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Role and Status of Women since 1865: Amelia Earhart

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Role and Status of women since 1865 and how it has changed What would this world be like if not for the strong women who helped make the path of women’s rights in the nation? Would women like the same freedoms as men or would they prefer to be prisoners at home? Thank goodness women don’t spend too much time thinking this as there were strong, powerful women who fought for women’s rights for many years. Women supported other women to fight for freedom, equality, freedom, and the opportunity to be a powerful independent woman in a nation of strong independent men. This essay will discuss many meaningful events that transformed the American women of the future. Situations driven by women that wanted their voices heard through a multitude of men, women that wanted men to understand that women has a lot to offer to this world we live in.

The first occurrence that this essay will talk about is the American Equal Rights Association beginning in 1866 by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. This association would cast light on women’s suffrage in the nation and later result in a more radical group called the National Woman Suffrage Association. World War I was yet, another occurrence that shaped the future women of America and all over the world. Women have left their homes to become nurses that cared for wounded soldiers around the world. Another event is the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920. The amendment gave women a voice in elections around the country. The votes would count next to the men’s to transform the nation. As years went on, issues women previously faced did not stop. Women still battled for many rights and notoriety, like Amelia Earhart. Amelia would be the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic and later would accomplish many other firsts as a woman, in and out of an airplane. America would not run from another war. In 1942 a matter occurred that would diffuses the weak image of women. World War II started with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Women would again be summoned in a time of need. This time, women would not only be nurses, but also be members of the military, taking their place next to men overseas. Lastly, in 1963, Betty Friedan wrote a book called “The Feminine Mystique” that would encourage woman to step out of their comfort zones again and fight more a more important role in society.

The role of women has been changed by the women themselves, the women who fought endlessly for equality and proved their significance in American society and the world. The suffrage movement is how it all started. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was written declaring equality for all men. Looking back maybe it should have said; for all mankind. In the 19th century many women has aspirations to be just as equal as men in society. Women were given the same privileges and rights of men. The fight for suffrage was the desire communicated by women for a different role in society rather than the customary one. Women's suffrage showed to the nation a message of women’s longing for independence(Dubois, 1987). The American Equal Rights Association (AERA) was made in an attempt to give equality to all mankind, with an aspiration of combining woman suffrage and black suffrage into the all-encompassing demand for united suffrage. Many women though that equality for everyone could be fought for together, giving a voice to the citizen rather than the sex or color. After many years it became known that fighting the two together was not working. The subject matter had shifted from “women” to “black women” and women were rejected from the 15th amendment; thus a conflict developed between the women involved. The AERA and universal suffrage was not in working order.

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were women with an imagination of equality in their hearts. These women would become the face of the “new” suffrage movement (Harper, 1906). After failed attempts of the AERA the women changed their focus to a more radical group giving attention to women’s suffrage, the National Woman Suffrage Association or NWSA, thus giving a new identity to their cause (Dubois, 1987). The NWSA made a claim that women should have the right to vote based on their sex and not simply as individuals. The two ladies believed that the feminine component should be liberated in government. They declared that the feminine element would “elevate national life and “exalt purity, virtue, morality, and religion,” giving the nation some heart. According to Dubois, “the NWSA distinguished itself among suffrage organizations by its emphasis on national, as opposed to state, action to enfranchise women” (1987). The women still battled for education; their right to divorce, to own property, to have careers, and their right to vote. Women now obtained a voice in the nation; this voice would be carried into a global war in 1914. In 1914 the nation was thrown into World War I. Women were a significant role of the voluntary support of the war. Women were used as icons to represent the nation and its war aims (Dumenil, 2002).

