The Evolution of Women’s Rights in America

The Evolution of Women's Rights in America

( – Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her husband John Adams dated March 31, 1776, reminding him to “remember the ladies” when fighting the British for America’s independence. John Adams went on to become the nation’s second president, serving from 1797 to 1801. Sadly, Mrs. Adams’ letter did little for women’s rights at the time, as the fight for equality continues today.

A review of American history confirms the progress made by women in the nearly 250 years since Abigail wrote her letter. Although the war is far from over, women’s rights have enjoyed success in the areas of education, economic opportunity, and more.

There have been numerous successes along the way. Let’s review two major areas below.

Women’s Suffrage

Ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granted women the right to vote. Despite the passage of the amendment, women of color continued to be blocked from voting through local laws, restrictions, and poll taxes. It took roughly 40 more years for all American women to have the right to vote.

Equal Rights in the Workplace

Like women’s suffrage, equal rights in the workplace happened gradually over time. A few milestones along the way include:

  • The Equal Pay Act, passed in 1963, provides for equitable wages regardless of sex, religion, race, or national origin.
  • In 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act passed, banning gender-based discrimination in the workplace.
  • President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order in 1968 requiring affirmative action hiring plans for women.
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act passed in 1978, protecting pregnant women from employment discrimination.
  • The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act of 2009 allows women to file a complaint against their employer for pay discrimination within 180 days of receiving their final paycheck.

Women’s Rights Today

Women’s rights have come a long way. In 2020, an unprecedented number of women hold elective offices in the United States Congress, with 26 women serving in the Senate and 101 in the House. If she’s looking down, Abigail Adams probably has a smile on her face.

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