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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: April 2014

10 - The Quest for Equality


The first section of this chapter deals with women's struggle for political rights and provides a detailed account of the entire course of political action from Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 till the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution that granted women the right to vote. The section ends with a critical evaluation of the movement focussing on the elements of alienations and exclusions in it. The second section traces the quest for equality among the African-Americans, and how long and difficult the entire course had been till their fight brought final success through civil rights and suffrage. It is a detailed depiction from the origin of slavery in colonial America to emancipation through Reconstruction (the fruits of which were limited) to their final victory through legal battles and violent activism in the later part of the Civil Rights Movement.

a. Women Suffrage Movement, 1848–1920

There is a rich history of women's rights movements, especially initiatives pressing for women's political rights in every country against long-held notions of female inferiority. In her article ‘Women Suffrage and the Left: An International Socialist-Feminist Perspective’, Ellen Dubois rightly points out, ‘It is difficult to imagine a richer subject for a comparative history of democracy than the enfranchisement of women… Whereas manhood suffrage, for instance, or the breaking of the political color bar, have occurred more erratically, with limited links between national experiences, woman suffrage has been a self-consciously transnational popular political movement.’ The results were hard-won by courageous women who risked ridicule, and even imprisonment, by confronting society's acceptance of gender inequality.

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