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Historical Analysis of Women’s Rights

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2337 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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 I will be conducting a historical analysis on women’s rights in the United States. For this analysis I will be focusing on three major eras which include: War and Prosperity 1940-1970, Stagnation 1970-1990, and Conservative resurgence 1990-today. I will be focusing on how women’s rights have evolved and how they were shaped over time, as well as, social problems faced and solutions to these problems.

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 The post WWII era in the United States is referred to as a time of war and prosperity. In the nineteen-forties our country was entering WWII, which meant there was a high demand for production. This demand helped our economy recover from the Great Depression, as well as, giving jobs to millions in America of all populations. “For oppressed groups, particularly black and women, the period offered increased opportunity for economic, educational, and social equality and laid the groundwork for civil rights and feminist movements of the 1950s and 1960s.” (Stern, Axinn, 2018, pg. 236). Women in the workforce aided in fighting for improved safety conditions in the workplace and for childcare. Childcare was provided through local, state, and federal funding for mothers working throughout the war period. Nixon vetoed this in 1971 because families are “weakened” by mothers making money to support their family rather than staying home with their children. (Dratch, 1974). 

 Some setbacks during the war and prosperity era include the reform of welfare. Although many benefited from the war, there were still many working families that were poor. Many states led an attack on unmarried women with children who received welfare. Louisiana closed thousands of cases by knocking on women’s doors at night and if they found a man in the house, they found the home “unsuitable”. (Stern, Axinn, 2018, pg. 246). The public began to believe that unmarried women who were able to work were having children in order to become rich from welfare. With this the National Welfare Rights Organization was formed in order to fight for assistance and regulations. “The majority of members of this organization were African American women and the organization had four goals: adequate income, dignity, justice, and democratic participation.” (National Welfare Rights Organization).

 The Women’s Health Movement was also a movement during the 1960s. “This movement was led by women, health and medical providers, and other organizations to legalize abortion and for the access to contraceptives.” (Nichols, 2015) These issues will be continuously fought for throughout history and into today.

The Women’s Rights Movement came as a “second wave” in the 1960s as women fought against discrimination, oppression, and for the access to healthcare. During this time in history women were becoming empowered to go beyond the role of housewives to working independent women. “In 1964 Title VII and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission were established which prohibited any type of employment discrimination for race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, and sex.” (History of Women’s Rights Movement). This was also a busy time for social workers in 1970 the first battered women’s shelter was set up and only one year later the first rape crisis center was opened. There are also the creation of crisis hotlines and protection orders for victims of sexual or domestic abuse. (History of Battered Women’s Movement).

 The Stagnation Era was the time period of the 1970s-1990. During this period in the United States history there was lots of social change and conservative resurgence. As mentioned earlier in 1971 President Nixon vetoed the Economic Opportunity Act that provided childcare to workers. “Women were discriminated against by federal and state welfare programs, federal job training programs, and social insurance and private pension plans. Women were also placed in low-entry jobs with little room for advancement.” (Stern, Axinn, 2018, pg. 302). Women’s healthcare has always been an important topic, in the 1973 Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. This case also insured a woman’s right to privacy if she ever chose to have an abortion. (Farrow, 1993). This case established that “women had control of their own bodies by supported the right to abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.” (Stern, Axinn, 2018, pg. 291). “Poor women however did not have much of a choice due to the fact that states had the right to choose whether or not Medicaid would cover an abortion, unless the abortion was a result of rape or a direct threat to health.” (Stern, Axinn, 2018, pg. 292).

 The economy began to slow during the stagnation period in the United States. “The economy was transitioning from an industrial to an information base which left many unemployed. Women and ethic minorities typically worked in the service industry for lower wages and poor working conditions. A study was conducted and seventy-five percent of employees working in personal services and hospitals were women.” (Stern, Axinn, 2018, pg. 281 – 283).

