Chapter 6, titled “The Early Women’s Movement”, is a discussion of how the early women’s movement fought against enslavement. It contains 8 articles, mainly speeches presented by opponents of slavery and female oppression during the 1800s. Black and white women were against societal repression, including the bonds of slavery and domination by men respectively. The chapter targets students and lovers of history, who are interested in broadening their knowledge about the beginning of the fight for gender equality as well as the anti-slavery movement.
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The documents included in the chapter discuss slavery and the struggles that women went through in the fight for gender equality. For example, Maria Stewart’s speech advances the cause of abolition and criticizes sexism and the degradation of women’s role in society (Zinn and Arnove 116). The major arguments in the documents include the need to abolish slavery, the importance of treating women equally with men, and the evils of slavery as well as the mistreatment of women. The speeches discuss how slavery degraded African Americans and the various ways in which women were disrespected and considered inferior to their male counterparts. Poor pay, mistreatment in factories, denial of voting rights, and inequality are the main topics that the documents explore. The denial of voting rights is one of the most severe forms of oppression because it denied women representation in government and society (Zinn and Arnove 122). This means that women were considered inferior beings in the eyes of law, society, and employers.
Primary source documents are important because they give insights into the thinking patterns of historical figures who were the drivers of key events that shaped the world. They show their understanding and internalizations of different occurrences and the roles that they played. The opinions of such individuals are important, and primary documents present them in an original form without the bias of writers and editors. For instance, in order to understand the origin of the fight for equality, it is important to study literature that was written by individuals who fought against female oppression. The chapter contains speeches that were given by abolitionists who opposed slavery and female oppression during the 1800s. Their views and perspectives regarding these matters are presented succinctly, and they introduce the reader to the situation as it was at the time.
The early women’s movement had a historical legacy because of the changes it affected in Western society. These include women’s suffrage, more equitable pay with male counterparts, increased access to education, the right of women to make critical decisions regarding their reproductive health, and the right to work. The illegalization of abortion and contraception was one of the major concerns that were viewed as a direct violation of women’s rights. Today, women are free to make personal choices on those issues. Equality within marriage, equal access to education and employment, and the right to own property are examples of the achievements that comprise the legacy of the early women’s movement.
Examples of keywords used in the chapter include suffrage, abolitionists, and equality. Suffrage refers to women’s right to vote and choose representatives in an election. Abolitionists refer to people who advocated for the eradication of slavery in the United States. Equality refers to the equitable treatment of men and women as equals and the opportunity to pursue similar opportunities in society. Moreover, it included similar rights in marriage and employment.
Zinn, Howard, and Anthony Arnove. Voices of a People’s History of the United States. 2nd ed., Seven Stories Press, 2009.