Five historical reading






The debate on feminism has taken center stage in the recent times. However, the root of feminism can be traced way back into the 18th and 19th century. This period saw women and other people who came up to advocate for the rights of women. Initially, women were regarded as second class citizens, and they were expected to remain in the homes and be submissive to men. This belief was questioned by brave individuals who sought to enlighten women about their rights and place in society. There are numerous individuals who came to the fore in advocating for the rightful position of women in society. This paper discusses the legacy of equity feminists and explains some of their identified grievances in their projects that have been and have not been addressed.

Feminism and feminists

The 18th and 19th century were the periods when a few women rose to the limelight advocating for the liberation of the female species in political, economic and social aspects of mankind. One of the most celebrated feminist writers of the period, Wollstonecraft, wrote about strategies to further the feminist objectives in her book titled a vindication of the rights of a woman (Wollstonecraft, 1792, KSS, p. 399). She further discusses her feminist projects by promoting resistance to the myths surrounding women and traditions especially on the subject of education. She preaches to women how intellect always governs and urges women to strive to acquire strength of body and mind (Wollstonecraft, 1792, KSS, p. 399).

Feminists are known to champion for the recognition of the position of a woman in the society. Most feminists focus on the male-female relationship while lending a female perspective into the issue stating that the tendency to dominate is a human nature not restricted to either gender. The women’s rights convention also took place in the 19th century with several women signed the declaration of rights and sentiments whose principal author was Elizabeth Stanton (Stanton, 1848, KSS, p. 411).

There is a difference between gender feminism and equity feminism. Equity feminism has the primary concern of advocating for equal treatment and rights of women. On the other hand, gender feminism question the traditional roles assigned to each gender and the role that society plays in these roles. The five readings under discussion are mainly by equity feminists who defined the then traditions and advocated for equal rights and treatment of the female gender. Mary Wollstonecraft is considered a liberal feminist because of her approach concerned with an individual woman and rights. She insisted that women should not be rated according to male standards and honored a woman’s natural talents (Wollstonecraft, 1792, KSS, p. 400).

Wollstonecraft’s grievances have been addressed in the current century sexuality and gender analysis in her consideration of the need for sexual feelings in the relationship between women and men. Her literature has brought about a series of social revolution enhanced by the enlightenment and revising of institutions especially the family, religion and education. She wrote her book in response to the new French constitution that banned women from public areas with questions arising as to whether the male gender was better than the female gender (Wollstonecraft, 1792, KSS, p. 400).

More women are aware of the rights and manner in which they are supposed to be treated because Wollstonecraft put the element of reasoning as the center of human identity and justification for human rights (Wollstonecraft, 1792, KSS, p. 401). This led to campaigns whereby enlightened women advocated for female equality. These events offered a platform for women to test their political skill and bring massive parties together including the social reforms groups. It is essential to acknowledge other male authors who recognized women issues and made them known through their literature (Kamen, 1991, KSS, p. 413).

Wollstonecraft feminist works were seconded by other works that also illustrated the weakness of women was mainly because of the mis-education whereby the society, that was then male dominated, did not want women to be enlightened and thus continue to oppress them (Wollstonecraft, 1792, KSS, p. 405). Most feminists defied societal assumptions during the earlier centuries, and their works portrayed characters that illustrated the feminist position. During the 19th century, the female role was defined as giving birth and doing house work. The male gender looked down upon her as weak, dependant on the man and was set to follow whatever the man said (Kamen, 1991, KSS, p. 417).

Contemporary writers, Shalit and Sommers, illustrate the developments that the female gender has made in overcoming the suppression of inequality as well as other areas that still need to be addressed (Shalit, 2001, KSS, p. 432). Since the beginning of equality feminism, only a century has passed and in as much as a few issues have been addressed, much more is still required in order to achieve full women liberation (Sommers, 2000, KSS, p. 455). Following the description of gender feminism, the feminist in this category better continues the projects initiated. This is because of the argument that gender roles are constructed socially and not a defined status quo. If the society overcame the myths that women and men have defined different roles, the world would totally transform with harmony transpiring in different institutions that already exist. It is through the gender feminists activities that we have women studying up to higher institutions of learning because they can. Women are taking up science subject that were previously considered as male dominated subjects (Woolf, 1931, KSS, p. 443).

Women are becoming political representative all because of enlightenment and the fact that they can do what the male gender can even better. In the family institution, women can also breadwinner and work to provide better lifestyles for the family as a whole. In the process of women advocating for changes in their roles, they stand a better position of being respected and treated as they deserve. Female opinions and ideas are implemented in different aspects of mankind all contributing to enhanced living for current and future generations (Kamen, 1991, KSS, p. 419).


The uprising of the feminist of the 18th and 19th century was as a response to the injustices that were increasingly suffocating the female gender. Literature was written to create awareness on the restricted lives of women. Also, action had to be taken soon enough to liberate the female gender before frustration and depression consumed most of them. The female writers advocating for the female gender equality have achieved success. This is because the contemporary girl child from a tender age can pursue her dreams and be treated in equal measure as the male gender (Woolf, 1931, KSS, p. 443). It is important to acknowledge the progress that contemporary feminists are also advocating for because of the recognition of the female gender contribution makes in the society.


Kamen, P. (1991). From Feminist Fatale: Voiced From The “Twenty-something” Generation Explore The Future Of The “Women’s Movement”. In E. Rauchut & K. Mason (Eds.), Kirkpatrick signature series reader (2008, pp. 413-422). Bellevue, NE: Bellevue University Press.

Shalit, W. (2001). Modesty Revisited. In E. Rauchut & K. Mason (Eds.), Kirkpatrick signature series reader (2008, pp. 431-433). Bellevue, NE: Bellevue University Press.

Sommers, C.H. (2000). Who Stole Feminism? In E. Rauchut & K. Mason (Eds.), Kirkpatrick signature series reader (2008, pp. 454-460). Bellevue, NE: Bellevue University Press.

Stanton, E.C. (1848). Declaration of Sentiments. In E. Rauchut & K. Mason (Eds.), Kirkpatrick signature series reader (2008, pp. 411-412). Bellevue, NE: Bellevue University Press.

Wollstonecraft, M. (1792). The Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman. In E. Rauchut & K. Mason (Eds.), Kirkpatrick signature series reader (2008, pp. 399-410). Bellevue, NE: Bellevue University Press.

Woolf, V. (1931). Professions for Women. In E. Rauchut & K. Mason (Eds.), Kirkpatrick signature series reader (2008, pp. 442-444). Bellevue, NE: Bellevue University Press.