What has feminism achieved? Part 1

What has feminism achieved so far? There must be many things that women can do today that they couldn’t 150 years ago, I thought. And of course, there are! However, while I was putting up the list, with, most certainly, many obtained rights, I realized how many of those are actually pretty fragile. What we consider to be acquired is actually not so firmly set in stone, as we would like to! Since women’s rights are very politicized, they tend to be removed when there is a change of power in a certain country.

While some of the rights achieved in the second phase of feminism might be changing as you are reading this article, let’s hope that the following ones, some of which achieved during the first wave feminism will always stay.

When did feminism start?

A quick reminder. The official year of the beginning of the feminist movement (at least the American one) was 1848 in Seneca Falls. An interesting thing is that feminism was since the very beginning a fight for equal rights for all women of all classes and races. Women that gathered that July 19 and 20 1848 in Seneca Falls pointed out how damaging slavery was and spoke about black women’s rights! How progressive!

Feminism will divide later on, but that is also understandable. Not all women had and have the same social and economic situation. Depending on class, race, ethnicity, women had and still do different wants and needs. Also basic human rights.

What has feminism achieved first

What has feminism achieved first, during the first wave feminism and later on, at the beginning of the second wave of feminism? Here is a list of things that women can do today that they could not do 150 years ago.

When did women get the right to vote?

The main goal of the very first feminist gathering was to demand the right to vote. Yes, simple as that. However, even though the fight had begun during the first wave feminism, in many countries women had to wait for the second half of the XX century in order to obtain the right to comply with their basic civic duty.

In Germany women got the right to vote in 1918.
In France in 1946.
In Italy in 1925 partially and in 1945 fully.
In Yugoslavia in 1945.
United States in 1920, except black women who were allowed to vote for the first time in 1965.
As for Australia, non-indigenous women can vote ever since 1902, but all women, of all colors and origins, since 1962.

Women in countries that were under Soviet Union and communist regime got the right to vote earlier than in other countries in Europe. That is because communism should be a political ideology that sees all individuals as equal, therefore, it does not make a difference between sexes. In theory.

That is how Kazakh SSR women got the right to vote in 1924.
Ukrainian SSR in 1919.
Poland in 1918.

This might come as a shock! But in Switzerland, women got the right to vote in 1971 at federal level, but there are two cantons that allowed women to vote in 1989 and 1990. Yes, you are reading it well!

And then:
Bahrain in 2002.
Kuwait in 2005.
United Arab Emirates in 2006.

You can see the full list here.

what has feminism achieved

Women can get higher education

First women to go to university

If you follow Klitmit, you know that one of the first women to dress as a man was Agnodice, who did it because she wanted to seek higher education, but, as a woman in the Ancient Greece, was not allowed to. She is the very first gynecologist woman and she escaped the death sentence thanks to her female patients who protested.

When we look at the timeline of when and where women could study, we see that Italy was one of the most forward countries in the world when it comes to women’s education. In 1237 Bettisia Gozzadini got a law degree at the University of Bologna. In the 14th and 15th century some will follow in the field of medicine, law and philosophy. Spanish universities will open its doors to female students in the 16th century.

Although these dates may surprise us, there are very few women that actually attended universities back in those days. Even the faculty of medicine in Montpellier that was founded in the 12th century, admitted its very first female student in the 19th century! Agnes McLaren came to Montpellier because she was not granted a chance to study in her own country.

Women that studied were rare, it was considered that they should stay at home and take care of the household. Some women, after the Second World War, did go to the university but only in order to get education in that general way of speaking, not to get an actual profession and work outside of their homes.


Few dates

Still, there are few dates worth mentioning. They are great as something new, but still, at the time, made for very few.

In 1803 Bradford Academy in Bradford, Massachusetts was the first higher educational institution to admit women in Massachusetts. It was founded as a co-educational institution, but became exclusively for women in 1837.

In 1818 Western Christian missionaries opened the first western-style charter schools in India open also to girls.

In 1822 in Serbia, girls were allowed to attend elementary schools with boys up until the fourth grade.