Propaganda of the female image was used, at times draped with an American flag as a way to represent America’s honor. However, these efforts did not do enough to encourage or support women as the mobilization eventually did. National women’s organizations started to influence their involvement through the NWSA. The National Women’s Party (NWP) also participated, surrounding the White House and demanding that the same democracy that was being battled for by war, also be given to the women on the home front also. The NWP and the NWSA obtained notoriety and demonstrated an important component in creating sympathy for suffrage. Other important steps to equality also came about during the First World War. The Women’s Land Army and the Young Women’s Christian Association offered job opportunities that challenged traditional patterns of sex-segregated work. Women started to farm the land, work as street car conductors, and postal carriers. Women now were given the opportunities that were only previously given to men (Dumenil, 2002). According to Blanch “Groups of women from colleges and seasonal trades have ploughed and harrowed, sowed and planted, weeded and cultivated, mowed and harvested, milked and churned, at Vassar, Bryn Mawr and Mount Holyoke, at Newburg and Milton, at Bedford Hills and Mahwah. It has been demonstrated that our girls from college and city trade can do farm work, and do it with a will. Better still, at the end of the season, their health wins high approval from the doctors and their work golden opinions from the farmers” (Blatch, 1918).

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Before the war there were 403 women appointed to the Army Nurse Corps, by the end of the war 21, 480. Women came to Europe even prior to the American troops. Nurses served in many countries, served in field hospitals, evacuation, mobile units, camps, and convalescent hospitals also as troop trains and transport ships. The women serving in the war were exposed to treacherous conditions and saddening losses. By uniting forces in war and serving for thousands of fathers, brothers, and sons of America, women were able to fight for their equality. World War I was a significant example for increasing roles of women on the military and for evolving the military acknowledgment of women’s service in the Armed Forces and throughout the nation (Ghajar). Social reform was a significant phase of the Progressive movement. A crucial occurrence during this time was the passage of the 19th amendment, which afforded women the right to vote. Women thought that their rights, in politics, were key to their rights in society. Attaining the right to vote was a constant struggle that took decades to achieve. Generations of suffragists wrote, lobbied, marched, and lectured in an effort to ratify the Constitution.

The amendment was originally given to Congress in 1878 and was not ratified until August 18, 1920. At the beginning women suffrage advocates pursued passing the suffrage acts in each individual state, others approached the male-only vote through court, while other, more radical suffragists used vigils, spectacles, and hunger strikes to make a name for their cause. The majority of major suffrage organizations vouched for the ratification of the Constitution. Nevertheless, it was believed by the National Committee of Chairmen that the women would vote against that party whose legislatures rejected to ratify; the “mythical sex-vote idea” (Brown, 1922). It wasn’t until New York adopted the women suffrage that President Wilson started to support the amendment. The House of Representatives declared the amendment followed to weeks later by Senate. The amendment achieved its acquired three-fourths of the states allowing for ratification on August 26, 1920 (The constitution: The 19th amendment). The 19th amendment completely changed the face of American politics and was a major accomplishment for the women of the nation transforming powerful women of the future.

One of these powerful women is Amelia Earhart. Amelia was one of the most courageous women of the 20th century. She changed the way women were viewed not just in America but around the world also. Women before this point have paved the way for women like Amelia Earhart. In prior years she may not have been able to pursue flying and would have become the independent woman she was. As a result of her parents rough marriage Earhart vowed to be a strong independent woman. She worked as a nurse’s aide in a military hospital in Canada in World War I and worked as a social worker in Boston, she gained her financial independence. While working she gained finances to use for flying lessons and bought a small plane. This plane would make a name for herself in our history books as the most well known female pilot of all times. Earhart would break many flying records, also the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Earhart was a very important inspiration for women. Edwins wrote, “She believed her solo flight proved that men and women were equals in all “jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed, coolness, and willpower” (2012). She wanted to inspire women to challenge themselves and their limits. Earhart said “Now and then women should do for themselves what men have already done---occasionally what men have not done--thereby establishing themselves as persons, and perhaps encouraging other women toward greater independence of thought and action” (Edwins, 2012). Because of Earhart’s fame she could gain support for female pilot’s discrimination. Women like Earhart kept feminism noteworthy during a slow time of women’s activism. Many organizations used her icon to promote safety of aviation, although the image seemed to represent that any woman could fly is she could do it. Women ran into criticism and resistance during this time however they were still able to travel, race, set records, and promote aviation. During Amelia’s tours she would address women’s group campaigning independence. During this time Earhart was able to represent to the nation that women pilots could combine job and adventure with more feminine duties of marriage and motherhood, showing the liberated yet feminine woman (Corn, 1979). It was because of her courageous drive, independence, and passion that she became a heroic image in history.

