"People are ready for something different."|
Tarana Burke, Founder Of The Me Too Movement
Now that we’ve examined the history of women’s civil rights movements, let’s consider what we’ve learned about the skills used by activists in the past. We’ll also think about how we can use that knowledge to address current issues and to plan for the future.
Suffragist tactics ranged from distributing publications to making speeches to staging public protests. Women participating in the suffrage movement didn’t always agree on which strategy to use—some believed they should convince people through writing, while others advocated marches and protests. Some wanted to focus on state voting laws, whereas others believed they should work toward a constitutional amendment. But the combination of tactics that resulted from these differences actually helped the movement succeed. You may need to approach a problem from several different directions before you find a solution and this is often the case with utilizing your problem solving skill .
Suffragists used their agility skill to build coalitions, organize marches, and distribute information. The political system of the time was not built to recognize their voices through voting, so they had to adapt to their situation and create new ways to be heard. They remained persistent in the face of public disapproval and had confidence that they could eventually secure the right to vote.
The era of the women’s rights movement was defined by rapid social transformation in the United States. While it was no longer novel for women to work outside the home, the nation’s ideal of a woman—particularly of a wife and mother—was a topic of impassioned debate. New options were opening up for women, both at home and in the workplace. The feminists of the 1960s and 1970s embraced this change by organizing movements, making their opinions heard, and pushing hard for progress.
From suffragists printing pamphlets and speeches to today’s activists sharing stories on social media, women have harnessed the power of their technology skill to spread their message and work for change. Successful movements use the technology tools available to communicate internally and with the public.
Historically, the women’s movement was led by predominantly White women. While White women have had their rights denied based on their sex, other women have their rights denied for additional reasons as well including, but not limited to, race, religion, sexual orientation, and sexual identity. The term we use to describe overlapping areas of discrimination is intersectionality. In recent years, it has been women who belong to more than one oppressed group who have led the fight for women’s rights.
The future holds many more opportunities for women to achieve greater equality for themselves and other groups. Young women are stepping onto the world stage, demanding that women’s voices be heard and that the issues affecting them be addressed. Their platforms echo the realities of many women across the world. Like the suffragists and activists who came before them, they are using problem solving, agility, and technology as tools to effect change.
One of the recurring themes from women’s civil rights movements throughout U.S. history is the need for equal opportunity. Women fought to create a society where they could have the same choices and opportunities as men. Despite the gains women have made, discrimination still exists and struggles still remain in areas such as reproductive rights, parental leave, domestic violence, inadequate maternal/infant healthcare, human trafficking, and underrepresentation in politics and business.
In today’s workforce, pay inequality is a major factor that limits women. Women are paid only a percentage of what men are paid to do similar work, and many women of color are paid an even smaller percentage than white women (Vagins & Miller, 2018).
We’ve also discussed that although women are underrepresented in politics, this is changing. Since the 2016 election, women activists and politicians have amplified the conversation about a wide range of social issues.
This challenge provided some brief snapshots of how women have pursued equality at different moments in U.S. history. Here are some suggestions if you want to learn more:
Vagins, D., Miller, M. (2018). The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap. American Association of University Women. www.aauw.org/resources/research/simple-truth
Source: Strategic Education, Inc. 2020. Learn from the Past, Prepare for the Future.