Through the years, women have had to fight
hard to overcome the problems they have faced. 
Women, historically, have been treated by society as unequal to men. Equality
is one of the main problems that women have fought against.  While equality with men has not completely
been achieved yet, women have made great progress and have broken many barriers
holding them back.  Women have had to work
hard for what they have gained over the years and they are still fighting for
what they deserve.  It wasn’t just the
problems themselves that they had to fight against it, was the images that
women were given that they also had to overcome.  Some of the roles women were given in society
were played up by media. Throughout history, women have faced problems such as
gaining the right to vote, being respected in the workforce, and earning equal
rights to men.  Women have played many
different roles and portrayed many different images in the eyes of media and society,
but over time, they have worked hard to overcome those traditional views and
form a new respected image.

Over the years most of the problems that
women have faced come from the inequality they had with men.  In the book Diversity in U.S Mass Media, the author states that “Over the past
80 years, women, though comprising more than half of the population in
virtually any given year, have had to fight for equal rights with men in terms
of voting, pay, employment opportunity, leadership opportunity and more.” (Luther, Lepre, and Clark, 2012 p. 154).  Women’s desire for equal rights led to the
creation of the feminist movement.  According
to Webster’s Dictionary, Feminism is defined as “an organized activity on
behalf of women’s rights and interest and the theory of the political,
economic, and social equality of the sexes” (Definition of FEMINISM, 2017).  Although women didn’t get all the rights they
deserved at the same time, they did not give up until they got what they
wanted. As the years passed, women began more movements and continued the fight
for equality.  The movements they formed
happened at various points in history referred to as feminist waves.  Each of these waves ended with success in
some form, but not long after each success, a new movement would begin.

The first wave feminist movement started in
the late 1800s and continued well into the 1920s.  The height of the first wave came in the
middle of the fight for women’s right to vote also known as the women’s
suffrage movement (Luther, Lepre and Clark, 2012 p. 154).  Gaining the right to vote entered the minds
of women long before the turn of the twentieth century.  In the article Women’s Suffrage: The Movement by John Hanson, it was said that
“The beginning of the struggle for woman’s suffrage in the United States is
usually traced to “The Declaration of Sentiments” produced in 1848 at the first
woman’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, N. Y.” (Hanson, 2011).  Hanson continues with stating what the
declaration says, “that all men and women are created equal, that they are
endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Hanson, 2011). The women of this
time believed wholeheartedly in that statement and they were going to see it

The 1948 convention was just the start of the
battle for the right of women to vote. After the convention, many of the women
were looked at differently by society. Most men and even some women argued against
this movement, but that didn’t stop the feminist of that time such as Elizabeth
Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony from continuing the fight (“The Nineteenth Amendment”, 2016). Moving into the start
of the civil war, the women’s suffrage movement lost momentum and began to slow
down. The movement was still alive, but women had much more to worry about and with
their husbands being gone in war time. It wasn’t until after the civil war and
the addition of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments that the
first wave feminist movement was back in full swing. When the men returned home
from war they could see that the women have changed, in the way they took charge
at home and became more independent (Hanson, 2011). In the article The Nineteenth Amendment the author states,
“In 1866, the year following the war, as the
nation was grappling with the passage and ratification of the Thirteenth
Amendment, which ended slavery, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
two leading advocates for female rights and equality, formed the American Equal
Rights Association (AERA) to push for additional rights not just for women but
for freed slaves.” (“The Nineteenth Amendment”, 2016). The formation of the
association showed that women were not just concerned for the rights of women
but the rights of all humans. This was a huge step in the right direction, by
giving people something to belong to, this the motivation that pushed these
movements forward.  

 Women moved forward in the fight for the right
to vote, with court cases and applies but the majority of them got denied in
the process. These women wanted their voices to be heard, some of their efforts
included rallies, protest, and lobbing within congress. Some women that
participated in these protests were taken to jail because of their efforts. In
the book, “The 51% Minority” the
author Lis Wiehl says “One of the movement’s leaders, Alice Paul, went on a
hunger strike in jail, and the tied her down and force-fed her three times a
day for three weeks.” (Wiehl, 2007 p.xiv). This is
just one of the many ways that women used their bodies and actions to catch the
attention of the government, media, and citizens of the United States. Many of
their efforts went unacknowledged by congress. The Article “The Womens Suffrage Movement” states that,
“In 1878, a constitutional amendment was proposed that provided “The right of
citizens to vote shall not be abridged by the United States or by any State on
account of sex.” This same amendment would be introduced in every session of
Congress for the next 41 years” (Hanson, 2011). Each time the amendment was
introduced it failed to make it through completion as a federal law. In the
course of the 41 years some states did legalize the right for women to vote in
state and local elections. The first state to agree to the women’s right to
vote was Wyoming (Hanson, 2011). Wyoming agreed to let women vote in the year
1869 but Wyoming was not recognized as a state until the year 1890, and at that
point it was the first and only state with full women’s suffrage (“The
Nineteenth Amendment”, 2010).  The years
following several more states would give women the right to vote such as Utah,
Colorado, Kansas, Indiana and many more (Hanson, 2011).  Gaining the right to vote in these states, was
the biggest achievement for these women so far. It just showed them that if
they keep working hard and pushing, they will eventually get what they want.
What they wanted was the right for all women to vote in the United States.

