Curated Groupings

"The Idea of Equal Rights Was in the Air" : Women of the 19th Century

During the nineteenth century, women fought for varied social reforms, such as education, child labor limits, workplace safety, temperance,  and the end of slavery. Women struggled for their own freedoms as well, one of which was the right to vote. 

Most nineteenth-century women were still thought to belong in the domestic sphere, many rarely being able to find work outside of the home. In June 1861 the U.S. Sanitary Commission was founded with the goal to generate financial and medical supplies for Union soldiers. The commission recruited and managed numerous nurses throughout the war. Women had the choice in compensation of twelve dollars a month or 40 cents a day (plus meals). Others became nurses not with the Sanitary Commission but as volunteers. Many of them had no formal medical schooling and taught themselves on the job. Women also found other ways to serve the war effort: some were spies passing secrets across enemy lines, and at least 400 women fought as soldiers disguised as men.

The nineteenth century also brought the beginning of the women's suffrage movement. In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first women's suffrage convention, which produced the Declaration of Sentiments. This document was  modeled off the Declaration of Independence and called for professional and educational opportunities for women in addition to the right to control their own wages. White women did not win the right to vote until 1920, while it was not until the 1960s that Black women could reliably access the voting booth.

It is important to note that many stories of women, especially women of color, have been lost or untold over the years. While their stories may be lost to history, their efforts to create a better world for future generations remain evident today.