States. It focused on de jure (officially mandated) inequalities, primarily on gaining women's suffrage (the right to vote).
The late 1800s through the early 1900s was a time when the age at which Americans first married was rising, and the number of men and women who stayed single was growing, too. Women formed intense friendships with each other. Those bonds helped to sustain the activism of the first-wave feminists. Their goals were primarily political. When they succeeded in getting the vote in 1920, women of all marital statuses were empowered.
what American and British Victorian feminists did accomplish in their work as writers, journalists, and public speakers was to create a culture where change and creative thinking were possible. Certainly, this is where the disconnect lies in media portrayals of feminists as glamorous figures whose public accomplishment resides in material wealth or as mysterious academics emotionally detached from the kinds ofworkplace and family issues which women from all socio-economic classes face. Incomplete images of feminist membership cloud the substance of feminist ideas.
In her 1893 novel, A Sex Revolution, American women’s rights reformer Lois Waisbrooker’s protagonist, Lovella, represents the ideal woman of strength and dignity, whose voice inspires a resounding female movement against patriarchy. While at the time a radical notion, Waisbrooker’s idea that a beautiful woman can voice a powerful message, and that powerful messages yield a sort of feminine beauty, answers contemporary feminists’ quest for an appropriate image. The image that Waisbrooker projects to the world as beautiful and pleasing is the woman who finds voice.
While the suffrage movement was lagging, the activities of women in other directions were steadily multiplying. College after college – Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Smith, Wellesley, to mention a few – was founded to give them the advantages of higher education. Other institutions, especially the state universities of the West, opened their doors to women, and women were received into the professions of law and medicine. By the rapid growth of public high schools in which girls enjoyed the same rights as boys, education was extended still more widely.
In 1848, the seventy year fight for the women’s right to vote began. The Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was ratified in 1920. This fight for equality was later termed the “first-wave of feminism”.
During this period women modeled their plans for gender equity on […] demands for electoral, educational, and employment rights adapted to an indigenous program of social reform in the public sphere as well as a re-assessment of gender and sexual mores in the private sphere.
The women engaged in the Woman Movement - what today is most often called First Wave Feminism - were as various as we are, their politics complex and wide-ranging, usually far more adventurous than current representations of them could even begin to suggest. It was the sexual double standard governing heterosexual relationships that they objected to. Not sex itself.
The women decide on a so called "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions" which was modeled on the "Declaration of Independence." [It] included twelve resolutions, one was concerning the demand of suffrage, on the control of wages and earnings, one the guardianship of children for women and another one their right to divorce.
Politically the first feminist movement had its roots in the abolitionist movement of the 1830's. The issues of the abolitionists were the freedom of slaves and that issue was directly linked to the freedom of women.