Top 10 Milestones in US Women’s History

Script written by Evelyn Ripley Ever wanted to learn more about the history of women’s rights in America? Join MsMojo, as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Milestones in US Women's History. For this list, we’re looking at events that furthered the advancement of women’s rights in the United States, rather than focusing on the accomplishments of individual women. Although Sandra Day O’Connor’s appointment to the Supreme Court and Hillary Clinton becoming the first female major political party presidential nominee were important steps, they didn’t necessarily affect the lives of women in general. Special thanks to our user M.D.W. for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at http://www.MsMojo.tv
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Top 10 Milestones in US Women's History


Ever wanted to learn more about the history of women’s rights in America? Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Milestones in US Women's History.

For this list, we’re looking at events that furthered the advancement of women’s rights in the United States, rather than focusing on the accomplishments of individual women. Although Sandra Day O’Connor’s appointment to the Supreme Court and Hillary Clinton becoming the first female major political party presidential nominee were important steps, they didn’t necessarily affect the lives of women in general.

10: Seneca Falls Convention
1848


The women’s rights movement was arguably sparked at a convention in upstate New York in July of 1848. Renowned suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the organizers of the event, which aimed to discuss the social, civil and religious rights of women. Both men and women attended the convention, at which the many issues discussed and debated included women’s right to vote, education, and equality in the family and job market. This convention is considered to be one of the most important events in inciting the issue of women’s suffrage, though it would still be over 70 years before women actually got the right to vote nationwide.

#9: “The Feminine Mystique” Is Published
1963


In the late 1950s, activist and feminist Betty Friedan conducted a survey of her former classmates at the all-girls Smith College. Discovering that many of them were dissatisfied with their roles as mothers and housewives, Friedan was inspired was inspired to write “The Feminine Mystique.” The book has been credited with starting second wave feminism in the US and many of the issues raised in the book are still relevant today. Less than a decade later, second wave feminists Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes published the first edition of Ms., a liberal feminist magazine that expanded on the topics that Friedan first introduced.

#8: The Violence Against Women Act Is Introduced
1994


This federal law, which was drafted by Senator Joe Biden and signed by then-President Bill Clinton, recognized a need for a strategy to target violence against women in the US. $1.6 billion dollars were invested in this initiative in order to give stiffer penalties to perpetrators and offer more extensive services for victims. Efforts were made to provide legal aid to survivors of domestic violence as well as programs to help immigrant women going through similar issues. According to reports by the White House, since this law was enacted, rates of domestic violence have decreased and more people are reporting sexual and domestic violence to police.

#7: Sex Discrimination Is Banned in Schools
1972


Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 banned all sex-based bias in American public schools. It asserts that no person should be excluded from any educational activity or be subjected to discrimination because of their sex. The biggest impact of Title IX has been on female athletics. In 1971, before the bill was passed, female participants accounted for only 7% of all high school varsity athletics. As of 2001, that number has jumped to 41.5% and is likely even higher today. The treatment of transgender students was regulated in 2014 under Title IX, instructing schools to treat students consistently with their preferred gender identity.

#6: Pregnancy Discrimination Act Is Introduced
1978


Can you imagine if you could be legally fired from your job because you were pregnant? This federal statute is an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. It stipulates that a woman can’t be denied a job opportunity or promotion because she is pregnant. It also assures that women are not forced to take mandatory maternity leave if they so choose. This may have been an important step, but women are still only legally granted a 12 week period of unpaid leave following the birth of a child (though the leave may be paid if the employee has accrued it). As this can cause serious financial issues for new mothers, there’s still a long way to go.

#5: National Women’s Suffrage Association Is Formed
1869


The National Women’s Suffrage Association (or NWSA) was formed by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in an effort to promote voting rights for women. The NWSA was criticized by many for its opposition to the 15thAmendment, which gave voting rights to men of all races. The NWSA believed the Amendment should also grant that right to people of both sexes. In 1869, Wyoming became the first state to grant women full voting rights, but it would be many years before this was applied nationwide. In 1878, the NWSA proposed the National Women’s Suffrage Amendment (the 19th amendment), which prohibits any US citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex.

#4: Birth Control Pills Are Approved for Sale
1960


In 1916, the first American birth control clinic was opened by Margaret Sanger, but it was almost immediately closed down, after Sanger arrested by an undercover cop. It’s hard to imagine a world where women had so little control over their own bodies that birth control was actually illegal, but that was the case in the US for many years. The FDA approved the first oral contraceptive in 1960, but until 1972 it was still illegal in many states for unmarried couples to use any form of contraception. Regardless, the pill was an instant success, with over 6.5 million women using it only five years after its release, changing the sexual freedom of women forever.

#3: Equal Pay Act Provides Pay Equity
1963


Though equal pay may still not be fully realized in America, the gender pay gap has undoubtedly been closing since the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was introduced. The idea behind the law is a simple one: everyone, regardless of sex, should be paid the same salary for equal work. The following year, another law was passed specifying that any discrimination in the workplace was illegal. The widely reported statistics on the current wage gap show that women are paid 79% of what men are paid in their lifetimes. This number is controversial, because there are many factors at play, but it shows that there is still more work to do to ensure full gender equality in the workplace.

#2: Abortion Becomes Legal Nationwide
1973


Still one of the most controversial issues of our times, abortion laws have undergone years of discussion, debate, and change since the turn of the 20th century. Until 1973, abortion was completely illegal in 30 states and only allowed in specific circumstances (like in the case of incest or rape) in 20 others. In that same year, the Supreme Court made a landmark decision with Roe v. Wade to overturn all of the state laws that prohibited abortion. Even in 2016, individual states still manage to find ways to make abortions nearly impossible for women to procure. This shows that there needs to be more federal intervention if the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision is going to be truly upheld.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

The US Military Agrees to Allow Women to Serve in All Combat Positions
2016

National Women’s Political Caucus Is Formed
1971

Nebraska Becomes 1st State to Abolish Marital Rape Exemption
1976

Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) Is Established
1903

Women’s Bureau of the US Department of Labor Is Formed
1920

#1: Women Are Granted the Right to Vote
1920


It’s hard to believe that women were granted the right to vote in the United States only in 1920, considering how far women’s rights have come since then. In 1913, the Congressional Union was formed and campaigned for women to be given the constitutional right to vote. Suffragists picketed the White House in 1917 and some even went on hunger strikes only to be force fed by authorities. It took a lot of brave women many years of hard work to get to there, but by 1920, women finally had the ability to fully participate in the democratic process. And they have been using that democratic strength to improve the conditions of women in America ever since.

Do you agree with our list? What do you think is the most important moment in women’s history? For more educational top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to MsMojo.
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