Timeline of feminism in the United States

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This is a timeline of feminism in the United States. Antifeminist events are in the timeline of antifeminism in the United States.


  • Abigail Adams writes to her husband John at the Continental Congress on March 31: "...remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation."[1]


1800 to 1850[edit]

  • Connecticut allows married women to execute wills.[5]
  • Maine allows married women to manage property in their own name during the incapacity of their spouse.[6]
  • The first co-educational institution of higher learning, Oberlin College, is founded in Ohio. It grants women degrees equivalent to those granted men beginning in 1841.[7]
  • The New York Female Moral Reform Society is founded. It aims to transform the lives of prostitutes by providing shelter and moral guidance. Hundreds of similar groups are organized in the 1840s in New York and New England.[8]
  • Arkansas allows married women to manage property in their own name, but not to buy or sell it.[9]
  • Kentucky gives school suffrage, the right to vote at school meetings, to widows with children of school age.[11]
  • Iowa becomes the first U.S. state to allow a mother to have sole custody of a child in the event of divorce.[11]
  • Mississippi is the first U.S. state to give married women limited property rights.[11]
  • Mississippi's Married Women's Property Act 1839 grants married women the right to manage property in their own name.[12]
  • The Texas Constitution–adopted by the Republic of Texas before statehood–allows married women to own property in their own name.[13]
  • Maine is the first U.S. state to enact legislation allowing married women to own separate property in their own name (separate economy).[14] Its Sole Trader Law grants married women the ability to engage in business without their husbands' consent.[11]
  • Massachusetts grants married women separate economy.[15]
  • Pennsylvania and Michigan enact criminal seduction statutes, transforming earlier civil charges that could only be brought by the father of a woman who consented to sexual relations on the basis of a promise of marriage, into a criminal offense prosecuted by the state. Twenty states had such a statutes by 1900 and 35 by 1935, sometimes called criminal coercion.[16]
  • New York allows married women to hold patent rights.[17]
  • Ohio feminists organized a convention in April to start a petition for women's equal legal and political rights, the petition to be presented to the Ohio legislature.[22]
  • California's Married Women's Property Act grants married women separate economy.[23]
  • Wisconsin's Married Women's Property Act grants married women separate economy.[23]
  • Oregon allows unmarried women to own land.
  • The first National Women's Rights Convention was organized by Lucy Stone and Paulina Wright Davis, held in Worcester, Massachusetts, in October.

1851 to 1899[edit]

  • New Jersey grants married women separate economy.[15]
  • Massachusetts grants married women separate economy.[23]
  • Nineteenth-century United States advocates Mary Gove Nichols and Thomas Low Nichols publish Marriage: Its History, Character, and Results.[24]
  • Michigan grants married women separate economy.
  • The University of Iowa is founded, the first coeducational non-private university in the United States.[7]
  • Maine grants married women the right to control their own earnings.[15]
  • Kansas' Married Women's Property Act grants married women separate economy.[23]
  • New York passes a revised Married Women's Property Act that gives women shared ownership of their children, allowing them to have a say in their children's wills, wages, and granting them the right to inherit property.
  • Kansas gives school suffrage to all women. Many U.S. states do likewise before 1900.[11]
  • The AWSA launches its weekly Woman's Journal edited by Lucy Stone. It focuses narrowly on voting rights and acknowledges that voting rights for former slaves is a higher priority than women's suffrage. It ceases publication in 1931.[28]
  • The Utah Territory grants women the right to vote. The federal government withdrew it with the Edmunds-Tucker Act in 1887, but it was restored when a constitutional convention wrote the Utah Constitution when preparing for statehood.[29]
  • Colorado grants women the right to vote.[33]
  • Almost all U.S. states have passed some form of Sole Trader Law, Property Law, and Earnings Law, granting married women the right to trade without their husbands' consent, own or control their own property, and control their own earnings.[11]
  • On January 4, Utah becomes a state and its constitution providing for women's suffrage takes effect.[29]
  • Idaho grants women the right to vote.[34]


1900 to 1950[edit]

