Considering the fight women during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries put up in order to gain equality between women and men, there should be no discrimination in this present era. Women of today should be independent and should be able to live full lives. Women of today are supposed to be unstoppable, and they can do anything they want because they should have that freedom that was fought for by women centuries ago and was made a reality by the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Yet, are the women as free as the freedom dreamt up by the female ancestors?
Even with the tremendous effort put by these women of the previous centuries, women of today are still enslaved in more ways than one. True, women are now encouraged to run for office, to establish business, to be power workers, to have a college degree, and all that. Yet somehow, Michelle , a typical American girl, found herself being told to wash the dishes “just because she was a girl” (Michelle). “My Mom told me to wash the dishes,” recounts Michelle. “I retorted that my older brother should do it because I have lots of things to do, and my Mom told me that I should wash the dishes because I am the girl.
If she wants to accept the judgment that women are to be slaves inside the house, well she’s got another thing coming. I am not going to end up as a housewife” (Michelle). With Michelle’s insights, it seems as if the war started by the women during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries continues to rage this very day. Women are no longer repressed by their laws, but women are still restricted by their cultures, churches, families, and other aspects of the society. With that in mind, this paper will discuss women’s rights movement in the form of Sally McMillen’s book, “Seneca Falls and the Origin of the Women’s Rights Movement.
This will be an analysis of the said book, which will determine what really transpired during the years women battled for equality. Who is Sally McMillen? According to Davidson College, Sally McMillen is a professor at the said university. She specializes in Southern and women’s history, with profound emphasis on the nineteenth century. She has been writing for several years and was the winner of the “2000 Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award. ” She also received the first ever “Boswell Family Fellowship (2006-2007)” (Davidson College).
She released a number of books, the most famous of which include “Motherhood in the Old South: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Infant Rearing (Louisiana State University Press, 1990), Southern Women: Black and White in the Old South (Harlan Davidson, 1992), To Raise Up the South: Sunday Schools in Black and White Churches, 1865-1915 (Louisiana State University Press, 2001); and Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement (Oxford University Press, 2008)” (Davidson College) Currently, Professor McMillen is the department head of “Mary Reynolds Babcock Professor of History” (Davidson College).
Professor McMillen adds that just like the characters of Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement, she also had a passion for women’s rights while she was growing up. Her ancestors were women who trained her to think that men are not superior to women, and both genders are equal. She was sure that she would have joined the cause, it only she was born in that era. With a passion for fighting for what she believes in, Professor McMillen can relate to her characters as she brings them to life with this spellbinding book.
Different Worlds for Men and Women McMillen’s book talks about men and women having different worlds. Her first chapter encompasses this ideology, and she discusses how these worlds differ in terms of law, faith, and tradition. According to McMillen, these worlds say that men were to deal with larger issues regarding the state, whilst women were supposed to deal with home and family (14). McMillen also says that “the ideal woman was presumed to be pure, delicate, pious, and maternal; the expectation was that she would marry, reproduce, raise her children, create a comfortable home, and find fulfillment through her family” (12).
This is a very demeaning picture of a woman during the eighteenth century, as their only purpose in life is to rear and bear children. A woman might want a proper education, but it would be discouraged, seeing as there would be no need for an expensive education when all she was worth for was a housekeeper. Yet what it is that hinders women from being breadwinners in their families? With this, there are three factors that determine a woman’s place within the society. These factors are law, faith, and tradition. When it comes to the law, one has to bear in mind that this happened during the eighteenth century.
America, although a democratic country, was still at odds at whether or not slavery should be abolished, or should racial discrimination be discouraged. With such pressing issues such as these, it is no wonder that women rights are not given emphasis. According to McMillen in her book, Thomas Paine, another author, wrote that although men questioned why women were “at all times and all places, adored and oppressed,” nobody made a move to equalize this demeaning nature (13). With the issue of faith, the Bible tells a woman’s place right from the beginning.
In Genesis, it was emphasized that Eve was taken from Adam’s rib, therefore implying that women should be dependent on men, for without men, women would not be created. Because the influence of ministers and preachers during that era were more dominant in the people rather than in other aspects, if the church said that a woman’s place is to be beside the husband, then it should be true. In terms of tradition, America has become a chauvinistic nation by the eighteenth century.