Like the times of WWI, men off in droves in WWII. More than 16 million men left to serve in the military, this resulted in more than 6.5 women stepping up to fill their open positions in factories. The percentage of women in agricultural roles also increased to about 15 percent, with more than three million women joining the federal Women’s Land Army to save the nation’s crops. Women also used their military uniforms for jobs like metal smiths, aircraft mechanics, and flight orderlies. All the three branches of the military let women join their ranks, although their service would not be equal to the men. Women joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), the Navy Women’s Reserve (WAVES), the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARS), the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS), the Army Nurse Corps, and the Navy Nurse Corps. The Women’s Airforce Service Pilots were made as a military organization next to the Army Air Forces and functioned to ferry aircraft around the world. The Women’s Army Corps put the women into uniform and they began to take action. During this time, women were not able to serve in combat roles, next to the men, however, they did serve as combat nurses.

Litoff and Smith introduced the way the war affected women by saying “The lives of American women were dramatically changed by the experience of war. The war transformed the way women thought about themselves and the world in which they lived, expanding their horizons and affording them a clearer sense of their capabilities” (2002). After the war the women felt more confident and powerful in society. They had proven their courage, strength, and purpose outside of the house. Because of their passion and commitment to the war women were given many more opportunities going forward in aworld more suited for men. This was not a feeling of the nation as a whole however; when the men returned the women were pushed out of jobs again and were forced to stay at home. This did not go well and more feminism began, as women battled to stay and their jobs and found independence. World War II is a clear example of an important spark in the fight of women’s rights, not only because of the new jobs women had but because of the passion that the women of the war held to not go back to their old lives. As women kept on fighting their new found independence a woman named Betty Friedan wrote a book called The Feminine Mystique. Friedan wanted the women to have questions about their role in society. They now were questioning their domestication and wanted to reconsider their role in society. In the post war era men of the nation again took over the important role and had begun, once again, to repress women, saying that women could only be happy in “sexual passivity, male domination, and nurturing maternal love” (Meyerowitz, 1993). Friedan pointed out that “full-time domesticity stunted women and denied their “basic human need to grow” (1993). She perceived that both men and women found enjoyment in their achievement in society. Friedan was also the first president of the National Organization. She found the National Women’s Political Caucus. Betty Friedan became a very powerful role model in the women’s movement by pursuing women to be more than wives and housemaids (Meyerowitz, 1993). Betty knew women had many advances in the war and wanted them to prove themselves again in society. Her book and encouraging words changed women forever.

Reference Page

  1. Bowles, M. (2011). American history 1865-present: End of isolation. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
  2. Litoff, J.B., & Smith, D. C. (2002). American women in a world at war. OAH Magazine of History, 16(3), 7, 9-12. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from
  3. Harper, I. H. (1906). Susan B. Anthony: The woman and her work. The North American Review, 182(593), 604-616. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from
  4. Ghajar, L. A. (n.d.). Military nurses in world war.
  5. Meyerowitz, J. (1993). Beyond the feminine mystique: A reassessment of postwar mass culture, 1946-1958. The Journal of American History, 79(4), 1455-1482. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from
  6. Edwins, L. (2012, Jul 24). Amelia Earhart: Pilot and feminist. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from
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  11. DuBois, E. C. (1987). Outgrowing the compact of the fathers: Equal rights, women suffrage, and the united. The Journal of American History, 74(3), 836-862. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from
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