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The Movement


Timeline: The U.S. women’s movement

Women’s symbol, with “Revolution” written across it. Did you know that Montana was the first state to elect a woman to Congress in 1917? The right for women to vote was passed by only two senate votes in 1920? In 1960, white women earned 60 cents for every dollar earned by men—a decline since the 1950s—and that women of color earn 42 cents for every dollar? Learn about American women’s struggles and triumphs in the timeline below.

1777 All states pass laws that forbid women to vote.

1848 The first women’s rights convention takes place in Seneca Falls, New York. Participants sign a Declaration of Sentiments that call for equal treatment and voting rights for women.

1851 Sojourner Truth gives her famous “Ain’t I a woman?” speech.

1855 In Missouri v. Celia, a black woman named Celia is declared to be property of her slave master, without any right to defend herself from rape.

1860 Connecticut becomes the first state to prohibit all abortions after the American Medical Association announces its opposition to abortion.
Two white women in late-1800s-style dresses: the seated one in a shawl reads a document while the one standing looks over her shoulder.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, seated,
and Susan B. Anthony

Flapper-era portrait of Margaret Sanger, seated wearing a dark satin dress and a long pearl necklace.
Margaret Sanger

Two white women in hats standing on a balcony above a sign that reads: American Suffrage Ass’n. One of the women addresses the audience below.
Jeannette Rankin

A white woman wearing glasses, a hairnet and apron does assembly line work at machine gun factory.
Machine gun factory, WWII

A black woman in glasses, her arms in the air, hands in a victory salute, stands before a crowd in front of a sign that says “Wow”.
Shirley Chisholm

Magazine cover has “Wonder Woman for President “ across the cover with the larger-than-life cartoon heroine walking across a city. A billboard that reads “Peace and Justice ‘72” is below her.
The first Ms. cover

1866 Congress passes the 14th Amendment, which grants all citizens the right to vote. It is the first time that “citizens” and “voters” are defined as “male” in the Constitution.

1869 Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association, while Lucy Stone and others form the American Woman Suffrage Association. The territory of Wyoming passes the first women’s suffrage law in the U.S.

1896 The National Association of Colored Women is formed out of more than 100 black women’s clubs.

1916 Margaret Sanger opens the first American birth control clinic in Brooklyn, NY. Within ten days, the clinic is shut down and Sanger is arrested. She eventually wins legal support and opens another clinic in 1923.

1917 Jeannette Rankin of Montana is the first woman to be elected to Congress.

1920 Congress passes the 19th Amendment, granting women suffrage. It passes in the Senate by only two votes.

1923 Alice Paul drafts the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

1936 A federal law is modified, making birth control information no longer classified as obscene.

1945 Millions of working women lose their jobs when servicemen return from World War II, although surveys show that 80 percent want to continue working.

1955 The Daughters of Bilitis is formed, the first lesbian social and political organization in the U.S.

1960 The Food and Drug Administration approve birth control pills.
White women earn 60 cents for every dollar earned by men, a decline since the 1950s. Women of color earn 42 cents for every dollar.

1964 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race and sex.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is established to investigate discrimination complaints.

1966 The National Organization for Women (NOW) is founded.

1968 The EEOC rules that sex-segregated help wanted ads are illegal, a ruling later upheld by the Supreme Court.
Shirley Chisholm is the first black woman elected to Congress.
The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) is founded.

1969 California is the first state to adopt a “no fault” divorce law, allowing couples to divorce by mutual consent. By 1985, all U.S. states have adopted similar laws.

1972 The ERA is passed by Congress and sent to states for ratification.
Title IX bans sex discrimination in schools.
The Supreme Court rules that the right to privacy includes an unmarried person’s right to use contraceptives.
Ms. Magazine is first published.

1973 In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court legalizes abortion and overturns anti-abortion laws in many states.

1974 The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination in consumer credits practices.

1976 The first marital rape law passes in Nebraska, making it illegal for a husband to rape his wife.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act passes, banning employment discrimination against pregnant women.

1977 The National Women’s Conference takes place in Houston, TX.

1978 More women than men are entering college for the first time in American history.

1981 Sandra Day O’Conner is the first woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsberg joins her in 1993.

1982 ERA ratification efforts fail.

1984 EMILY’s (Early Money is Like Yester) List is created as a financial network for women running for national political office.

1986 The Supreme Court rules that sexual harassment is a form of illegal job discrimination.

1990 The number of black women in elective office has increased to 1,950 from 131 in 1970.

1993 The Family and Medical Leave Act goes into effect, allowing women workers to take employment leave after giving birth.

1994 The Violence Against Women act increases services for rape and domestic violence victims, as well as federal penalties for sex offenders.
Shannon Faulkner is the first woman to attend classes at the Citadel, an all-male military academy in South Carolina.

2004 More then one million Americans rally for women’s rights in Washington, DC at the March for Women’s Lives.

Photo credits:

Women Revolution NOW: logo by Kjersti Graphics

Suffragettes: Library of Congress

Machine gun factory in WWII (1942): Library of Congress

Shirley Chisholm campaigning for president
Photo courtesy Arlie Scott

2004 March for Women’s Lives Planned Parenthood placard


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