History of Feminism

This paper will trace the history of feminism and how it has fought gender-stereotyping beginning with early liberal feminism through to twentieth century liberal feminism and then touch upon aspects of post-modern feminism.

During the Age of Enlightenment, a type of early liberal feminism was spawned from the same type of thought as those political liberals who were writing about "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". For example, women like Abigail Adams from the United States were pushing to be accepted on equal terms with men, to be awarded equal opportunities and suffrage (Allen, 1998). In the meantime, women like Mary Wollstonecraft published works such as Vindication of the Rights of Women, detailing how the privileged existences of some women did more harm than good by sacrificing health and liberty for power and prestige (Tong, 1989). Wollstonecraft, while not discussing "gender roles" further asserted that if men were consigned to the same type of lifestyle that women were, their behavior would be similar in nature (Tong, 1989). Similar to other philosophers in this time period, the emphasis was on how reason separated the human from the animal. The rationale used by such feminists as Wollstonecraft at this time was that since women are not animals and are human, they have as much a capacity for reason as men, and therefore deserve the same education needed to develop a fully productive person in society (Tong, 1989).



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