Americans were slow to apply their egalitarian principles to women; for decades after the Revolutionary War, few people in this nation founded on the principle that "all men are created equal" challenged the fact that women possessed few political or legal rights. But during the 1830s, women in the abolitionist movement discovered that even forward-thinking male reformers believed that women should take a backseat to men, and the women's movement was born.
Advocates of women's rights held their first convention at Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. Participants in the convention nursed varying agendas—property rights, divorce reform, increased educational opportunities, and even dress reform were all among the objectives activists pursued. Only a minority shared Elizabeth Cady Stanton's belief that women should concentrate on winning the right to vote. But by the end of the century, women's suffrage had become the centerpiece of the women's movement.
After ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment finally gave women the right to vote in 1919, the movement made only minor progress. The Equal Rights Amendment, drafted in 1923, was buried in congressional committee as the Great Depression and World War II consumed Americans' attention.
But in 1963, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, sparking the modern women's movement. This new movement failed to achieve one of its greatest objectives: ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Still, it made enormous progress by fighting employment discrimination, advancing educational opportunities, and protecting reproductive rights.
Courtesy of Shmoop.com