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First Wave Feminism: Theory

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Shaun Weadick

on 25 February 2016

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Transcript of First Wave Feminism: Theory

First Wave: Ideas
Liberal Feminism(s):
Liberalism is a philosophy that aims at
equality of opportunity
and to protect
individual liberties
. Liberal ideology aims to promote
of all people to enter into contracts with each other and where government exists to protect freedom (and little more).
Liberal feminism
, the dominant philosophy of first wave feminism (and still a dominant feminist idea), aims at gaining
equal rights under law
First Wave Feminism
The Women's movement and Abolition
North America
Sojourner Truth
"Ain't I a women"
Frederick Douglass
The early feminist movement was closely aligned with the early Abolition movemen
t. Both women and African Americans were deemed less than people (white men where the only people with full citizenship). This solidarity did not last as the Abolition movement lost momentum in the Jim Crow era and the Women's rights movement represented upper class, white interests.
: liberal feminists aim to alter the existing structures to make them more equal:
new laws
changing laws
equal opportunities to the same systems (electoral, political, legal, economic)
equal rights amendments
legal "persons"
property rights
contract rights
Liberalism is a predominant philosophical current in North American legal and political systems.
link the oppression of women to systems of
private property
is class-based - capitalists exploit the labour of workers - but this is also gender-based.
Capitalist men (who own the means of production) exploit the labour of women both in the workforce and in the home:
1) Domestic labour is unpaid
2) Men tend to control major
capitalist enterprise
Elizabeth Candy Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
Frederick Engels (1884):
Argues that the creation of the
private property
system and the bourgeois (nuclear) family lead to the
subjugation of women
in the home
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1898):
wages for housework
reproductive labour
(child birth and child raising) is done by women in the nuclear family and is unpaid. Gilman (and others) argue that women should be pair fairly for this labour.
Bread and Roses
"The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too"
Rose Schneiderman, 1911
Textile workers, mostly women, go on strike in Lawrence, Mass., 1911
Shared housework and shared paid work
is a philosophy that
opposes hierarchies
(especially in the State) and emphasizes individual autonomy and the power of voluntary, non-hierarchacial associations.
Emma Goldman
"If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal"
oppose the hierarchical
of men over women and link this domination to both capitalism and
state power
Two famous Liberal feminist suffragettes
Focus on equal rights to vote
In respect to political rights, we hold woman to be justly entitled to all we claim for man. We go farther, and express our conviction that all political rights which it is expedient for man to exercise, it is equally so for women. All that distinguishes man as an intelligent and accountable being, is equally true of woman; and if that government is only just which governs by the free consent of the governed, there can be no reason in the world for denying to woman the exercise of the elective franchise, or a hand in making and administering the laws of the land. Our doctrine is, that “Right is of no sex"
Frederick Douglas
"If I can't dance, I don't want to be a part of your revolution"
Argued that:

Women were forced to marry
due to
economic dependence
in bourgeois society
is caused by poverty and lack of job opportunities for women (its a form of
class oppression
Birth control, protective labour legislation and safe legal abortions are necessary for the need of working class women
Liberal feminists
who sought
legal equality
material inequality
experienced by immigrant women, working class women, and women of colour.
This means that the goal of liberal feminists is not
revolutionary change
but to
existing systems.
She called liberal feminists "bourgeois feminists"
Journal #4
Please reflect upon one of the three poems in your course pack ("Rise Up! to Women", "The Day the Mountains Move," "Bread and Roses").
What is this poem about?
What is the purpose of this poem?
What stands out to you in this poem?
What does this poem tell us about feminism in theory and practice during the First Wave?
How does this poem make you feel?
Full transcript