Although Americans claim there is democracy within the country, the U. S. Constitution implies that all should be equal within all men. Although mankind is the collective term for people, by saying that all is equal within all men, the Constitution forgot that women are also a part of the population. How Women Were Mistreated In her book, McMillen states: “In the fairly fluid society of the American colonies, husbands and wives engaged in mutually supportive roles by performing work in the home and the field” (13). Hence, women were expected to work in the farm or in the home, yet they were not given recognition for what they did.
They were not given the opportunity for higher education and were instead encouraged to just pursue an educational attainment that would be enough to get them a husband. As Lucy Stone, a lecturer and one of the pivotal four women who changed the way America looks at woman says, “There was only one will in our home, and that was my father’s” (qtd. in McMillan 10). Women are taught at an early age that their only roles in life are to be a mother and to rear and bear children, to keep house, and to depend on their husbands.
Four women changed the way the society thinks and linked the two different worlds of men and women together. Matrimony and a Woman’s Prison It took foreigners to see the truth of democracy in the United States. As Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville says, when an American woman marries, she retreats into a cocoon, submitting to her husband’s every whim, overwhelmed by the demands of running a household, and bearing and rearing children. He adds that “a woman forfeits her independence forever when she embraces matrimony” (qtd. in McMillen 15).
Scottish reformer and writer Frances Wright thinks that marriage demeans women and comments on how few opportunities were given to married women in America. Her Scottish upbringing urged her to inform Americans about what she thought. Nevertheless, she was ignored, and her advocacy of free love and racial equality was shunned (qtd. in McMillen 15). Meanwhile, American Mercy Otis Warren talked with famous men and said that “inherent rights belonged to all mankind and has been conferred on all by the God of nations” (qtd. in McMillen 13). These observations emphasize how women were frowned upon and were discouraged to pursue what they wanted.
Women were given little credit, were given no rights, were prohibited from even exercising suffrage, and were clearly depicted as properties of men. They were considered to be vines likened to oak trees, wherein they are dependent on men and will only survive if they cling to their husbands. The Women’s Movement in Seneca Falls This belief sparked a burning passion in the women of Seneca Falls to uplift women and raise them from their pitiful situations. Women were treated only marginally better than slaves, yet they were given no credit for all of their work.
The women’s movement in Seneca Fall started with four visionary women – a principal organizer of the Seneca Falls Convention, Quaker minister Lucretia Coffin Mott; the primary author of the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, Elizabeth Cady Stanton; the lecturer Lucy Stone; and Susan B. Anthony. These women worked together in order to bring about the Nineteenth Amendment. However, even though a woman group was in place, it took seventy-two years before Seneca Falls for the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, was added to the U. S. Constitution.
It took that many years because there were arguments to be resolved within the inner core of the group, and some of the founding members of the Seneca Falls Convention passed away. Yet, it was their daughters that continued their work, and the “Solitude of Self” and “Declaration of Rights and Sentiments” were acknowledge by the Americans (Stanton 246). Academic Reviews Sherry H. Penney reviewed McMillen’s book and deemed it as an adequate addition to historians’ bookshelves.
She emphasized that although past books were written about the topic, McMillen was able to shed light into what happened with the Seneca Falls Convention, and she was able to portray the powerful four women in such realistic portraits that their stories were closely interwoven, therey giving the book the edge over other memoirs (534). Another review by Linda V. Carlisle of Publisher’s Weekly (January 2007) states that McMillen’s book is a “useful text for undergraduate history and women’s studies courses; general readers will also find it accessible and informative. Recommended for academic and public libraries” (46-47).
These reviews add further credibility to McMillen’s book, as these reviews are from renowned publications with integrity linked to their names. Conclusion McMillen’s book, Seneca Falls and the Origin of the Women’s Rights Movement, is an adept book that describes the Seneca Falls Convention and the beginnings of Women’s Rights Movement. It also embodies the ideals of Elizabeth Stanton as she wrote the famed Solitude of Self, which helped open the nation’s eyes about the turbulent experiences of women. Overall, this book is a great addition of knowledge for those who are trying to understand a woman’s place in society.