A Fierce, Fun & Factual Guide to the First Wave of Feminism
I am all about female empowerment and love to see women encouraging, supporting and uplifting each other. Demanding equality of the sexes, is in short what feminism is all about.
So because I love a good debate, I’ve decided to shed some light on the four waves of feminism in order to adore, honour and praise the women who have fought for equality throughout history. I honestly believe that being honoured in a sex-positive women’s blog, advocating for women to masturbate more often and explore themselves, is EXACTLY what they would have wanted.
What they would not have wanted however, is blatant and continued discrimination in all sorts of cultural settings worldwide. All women should have equal access to education, health care, family planning and equal pay and this stretches across gender, religion, ethnicity, disability, age, pregnancy and marital status. But back in the 1910s, they didn’t even have the right to vote.
As the late great Ruth Bader Ginsburg said “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made” and that is exactly what the Suffragette Movement set out to achieve.
Fun Facts: The Four Waves of Feminism
From as early as 1848, history has documented feminists in their fight to obliterate inequality amongst the sexes. From rallies to protests, conversations and now technology, the four waves of feminism have varied drastically over time, yet the message is still clear: EQUALITY!
The First Wave of Feminism: A Woman’s Right to Vote
The first wave of feminism took place in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the western world and focused mainly on legal and political issues. More specifically: a woman’s right to vote.
You will have heard of such revolutionaries and martyrs as Millicent Fawcett, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst and the courageous Emily Wilding Davidson who threw herself in front of the King’s horse, sacrificing her life for the cause.
The first wave of feminism formally began in the United States of America, when 300 women and men rallied for the equality of women at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Nearly 200 women met beforehand to discuss the “social, civil and religious conditions and rights of women” and so defined the beginning of the first wave of feminism.
Although this event pioneered the way for other suffrage movements around the world, it was not until 1965 that the USA granted full voting rights to women of all ethnicities.
Similar unbelievable feats of discrimination took place all around the world in fact, with my home Australia, granting women the vote relatively early in 1902, however not granting full voting rights to Aboriginal Women until 1962. Portugal and Spain did not afford their female citizens full rights until 1976 and 1977 respectively, and Saudi Arabia only granted women voting rights in 2015.
I was truly shocked when I researched into these timelines.
The first wave of feminism however wasn’t all about votes for women. The movement, for the first time, publicly and vocally challenged the ‘cult of domesticity’ and the idea that women should be submissive homemakers, mothers and wives without independent thought or opinions.
Revolutionary thinking such as this, as it was at the time, paved the way for the 2nd and 3rd waves, and penetrated the psyche of generations of unborn women who would go on to further the feminism movement.
During the first wave, women aimed to challenge and change issues concerning sexual, reproductive and economic matters, and knew that they had to have the right to vote in order to do so.
This wave of feminism lasted until 1920 and saw people lecture, protest, face ridicule, arrests and violence, all in the name of political equality. Many women died through their violent and disruptive protests, their hunger striking and the violence and torture they endured through repeated bouts of hard labour or forced feeding.
To me, the right to vote seems so banal, commonplace and undeniable. But we should remember everyday that women fought with their lives to afford us this right. We should remember that they challenged entrenched gender stereotypes which may well have continued to suffocate the female gender from asserting ourselves into the independent, outspoken and passionate beings that we all are (and were).
Join me in my next entry where I delve into the swinging 60s when birth control became widely available, allowing women to enjoy the sexual freedom we all deserve.
Be a revolutionary and get to know yourself.