Feminist Discourse: Susan B. Anthony and Gloria Steinem Personalities

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Feminine, a term used as both a noun and an adjective, refers to the characteristics of a woman. Feminism dates back to the late eighteenth century. The meaning of the word has altered due to social change. I will show how the word transformed into the current meaning by telling about the accomplishments of two well-known Feminists, Susan B. Anthony, and Gloria Steinem. Susan B. Anthony dealt with womens movements dating back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, while Gloria Steinem dealt with more current issues starting from the 1960s.

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Susan B. Anthony was a U.S. leader of the women’s suffrage (right to vote) movement. She worked extremely hard to win voting rights, both for women and freed slaves. She also organized the first women’s temperance (anti-alcohol) association and, with Elizabeth Stanton, worked to pass the first laws guaranteeing equal rights for women with regard to their children, property, and wages. Anthony was a heroine in North America for her tests of the U.S. Constitution, though the right to vote was not secured until after her death.

Susan B. Anthony taught school in New Rochelle and Canajoharie, NY, and discovered that male teachers were paid several times her salary. She devoted her first reform efforts to anti-slavery and to temperance. However, when she rose to speak in a temperance convention, she was told, The sisters were not invited here to speak! Anthony promptly enlisted in the cause of women’s rights.

In a lifelong partnership with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anthony’s organizational skill and selfless dedication built the women’s rights movement. The ballot, she became increasingly to believe, was the necessary foundation for all other advances. When she and Stanton published a newspaper, they called it The Revolution. Its motto was “Men their rights and nothing more; women their rights and nothing less.” In order to press a test case of her belief that women, as citizens, could not be denied the ballot, Anthony voted. She was tried, convicted, and fined for voting illegally.

For over thirty years she traveled the country almost ceaselessly working for women’s rights. In 1906, her health failing, Anthony addressed her last women’s suffrage convention. Although she sensed that the cause would not be won in her lifetime, she looked out across the assembled women and told them, “Failure is impossible (Womens 5).

Gloria Steinem is an American writer, Political activist, and a leading figure in the women’s rights movement. She was born in Toledo, Ohio, and graduated from Smith College in 1956. She also studied in India at the universities of Delhi and Calcutta. Seeking work in journalism, in 1960 she got a job with Help!, a political-satire magazine in New York City. In 1963, after the success of her article “I Was a Playboy Bunny,” about working undercover in the Playboy Club in Manhattan, New York City, her articles began to appear in magazines such as Vogue, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. From 1964 to 1965 she also wrote scripts for the popular television show “That Was the Week That Was. (Gloria 1)

In 1968, Steinem began writing about politics in a weekly column for New York Magazine. She soon became involved in feminism and the women’s movement. In 1971, with author Betty Friedan and politicians Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm, Steinem helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus. That same year Steinem helped produce the first issue of the feminist Ms. magazine. From that time, Steinem became a role model for young women, espousing her belief that when women are liberated, men will become whole people as well.

Throughout the centuries, there have been many social movements, which have changed the lives of woman in America. It all began back in the 1840s with the first organized feminist movement. Early leaders, including Mary Wollstonecraft in England and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in the U.S., demanded full legal and economic quality for women. Gradually women in the U.S. won the right to own property and to enter professions. In 1920, after a long-lasting struggle for Womens Suffrage, they obtained the right to vote through the passage of the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Women were given the right to vote in Britain by 1928 and throughout most of the world by 1950. In the 1960s, feminists began to fight hard for the acceleration of womens education; they joined forces with men in the labor movement to organize women workers. They also began to talk openly and vigorously about sex and sexuality, seeking to dispel myths inherited from the earlier, Victorian era. (Farganis 52). Much of what feminists fought for in the 1960s was gained.

The definition of feminism changes with history. Feminism was first defined as the quality of females. In a sense this still can be used as the definition, yet with all the advances in womens rights it is not as popular. Now feminism is thought of as the theory that man and women should be equal politically, economically, and socially.

Susan B. Anthony was the leader of womens rights of the 1800s. She worked hard to change the status of women. Miss Anthony discovered she would rather make history then write it (Bolt 8). Anthony laid the groundwork in the twentieth century, while Steinem and other feminists took womens rights to a higher level. They introduced Womens Lib, which made women equal to men not only in the social arena but also in the political and economic arenas.

A central problem within feminist discourse has been our inability to either arrive at a consensus of opinion about what feminism is or accept definitions that could serve as points of unification. Without agreed-upon definitions, we lack a sound foundation on which to construct theory or engage in overall meaningful praxis. Most people in the United States think of feminism as a movement that aims to make women the social equals of men. The media and mainstream segments of the movement popularize this broad definition (Philips 62).

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