  • In Illinois, women are first elected to the procurer of the Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly of Chicago - the Bahai Temple Unity. Of the nine members elected by secret ballot three were women with Corinne True (later appointed as a Hand of the Cause) serving as an officer.[35]
  • Washington grants women the right to vote.[36]
  • California grants women the right to vote.[37]
  • Alaska grants women the right to vote.[38]
  • Montana and Nevada grant women the right to vote.[38]
  • The first two women are admitted to the American Bar Association on August 28 at the organization's annual meeting in Cleveland.[43]
  • Michigan, South Dakota, and Oklahoma grant women the right to vote.[38]
  • After President Woodrow Wilson calls a special session of Congress to consider the proposed women's suffrage amendment, the House of Representatives passes it on May 21 and the Senate passes it on June 4.
  • On August 18, Tennessee becomes the 36th state to ratify the women's suffrage amendment. It becomes the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and takes effect a few days later.[44]
  • Wife beating is outlawed nationwide.[45][46]
  • Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming becomes the first female governor, elected in November 1924 to succeed her husband, who died in October.[47]
  • Jeanette Rankin, a Republican and a pacifist, is the only member of Congress to vote against declaring war on Japan following the attack on Peal Harbor.[49]
  • The 1948 Women's Armed Services Integration Act establishes defined roles for women in the peacetime armed forces of the United States. They had previously only been allowed to serve as nurses in peacetime and in wider variety of roles only in time of war.[51]


  • Robin Morgan leads members of New York Radical Women in the No More Miss America protest against sexism and racism at the Miss America Pageant of 1968.[58][82]
  • The first national gathering of women's liberation activists is held in Lake Villa, Illinois.[83]
  • Coretta Scott King assumes leadership of the African-American Civil Rights Movement following the death of her husband, and expands the movement's platform to include women's rights.[84]
  • The EEOC issues revised guidelines on sex discrimination, making it clear that the widespread practice of publishing "help wanted" advertisements that use "male" and "female" column headings violates Title VII.[85]
  • New York feminists bury a dummy representing "Traditional Womanhood" at the all-women's Jeannette Rankin Brigade demonstration against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C.[58]
  • The first public speakout against abortion laws is held in New York City.[58]
  • Notes from the First Year, a women's liberation theoretical journal, is published by New York Radical Women.[86]
  • NOW celebrates Mother's Day with the slogan "Rights, Not Roses".[87]
  • Mary Daly, professor of theology at Boston College, publishes a critique of the Catholic Church's view and treatment of women entitled The Church and the Second Sex.[88]
  • The term "sexism" appears in print for the first time in Caroline Bird's speech "On Being Born Female", published on November 15, 1968, in Vital Speeches of the Day[69] In this speech she said in part, "There is recognition abroad that we are in many ways a sexist country. Sexism is judging people by their sex when sex doesn’t matter. Sexism is intended to rhyme with racism. Both have used to keep the powers that be in power."[69]
  • The radical organization Redstockings is organized.[89]
  • Members of Redstockings disrupt a New York Legislature hearing on abortion laws where the panel of witnesses are 14 men and a nun.[58]
  • The National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), later NARAL Pro-Choice America, is founded.[90]
  • California becomes the first state to adopt a "no fault" divorce law, allowing couples to divorce by mutual consent. By 2010 every state has adopted a similar law. California also passes legislation regarding equal division of common property.