 Services that social workers provided to families had to be changed due to the fact that, most resources were designed in the 1930s for families when there was only one income. “In the 1990s households were composed of a single parent household with several children due to divorce or a man and women who were both working.” (Stern, Axinn, 2018, pg. 283).

 “In 1986 Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, established in the Supreme Court that sexual harassment was a form of illegal for of job discrimination. This was a victory for women’s rights and women in the workforce across the country.” (Robinson, Stevens, 1987). Also, with this case the court accepted the issue of “hostile environment” which is a form of harassment when an employer may terminate an employee or take away a raise or benefit because the employee refuses to perform sexual favors. (Robinson, Steven, 1987).

 The 1970s through to the 1990s was a time when groups such as LGBT, women, and even former prisoners were in the spotlight for the effort to extend rights. “Social workers took action to set up community-based programs and services”. Also, during this time period though court decisions, and legislation the government weakened its prohibition on home searches for unmarried women receiving welfare. This weakening of prohibition caused the denial of benefits to new immigrants.  (Stern, Axinn, 2018, pg. 288 – 291). Women were furthered attacked by the Family Support Act in 1988, which included that: “recipients with children six or older were required to work or attend job training program or school, if the recipient did not meet the state’s guidelines their benefits could be reduced or eliminated, this also increased requirements for paternity establishment and child support enforcement.” (Stern, Axinn, 2018, pg. 291 – 298). This act did require states to step up and provide child care, transportation, and health care to women so that they would have the resources in order to achieve having a job.

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 The final era that I will be discussing for my historical analysis on women’s rights is the Conservative Resurgence Era, this is also an era of informational technology from the 1990s to today. The 1990s came right after a recession in the United States and employment began to rise. (Stern, Axinn, 2018, pg. 317). Women of all races, ethnicities, and married and unmarried in the workforce continued to rise throughout the decade of the 1990s. As well as, women beginning to wait until later in life to have children as a result of them wanting to built careers and seek higher education. (Stern, Axinn, 2018, pg. 322).

In 1993 the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was established as a way to protect jobs for up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave yearly to care for a new child. (Cannonier, 2014). It is suspected that this act was added as a way to raise birth rates since rates were beginning to drop. In order to receive Family and Medical Leave the employee must also be “employed with said job for at least twelve months and for 1250 hours, employed by a covered employer, work within the United States.” (Cannonier, 2014). In 2003 a case was passed that the state can be sued if they violate the Family and Medical Leave Act as well. I feel that this act was very helpful for women’s rights because it allowed for women to have job security, while still trying to start a family and spend time with their newborn children.  

One of the most important acts to ever be passed for women is the Violence Against Women’s Act of 1994. This act was the first to address the problems with domestic abuse, stalking, and sexual assault against women. “It included the first federal criminal law against battering and a requirement that every state afford full faith and credit to orders of protection issued anywhere in the United States.” (History of VAWA). My first social work class I took my professor told a story of a girl who was in a domestically abusive relationship, she tried to break up with him and he came to her house with a knife and tried to murder her. The girl got away and called the police and they could not even arrest him because it was a domestic relationship. She could not file charges and in order to get a protective order she would have to pay with money that she did not have. I later found out that the girl was my professor, and this is what happened before the Violence Against Women’s Act was passed.  

As a way to further fighting for women’s rights today there is the annual Women’s March. “This march exists to fight bigotry and discrimination in all their forms — including homophobia and anti-Semitism — and to lift up the voices of women who are too often left out.” Quote- (Women’s March National Organizer Linda Sarsour). This march represents how women can affect change and that there are still activists out there.

In conclusion, there are still rights that women have to fight for. It is 2018 and women are still fighting for equal pay, social security, and equal opportunities. Social workers have to stay educated on these topics and fight for the rights of those who are oppressed. It is an ongoing fight, but it is not one that could ever be lost. Throughout history women have won over-and-over again, because at the end of the day women are really the ones in control. It just takes one voice to start the conversation.



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