In 1826 the first American public high schools for girls were opened in New York and Boston

In 1827 in Brazil the first elementary schools for girls and the profession of school teacher were opened.

Many countries will follow, but many families will still not allow their daughter to go to school up until the XX century. And once education was democratized in the XX century, women were still not allowed in the Ivy League universities in the United States. Just saying…

When they ask you what has feminism achieved? You can tell them that there are more girls and women going to universities now than ever in the history! Even though we might think that there are still many countries that do not allow girls to go to school, there is 90% of girls around the world that can and do go to school.

When did women get the right to inherit

Women could not possess anything. Can you imagine? Not even have a bank account! No wonder it was very important who women were marrying! If women could not be in charge and control of their earning and inheritance, of course they had to think about marrying well! It was the only option of having assets and economically stable life.


Had it been always like that?

What, however, might come as a shock is that this was not the case since always, as many tend to paint the picture. In Ancient Egypt, women had the same financial rights as men. A scholar Janet Johnson said: “Egyptian women were able to acquire, to own, and to dispose of property (both real and personal) in their own name. They could enter into contracts in their own name; they could initiate civil court cases and could, likewise, be sued; they could serve as witnesses in court cases; they could serve on juries; and they could witness legal documents.” Johnson added that women did not always use their rights, but they still had them and could use them.

Russia, at least in theory, granted to women in 1753 the right to possess through ‘’separate economy’’. This meant that they could earn their own money and spend it as they pleased. They were no longer obliged to ask their husbands for permission of how they were going to spend their money.

In 1771, the state of New York becomes the first to give the power to women over the property that they brought to the marriage. How crazy was this? You would come to the marriage with your parents’ property, money or whatever, and you had no saying in how it was going to be used, sold, thrown away. Well, obviously, the state of New York also thought this was ridiculous and vote a new law. Now, husbands had to ask their wives for permission when they wanted to sell the property that was of the wife’s family. According to Guardian: ‘’The act also required the judge to meet privately with the woman to reassure himself that the signature wasn’t forged or her consent coerced.’’ Bravo New York!

What’s going on in France

France, as revolutionary as it sometimes is, gave in 1791, during the French revolution, the equal inheritance rights to both sexes. This right was quickly after abolished, when the monarchy was restored. As I was saying before… Many rights are very fragile at different times. Thank you monarchy for being so understanding. Do you understand a little bit better through this example why most of feminists are rather of left wing?

When it comes to owning a bank account, France will allow women to have a bank account in 1881. In 1886, this right is granted also to married women who can now do it without their husband’s permission. In the USA, this will be possible in 1960s, while in the UK in 1975.

Some random numbers

The equal inheritance is finally allowed in the USA and UK in 1922.

Listen to this one! Until 1974, banks required single, widowed or divorced women to bring a man along to cosign any credit application, regardless of their income.

In 1976, Irish women can own their own homes.

You know how public space is not really everyone’s and is in reality colored with sperm? Well, women were not allowed in pubs and could be refused service. In the UK, it becomes illegal in 1982 to refuse to sell drinks to women. WTF? Up until 1982, women were not allowed to spend their money as they pleased in English pubs!

You can check out other interesting dates in this Guardian’s article.

When did women get the right to inherit

Marriage and children

Marrying someone because you chose to can still be a tricky thing in many countries around the world. But feminism did influence the way we perceive marriage. Having equal rights also means that women work and earn money. If we have financial stability, we will not see marriage as signing an economic contract, but rather as creating a union based on love and respect.

Since women did not get education and did not work, it is easy to understand why women had children very early on. And that was their main purpose and role. To be mothers.

Another thing we are still kind of fighting for – freedom not to have a child if we choose not to. There is still a lot of stigma around women that decide not to reproduce, a lot of shaming and lack of understanding. But that will be a topic for another article.

What has feminism achieved

Right to vote, right to possess, right to go to school or marry whom ever women wanted to (in a heterosexual relationship) were the beginning of acquiring certain rights that will allow women’s intellectual growth, economic independency, simply other point of view on life.

These rights were just the beginning! Luckily, there are many more things. What else has feminism accomplished you can read in the next week’s article!

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