Imagine if you were in her shoes….

May 12th, 2017

By Karen Osburn, Archivist

It is 1769 and the American colonies base their laws on the English common law. One law reads: “By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in the law. The very being and legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated into that of her husband under whose wing and protection she performs everything.” A young woman’s husband is reminding her of this.  Imagine if you were in her shoes….

It is 1839 and Mississippi becomes the first state to grant women the right to hold property in their own name… with their husbands’ permission. A woman’s husband is reminding her of this. Imagine if you were in her shoes…

statue of a woman sitting in a chair

Elizabeth Blackwell Statue at HWS

It is 1848 and you hear of a large group of women and men gathering for a convention supporting women’s rights in Seneca Falls.  One hundred people sign the Declaration of Sentiments, a plea for the end of discrimination against women in all spheres of society.…  How do you feel? Do you attend?

It is 1855 and in a court case, Missouri v. Celia, a Slave, a Black woman is declared to be property without a right to defend herself against a master’s act of rape.  Imagine you are in her shoes…

It is 1869 and the first woman suffrage law is passed in the Territory of Wyoming… What do you think?

It is 1873 and the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a state can prevent a married woman from practicing law… How do you feel?

In 1875 the U.S. Supreme Court declares that a state can prohibit a woman from voting. The court says women are “persons,” but up holds the idea that they constitute a “special category of nonvoting citizens.”…What do you think?

In 1890 Wyoming becomes the first state to grant women the right to vote in all elections…Do you approve?

By 1900 every state in the U.S. has passed laws giving married women some control over their property and their earnings…Are you elated?

In 1918 Margaret Sanger wins her lawsuit in New York to allow doctors to advise their married patients about birth control for health purposes…Does your husband approve?

In 1920 Congress gives women in the U.S. the right to vote…Do you register to vote?

The 1932 National Recovery Act forbids more than one family member from holding a government job; resulting in many women losing their jobs…Do you think this is fair?

In 1965  the United States Supreme Court overturns one of the last state laws prohibiting the prescription Booklet cover to "Why Women Should Vote' By Jane Addamsor use of contraceptives by married couples…Do you think what took you so long?

By 1969 the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rules that women meeting the physical requirements can work in many jobs that had been for men only… Do you think it is about time?

In 1981 The U.S. Supreme Court rules that excluding women from the draft is constitutional…Are you relieved?

By 1981 a court decision overturns state laws designating a husband “head and master” with unilateral control of property owned jointly with his wife…Do you now open your own bank account?

In 1984 the state of Mississippi belatedly ratifies the 19th Amendment, granting women the vote…Do you wonder why it took them so long to do this?

By 2007 Nancy Pelosi becomes the first female speaker of the House…Do you think Nancy who?

In 2008 Hillary Clinton is the only First Lady to run for president…Do you decide to vote based on gender alone?

Finally in 2009 Sonia Sotomayor nominated as the 111th U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Sotomayor becomes the first Hispanic American and the third woman to serve…Have you become complacent and wonder what the big deal is?

These events and questions are points to make you think back to the not so distant past and look at how far we have come.  Can you identify with the women who were considered their husband’s property?  Can you comprehend how hard women have worked to get where we are today?  Do you remember a time when you felt discriminated against?  Do you remember when women could not wear trousers or jeans to work or to school?  Do you remember when women had a hard time getting credit cards?  Do you take the rights we have for granted?  Do you vote in every election?

I hope this blog has given you food for thought….

Dates and events gathered from the National Women’s History Project


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