In January of 1918 the United
States House of Representatives passed the Nineteenth Amendment, only for it to
fail in the Senate September of that same year (“The Nineteenth Amendment,
2010). That was not the end of the fight, the following year the amendment
would be passed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.  On August 10, 1920 the nineteenth amendment
declaring that women had the right to vote was ratified and became part of the
Constitution of the United States (Braden, 1996 p.19). Women now had the right
to vote for federal, state, and local elections in each state. Women had
finally won the battle they have been fighting against for years. The
dedication and determination of the women is what led to the success of the
amendment. Women became one step closer to their dream of equality.  

Feminist would continue the
fight of equality with men in the second wave feminist movement. The second
wave feminist movement focused on women entering the workplace and women’s
rights with family and sexuality (Luther, Lepre and Clark, 2012 p.154-155). The
book “The 51% minority” says “women
in the workplace were frowned upon, as they would be taking a job that might go
to a husband or father” (Wiehl, 2007 p.xv). There were times when women were
looked down upon if they had a job. Many of these women were told by their
husbands they were not allowed to have jobs. Women that did have jobs, worked
in less physically demanding jobs such as nursing, teaching or inside an office.
It wasn’t until World War II that most women had been given the opportunity to
work.  During the war men were drafted
and had to leave home to fight for our country. Women were asked to step up and
take on roles that the men had left behind. They were asked to work in jobs
that women have never had the opportunity to work in before. A lot of the jobs
that women were asked to take on were physically demanding. The author of the
book “The 51% Minority” said “Women
could help win the war by working, and six million Rosie the Riveters went into
the workforce” (Wiehl, 2007 p.xv). Rosie the Riveter was an inspirational
character for women in advertisements, she gave women motivation to join the
workforce during war time. Rosie became an image woman could relate to, they
gained courage and strength, and the ability to believe in themselves. Women went
to work, they enjoyed it, and they gained the feeling they were needed and appreciated.

When the war was over, so
was the need and appreciation for women in these positions. Men came home to
find the women they had left behind working hard to take care of their family. Men
were not happy to see many of their jobs being preformed by women. The men that
came home from war, viewed women as incapable of preforming these physically
demanding jobs as well as they could. Lis Wiehl states in her book “The 51% Minority” that “When the boys
came marching home, the girls were expected to move out of the way” (Wiehl,
2007 p.xv). Many women were force out of work and made to go back home. Wiehl
goes on to say, “Though 98 percent of women polled at the time said they would
like to use the skills they had acquired and continue working, one out of every
four lost her factory job.” (Wiehl, 2007 p.xvi). Women wouldn’t take no for an
answer, they liked being out of the house, working and feeling useful in
society. Throughout the 1950s women would struggle getting hired in positions because
of their gender, companies would much rather hire a man over a woman. Many of
these companies preferred men over women when hiring, because they felt that
men were better equipped for physical labor. Women were being discriminated against
in the workplace, because of their gender.

Second wave feminist worked alongside
of civil rights activist to fight for equality in the workforce. Along with
women, African Americans were not given the same opportunities in the workplace
as white men. Once again because of looks someone wouldn’t be considered for
employment. Through the success of the Civil Rights Movement women and African
Americans would become one step closer to equality. In the book Challenge & Change the author says,
“A great step toward receiving equal rights for women came with the passage of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination on
the basis of sex.” (Benowitz, 2015 p.235). Title VII also ruled against the
discrimination of race, color, religion, and national origin in employment
(Wiehl, 2007 p.xvi). Women finally achieved yet another milestone in the fight
for equality. Women proved themselves, increasingly women would enter the
workforce. The fight for equality to men has still not been won entirely, but
women have come a long way on this journey of equality and fair treatment.   

