Prof. Terry Randolph
2 April 2008
They say that behind every great man is an even greater woman. However, to truly
understand the significant change in the role of women, one must understand its roots and its roles.
The Women’s Rights Movement was the result of many years of gender-based segregation from
every aspect of life outside the sphere of what was socially and culturally expected of them.
Traditionally, women were seen as the “June Cleavers” of colonial America, the “the less important
and weaker sex”—whose place and main existence was strictly based in the home. In a sense, they
were the domestic slaves; the invisible of man—whose duty was to take care
of the house, to cook
and clean, and to produce and take care of the children. They had not other existence—physical,
legal, or otherwise outside those familial roles. The Women’s Rights Movement was not only
striving for the equal rights of women, but also were striving for the right to have their voice heard—
and most importantly, the right to vote. Although the 15
Amendment ensured voting rights for all
“citizens of the United States” regardless of race or color, women were still gender-dominated and
excluded from the domain of education, the workplace (as defined outside the home), and even the
political process. It is because of this biased disproportion and uncivilized, slave-like treatment, that
the Women’s Rights Movement was born.
Men were seen as the dominant, important sex. They were (and in some cases) still are the
breadwinners of the household. They were the ones to hold a place in society, have an opinion, and
ultimately have a voice. For the most part, because of gender and cultural standards, women were the
“slightly better” treated slaves compared to that of African-American ones. Women were seen as
beings whose domestic obligations included playing the passive damsel in distress,
catering to every man’s need—at the cost of themselves and who they would (or could) become.
Mary Wollstonecraft, author of “A Vindication of the Rights of Women”, argued this very thing—in
which, she states that powerful, well-educated, women would do well in society instead of wasting
away being subservient to men:
Dismissing, then, those pretty feminine phrases, which the men
condescendingly use to soften our slavish dependence, and despising
that weak elegancy of mind, exquisite sensibility, and sweet docility of
manners, supposed to be sexual characteristics of the weaker vessel, I
wish to show that elegance is inferior to virtue, that the first object of