A brief history of Women’s Rights in the United States

A brief history of Women’s Rights in the United States. Even if I leave out one critical issue, there’s still a lot to unpack here.

1840s – Married Women’s Property Acts get passed across a few states. In these states, women are allowed to own and control property… so long as they are married. This will only take about fifty or sixty years to catch on across the entire country.

1862 – Homestead Act makes women who are single, widowed, divorced, or deserted eligible to recieve 160 acres of “federal” land in their own name. This is not a testament to how progressive the Homestead Act was. It is evident of how badly the federal government wanted white settlers to stake their claim on lands belonging to Indigenous Peoples.

1900s – Women could finally own property in their own name. In practice, this only applied to white women for the first few decades. Despite legal protections for property rights, women still struggle against a real estate gender gap. Women spend an average of two percent more than men to purchase a home and get two percent less return on their investment when reselling, a significant obstacle to economic parity that has yet to be overcome more than a hundred years later.

1919 – The 19th Amendment was passed and women are now allowed to vote in elections. This only happens after many brave women made great sacrifices, suffered incarceration, and were subjected to torture.

1963 – Equal Pay Act, for all its good intentions women still make on average 77 cents on a man’s dollar.

1974 – Equal Credit Opportunity Act, women are now allowed to manage their own financing and get credit cards or home loans without a man listed on the credit account.

1979 – North Dakota passes its first domestic violence statute. Some still cling to the belief that a man has the right to “discipline” his wife.

1990s – Laws against marital rape sweep across the United States. Before this change, it was protected by law that wives must submit to their husbands and spousal rape was perfectly legal in most parts of the United States.


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