Women's Civil Rights in the USA 1865- 1992

Women’s Civil Rights

The position of women in 1865

-       More involved in public life after the war. Supporters of the abolition of slavery & temperance.

-       Took part in church organisations, education and charities

-       Some active in abolitionist campaigns

-       Political activity still confined to men

-       Most campaigners were white, middle class women

-       However, Sojourner Truth and other African American women were famous abolitionist speakers

-       Pressure for reform

-       The prevailing concept was that women should remain AT HOME

-       Didn’t want women to have the vote – if they did they could wield political power to vote on issues like slavery

Developments that aided women:

·      Urbanisation

·      New Technology

·      Improved communications

·      Better literacy and education for women

·      Greater prosperity – (m/c white women could devote time to public causes instead of ‘survival’)

The Civil War

-       Both Union and Confederacy relied on their home front to support the troops – running farms and plantations, working in factories.

-       Women, especially in the South, suffered the economic devastation caused by the war

-       Political rights were achieved for AAs – there was some hope this would be the same for women.

-       However, most men did not support the equality or a greater political role for women. With industrialisation, more men were working in factories & workshops – increased the divide

-       When women did work it was in lower- paid, casual employment or domestic service or in unskilled and poorly rewarded manufacturing jobs.

-       In the South, if they worked in farms or sharecropping smallholdings they were expected to also do the domestic chores – they took the brunt of ‘total war’ (especially in the South)

-       Limited use of contraception meant that women often had large families

-       Despite this, there were many pioneering individuals such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott – prepared to organise and lead.

-       Women’s rights and abolitionism were unlinked

-       Old ways of life were challenged in the South, Industry drove the North

-       Political rights for African Americans had changed – now why not women?

Text Box: Experience of public life in temperance campaigns Text Box: Participation in war work Text Box: Strengths and weaknesses of the position of women by 1865 Text Box: Limited job opportunities in cleaning or low paid manufacturing Text Box: Limited birth control – large families Text Box: Some famous women


Text Box: Male attitudes                                                   

Text Box: Many roles limited to traditional female concerns Text Box: Beginnings of campaign for women to vote


Between 1865 – 1919 there were movements to gain suffrage

The campaign for prohibition

In 1874 - Women’s Christian Temperance Union became a major national organisation.

800,000 members by 1920.

Prohibition was successful in getting up to whole states to ban alcohol. – The link between religion and political beliefs meant people were more passionate.

Women now had experience in mobilising support for a cause (lobbying, mass meetings)

Most charities continued work done in the CW – they influenced local government without being able to participate e.g. with pension legislation


-       After abolitionism was ‘prioritised’ over Women’s rights in the 14th and 15th amendments. Mentioned race and color but not…


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