  • The Equal Credit Opportunity Act becomes law. It prohibits discrimination in consumer credit practices on the basis of sex, race, marital status, religion, national origin, age, or receipt of public assistance.[122]
  • In Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that employers cannot justify paying women lower wages because that is what they traditionally received under the "going market rate." A wage differential occurring "simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women" is unacceptable.[123]
  • First Lady Betty Ford announces her pro-choice position.[124][124][125]
  • The Mexican-American Women's National Association is founded.[126]
  • The American Coalition of Labor Union Women is founded.[127]
  • The Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) of 1974 is enacted to promote educational equity for girls and women, including those who suffer multiple discrimination based on gender and on race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, or age, and to provide funds to help education agencies and institutions meet the requirements of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.[128]
  • Dell Williams founds the first feminist sex toy business in the United States, Eve's Garden, in New York City,[129][130][130] the first woman-owned and woman-operated sex toy business in the U.S.[129]
  • In Taylor v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that women can not be excluded from a jury pool on the basis of having to register for jury duty, overturning Hoyt v. Florida, the 1961 case that had allowed such a practice.[131]
  • U.S. federal employees' salaries can be garnished for child support and alimony.[132]
  • Tish Sommers, chairwoman of NOW's Older Women Task Force, coins the phrase "displaced homemaker".[133]
  • American feminist Susan Brownmiller publishes Against Our Will, her book about rape.[134]
  • NOW sponsors "Alice Doesn't" Day, asking women across the country to go on strike for one day.[135]
  • Joan Little, who was raped by a guard while in jail, is acquitted of murdering her offender. The case established a precedent for rape as self-defense against the charge of murder.[136]
  • In New York City, the First Women's Bank opens in April. It is modestly profitable for several years.[137]
  • The United States Armed Forces opens its military academies to women.[131]
  • Time names American Women as its Time Person of the Year for 1975. It says: "[F]eminism has transcended the feminist movement. In 1975 the women's drive penetrated every layer of society, matured beyond ideology to a new status of general–and sometimes unconscious–acceptance."[138]
  • The first "Take Back the Night" march is held in Philadelphia in October, following the murder of a microbiologist, Susan Alexander Speeth, who was stabbed to death while walking home alone.[139][dubious ]
  • Ella T. Grasso becomes Governor of Connecticut, the first female governor who does not succeed her husband in office.[140]
  • The first National Women's Conference since the Seneca Falls Convention is held in Houston. Some 20,000 women from all over the country pass a National Plan of Action.[146]
  • The National Association of Cuban-American Women is established.[147]
  • The first women pilots of the United States Air Force graduate.[148]
  • The Washington Supreme Court declares that Yvonne Wanrow, on trial for murder, is entitled to have a jury consider her actions in the light of her "perceptions of the situation, including those perceptions which were the product of our nation's long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination."[149] The ruling was the first to recognize the legal problems of women who defend themselves or their children from male attackers.[149][150]
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination against pregnant women in the U.S. It prohibits requiring a woman to take pregnancy leave if she is willing and able to work.[151]


In the U.S., the early 1980s were marked by the end of the second wave and the beginning of the feminist sex wars. Many historians view the second-wave feminist era in America as ending in the early 1980s with the intra-feminism disputes of the feminist sex wars over issues such as sexuality and pornography, which ushered in the era of third-wave feminism in the early 1990s.

  • In the first recorded use of the phrase glass ceiling, magazine editor Gay Bryant, a woman, tells an interviewer for AdWeek that "Women have reached a certain point—I call it the glass ceiling. They're in the top of middle management and they're stopping and getting stuck."[155]
  • Geraldine Ferraro runs for vice president, the first female candidate of a major American political party.[156]


In the early 1990s, the Riot grrrl movement begins in Olympia, Washington, and Washington, D.C. It sought to give women the power to control their voices and artistic expressions.

  • The November elections in what is popularly termed the "Year of the Woman" produce victories for four women in races for U.S. Senate seats, who in 1993 join the two already there.
  • Third Wave Direct Action Corporation is founded by feminists Rebecca Walker and Shannon Liss as a multiracial, multicultural, multi-issue organization to support young activists.[161]


  • CBS agrees to pay $8 million to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit on behalf of 200 women.[174]
  • The March for Women's Lives is held in Washington, D.C., to support the right to abortion, access to birth control, scientifically accurate sex education, and prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and to show public support for mothers and children.[175]
  • Diana Bijon's husband takes her last name upon marriage, taking advantage of a law enacted in California allowing spouses and registered domestic partners to take either's last name. The law was passed after the couple had sued for the right to so.[178]
  • Federal hate-crime law includes crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender.[179]
  • Sex discrimination is outlawed in health insurance.[180]


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