Though the feminist movement started in the 1800s, most people associate it with the 1900s. the early part of the century saw the suffrage movement increase in popularity and eventually emerge victorious. The second wave of feminism, which dates from around 1946 to 1973, did not have a single victory like the first wave. Instead second wave feminists argued for all sorts of improvements ranging from the right to elect an abortion to the right to attend all universities.
These highlights capture a few of the events and people involved in feminist causes in the 1900s.
1910: A Manís World, a feminist play, appeared on Broadway. It was an early play in the career of Rachel Crothers, a prominent twentieth century playwright.
1911: An estimated 146 women died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire. These women, all working in poor conditions in the garment district, served as a rallying cry for feminists as well as labor activists fighting for better conditions.
1920: Women gain the right to vote! Tennessee was the 19th state to ratify the vote, which made it a constitutional amendment.
1921: Mary Elliott Flanery is the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives from a Southern state.
1929: Ella May Wiggins is killed during a strike in North Carolina. Wiggins was killed on the way to a protest against unfair labor practices. She became a rallying cry for other activists.
1935: Mary McLeod Bethune, the famed educator, formed the National Council of Negro Women. This organization still exists with the purpose of supporting advocacy and research efforts for African American women.
1948: Gretchen Fraser won the Olympic gold medal in skiing. The first American, male or female, to do so, Fraser became a spokesperson for skiing as a sport and worked tirelessly to promote it until her death in 1994.
1955: A group of women in Montgomery, Alabama worked to devise a plan to protest bus seating segregation. These women included Rosa Parks, who received the most coverage for her arrest and the subsequent boycott.
1963: Congress passes the Equal Pay Act. This act makes it illegal for employers to pay less based on gender, but most studies report little real progress on the wage gap.
1972: Title IX passed Congress. This educational policy makes it illegal to provide support at different levels for girls and boys activitis. Though it has become synonymous with sports, Title IX applies to all educational investments.
1973: The Supreme Court heard Roe v. Wade and determined women could get elective abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy.
1977: Janet Guthrie competed in the Indianapolis 500 as the first female NASCAR driver. Guthrie worked as a flight instructor and engineer before moving into racing.
1980: MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is formed. MADD has gained a reputation as a fierce advocacy group and enjoys national prominence.
1997: Alexis Herman became the first African American woman to be named Secretary of Labor under the Bill Clinton administration. Herman worked in business before becoming heavily involved in politics. She served as a top advisor to Clinton and served as deputy directory of his transition team.