Federal Amendments for Women's Rights

How did the government react to the women's campaign?

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Homestead Act 1862

- Women could apply for a grant to own land

- The occupant had to be 21 

- The terms stated you had to improve the land then file a deed for a title

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15th Amendment 1870

- This bill established that the federal and state government couldn't withold right to vote on the grounds of race.

- Women were angry that this right wasn't extended to gender.


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Comstock Laws

- Introduced in 1873.

- Proved to be a major obstacle to acquiring contraceptives.

- Abortion was also banned.

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New Deal Policies

- Social Security Act 1935 helped to alleviate family stress with welfare benefits.

- Aid to Dependent Children 1935 helped families where there was no male head of the household (humiliating for women).

- The Fair Labor Standards Act 1938 set new minimum wage levels which benefited women but they still earned less than men doing the same job. Working hours were also reduced.

These acts (introduced by Roosevelt) didn't affect women directly but helped them to some extent.

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19th Amendment

- This amendment was passed in 1920.

- It gave most women aged over 21 years, the right to vote.

- Excluded immigrant women who hadn't been given citizenship.

- African American women weren't allowed (faced racial discrimination).

- Immediate response wasn't enthusiastic as women had little time for political interest. Also, feminists were divided as how best to vote for improved conditions and opportunities.

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Equal Rights Amendment (never ratified)

- This was originally drawn up by Alice Paul in 1923.

- It was passed by Congress in 1972.

- It aimed to gain equal standing to men in all rights.

- Many opposed this because of the traditional outlook on women's role in life but more importantly it would stop any chance of getting maternity leave, abortion rights etc...

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18th and 21st Amendment

- Passed in 1917.

- It banned the sale, import, transport and manufacture of alcoholic drink. So the prohibition campaign had succeeded until...

- The latter amendment repealed prohibition which was ratified in 1933.

- Nevertheless, in both instances we see that female pressure groups played a significant part in achieving change. The divisions present, however show that steps forward can be regressed.

- The strength and influence of the female voice is clear when they focus on certain issues.

-Leadership and alliances are important to making progress.

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Civil Rights Act

- In 1964 this act was implemented by LBJ.

- It stated that no sexual discrimination could be made in employment etc...

- The act was supposed to be enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission but many were disappointed (didn't satisfy the demands of feminist).

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Roe v. Wade Ruling (landmark decision)

- The Supreme Court recognised Roe's right to privacy and was protected by the 14th amendment so she could make the decision to abort.

- The triumph of this case galvanised female pressure groups and showed how they could gain change.

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