Throughout these year’s in history, women
have been viewed in several ways such as homemakers that years later make a
transition into career women.  These
views were not only the view of society but the depiction of women throughout
multiple media platforms.  For much of
American history, women were primarily viewed as homemakers and housewives.  The role of a homemaker is to keep the house
in order, make sure that all the cooking and cleaning gets done.  Majority of these women that were considered
homemakers were married and had children. 
Society thought women were worthless outside of being a housewife and
that women needed the guidance and protection of a man (Busby and Leichty,
1993). Society also thought that men should be the bread winners and head of
the household, thus leaving women powerless.  Images of women in the home overtook
magazines, advertisements, newspapers, television, and films. This image of
women lasted from the end of the 1800’s to the mid 1900’s.

Magazines in early years kept the idea of
homemakers alive by giving women the idea that they had to be perfect (Luther, Lepre and Clark, 2012 p.185).  The idea of being perfect kept women
interested in reading the magazines.  In
the book Diversity in U.S. Mass Media the
author states, “The magazines they read in the early 1900s included information
on how to keep a better home, how to behave and look like a lady, how best to
care for your husband and children, and how to cook to please your family.”
(Luther, Lepre, and Clark, 2012 p.185). During this time these were the kind of
story’s women wanted to read because it was the only thing they knew. As stated
by the authors of the article Feminism
and Advertising in Traditional and Nontraditional Women’s Magazines 1950s-1980s,
advertising in magazines before the 1970 pictured women at home with aprons on
cooking or cleaning (Busby and Leichty, 1993). This just enhanced the
stereotype that women were made to be housewives. The image of women was no
different in newspapers, but the representation of women journalist was even
worse. According to Maria Braden the Author of Women Politics and the Media if women were journalist they rarely
covered anything outside of the women’s pages (Braden,
1996 p.12). The women’s pages covered topics about the home and things
women cared about. Because women were writing the material things they cared
about mostly got posted in these pages. Braden goes on to say that women would
not get to cover material outside of the women’s pages until World War II, and
after the war women were sent back to their old jobs or worse they were sent
back to tend to the home (Braden, 1996 p.12-13). Women journalist had a tough
time getting to cover material that was considered outside of their field of

            Continuing this idea of
women being housewives, the new electronic media of television, radio, and film
also contributed to this perception of women. In entertainment television women
still fell into gender stereotypical rolls and were greatly underrepresented
(Luther, Lepre, and Clark, 2012 p.163).  Women
couldn’t escape this reputation in media. Electronic media made the
representation of women more visual, in the sense that you could see it played
out on screen. In the book The 51%
Minority author, Lis Weihl says “early television shows pushed an image of
family togetherness in which the male ruled supreme and the woman, in her
starched apron was intended to find her fulfillment by concentrating on the
children and the nest, to the exclusion of all else.” (Weihl, 2007 p.xv). Women
in television and film were important to the storyline but, they had specific
roles to play and never ventured outside of the stereotypical role. Examples of
this can be seen in shows such as Leave
It to Beaver and I Love Lucy (Luther,
Lepre, and Clark, 2012 p.163). Television and film would continue to show women
in the home for many years.

            The image of women throughout
media wouldn’t change until the 1960s. Women would make the transition from a
happy housewife to a successful working career woman. The change of this image
started shortly after women gained equal entry into the workplace. The change
was monumental because women themselves were the reason their imaged changed.
They went from only working in the home to working in society and having
successful jobs. Women changed the way they wanted to be viewed in society by changing
themselves and taking on new roles, and it reflected throughout media. Women
wanted to be represented as they were in real life, hardworking and successful.
Women as career women would become more prevalent in television and film before
any other types of media. The authors of Diversity
in U.S. Mass Media say, “The single, working woman began making an
appearance on television in the late 1960s and 1970s” (Luther, Lepre, and
Clark, 2012 p.164). This was a big change in the way media portrayed women,
they were shown to now have a life outside of the home. Television shows now
showed women going to work each day and coming home to take care of their
families. One of the best ways this was depicted, was in the show Julia, she was a single working mom just
trying to support her family (Luther, Lepre, and Clark, 2012 p.164). Print
media was slow to transition into this idea of the career women. Print media
wouldn’t start depicting women as more than a housewife until the late 1970s
and 1980s (Senat, 2004 p.74). In fact, before the change in media women were
not pictured as “women” but rather as “girls”, but when more women became
journalist they saw a need to change the image of women and they did (Senat,
2004). The image of career women in media is still prevalent in todays media.
Women are depicted as smart, educated, powerful, and successful in their jobs.  

            Throughout history
women played many roles in changing the way they were represented in society
and media. Women faced many problems such as gaining the right to vote, respect
in the workplace, and equality with men. With hard work and determination women
succeeded in overcoming these problems and the stereotypes that women were labeled
with. Women are still working hard to brake the molds that society and media tries
to put them in.  


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