In the early days, women were considered inferior to men in many ways. They were "not as strong or as smart" and were looked down upon as a major source of temptation or evil. In greek mythology, for example, Pandora opened the forbidden box and brought plauges and unhappiness to all mankind. In Roman law they were looked upon as children. In the 13th century Thomas Aquinas the christain theologian decided that women were "created to be man's helpmeet, but her unique role is in conception . . . since for other purposes men would be better assisted by other men." "The attitude toward the women in the East were more favorable,in achient india women were not deprived of property rights, or individual freedoms by marriage." In India around 500 bc Hinduism required obeidence of women towards men. When they were allowed personal and intellectual freedom, women made amazing achievements. During the Middle Ages nuns played a key role in the religious life of Europe. Aristocratic women enjoyed power and prestige. Whole eras were influenced by women rulers for instance, Queen Elizabeth of England, Catherine the Great of Russia, and Queen Victoria of England.

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The Women's suffrage movement started in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. It was led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. Stanton and Mott drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, which was based off the Declaration of Independence. The declaration included the right for women to vote. In 1869, women's movement split into two groups. The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) was led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) was led by Lucy Stone and her husband, Henry Blackwell. In doing this movement, the 15th amendment, in 1870, mentioned black men could vote, but not women. In 1890 the two groups merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Then, they concentrated on producing reforms on a state level. Women got to vote in Colorado in 1893, then in Utah and Idaho in 1896, Washington in 1910, California in 1911, Arizona, Kansas, and Oregon in 1912, Illinois in 1913, and Nevada and Montana in 1914. In the early 1900s, the women's suffrage movement got a new group of women to its ranks. Women that attracted more women in the middle class were Carrie Chapman Cat and Maud Wood Park. From the working class, Alice Paul, Harriot E. Blatch, and Lucy Burns. In their acts to protest, suffragists marched and paraded. In 1913, the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage was created by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. In 1917, the group evolved into National Women's Party. Paul was arrested and sentenced to seven months in jail due to petitioning, 500 women were arrested for picketing and 168 women were arrested for impeding traffic. In 1918, the House of Representatives passes an amendment granting women's suffrage, but the Senate defeated it. In 1919, two more amendments were passed, but neither of them made it. In 1920, the 19th amendment to the Constitution was ratified by the states. The suffrage went into the 1930s.


The Depression did little to change the role of women in the American workplace. According to the 1930 census almost eleven million women, or 24.3 percent of all women in the country, were employed. Three out of every ten of these working women were in domestic or personal service. Out of professional women three-quarters were schoolteachers or nurses. The 1940 census did not post dramatic changes in the numbers of working women: thirteen million women over the age of fourteen, worked. The greatest numbers of women worked in domestic service, with clerical workers just behind. Out of every ten women workers in 1940, three were in clerical or sales work, two were in factories, two in domestic service, one was a professional (a teacher or a nurse) and one was a service worker. Women in the 1930s in entered the workforce at a rate twice that of men, only because employers were willing to hire them at reduced wages. Women made up 7 percent of all workers in the automobile industry and 25 percent of all workers in the electrical industry. The integrated International Ladies Garment Workers Union had 200,000 members in Harlem high wages of $45 to $50 per week.

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