US Feminism

The gender norms that have been socially constructed in the US throughout History are not determined by biology, instead, they have been crafted through patriarchy. The likes of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony dared to challenge this patriarchal society, starting the feminist movement in the US. How did they do this? Were they successful? And how does the feminist movement look today?

US Feminism US Feminism

Create learning materials about US Feminism with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Table of contents

    Emergence of the USA as a World Power

    The US emerged as a large world power during the 1900s due to their victory over Spain in 1989. This enhanced the US military reach across China to Latin America. US economic reach spread quickly across the globe alongside the industrialisation of the nation. With these advancements came a sense of US power, independence and determination, not only among the men of the nation but among the women too.

    US Feminism Woman Suffrage Stamp 1920-1970 StudySmarterFig. 1 Woman Suffrage Stamp 1920-1970

    History of Feminism in America

    Feminist movements in America are sorted by their dates and categorised into 'waves'. The timeline below shows the progression of the US feminist movement through these stages, with some key dates and events!

    Wave of Feminism

    A period of time which focuses on increasing women's status and rights to a level equal to men.

    19 July 1848The Women’s Rights Convention. Also recognised as the beginning of the First Wave of feminism.
    29 May 1851Sojourner Truth delivered her famous "Ain't I a Woman?" speech.
    10 December 1869Women were granted the right to vote and hold office when the legislature of the territory of Wyoming passed America’s first woman suffrage law.
    15 May 1869The National Woman Suffrage Association was founded by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
    16 October 1916Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the US.
    18 August 1920The Susan B. Anthony Amendment.
    1960sThe beginning of the second wave of feminism.
    9 May 1960The first commercially produced birth control pill in the world was approved by the FDA.
    2 July 1964Lyndon B. Johnson, signed the Civil Rights Act into law: which banned employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin or sex.
    1990sThe beginning of the third wave of feminism.
    Late 20th centuryThe "My Body, My Choice" movement began.
    2010sThe beginning of the fourth wave of feminism.

    Did you know?

    The National American Woman Suffrage Association is a combination of the American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman Suffrage Association, they joined together in 1890!

    The Susan B. Anthony Amendment

    The completion of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. This declared that ""the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." 1

    US Feminism Southern Woman's League for Rejection of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment StudySmarterFig. 2 Southern Woman's League for Rejection of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment

    Characteristics of Feminism

    The main thesis of Feminism is a social movement which has fought for, and in most cases still fights for, the following reasons:

    • Women's suffrage

    • A woman's right to an education

    • Fights against gender stereotypes

    • Fights against performative behaviours

    • Reproductive rights for women

    • The right for women to own their property

    • Equal pay in the workplace among men and women at the same level of the job

    American Feminist Movement

    The 1960s saw the uprising of feminist movements, the women of the US were inspired and driven by the actions and changes they had seen become real through the Civil Rights Movement, and women of all classes and ages started the fight that would aim to produce a role for women in the American society that they were satisfied with.

    Lucretia Mott

    Women's rights activist, social reformer and abolitionist, Lucretia Mott, was among the many women who played vital roles in the early feminist movement. Her status as an abolitionist was supported by her many movements, for example, she was the founder of the 1833 Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. Mott also wrote the Declaration of Sentiments alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1848 and is therefore credited as one of the catalysts of the fight for women's suffrage.

    US Feminism Lucretia Mott StudySmarterFig. 3 Lucretia Mott

    Also known as the women's liberation movement, the women's rights movement can be seen as a diverse social movement and the US is often recognised as its origin of growth. The movement originally aimed to deconstruct the inequality that was in the workplace, such as the denial of salary equality and job opportunities during the 1960s and 1970s. Over time, many different forms of feminism and groups of feminists have been a product of different opinions on how feminist such act and think to seek equal rights, greater personal freedom among women and fair opportunity for all.

    The Four Types of Feminism

    Radical Feminism

    Those who follow Radical Feminism approach the exploitation of women as though it is the fault of men who have benefitted from the subordination of Women. They believe that women are oppressed in comparison to men and that this is because of a patriarchal society.


    A society dominated or ruled by a group of men rather than women.

    Rosemarie Tong defines two groups of Radical Feminists 2:

    Radical-libertarian feminists:

    • Believe that it is possible and desirable for gender differences to be eradicated.
    • They aim for a state of androgyny in which women and men aren't as significantly different.

    Radical-cultural feminists:

    • Believe in the superiority of the feminine.
    • Celebrate characteristics such as emotion, as they are commonly associated with femininity.
    • They are described as hostile to the hierarchy.

    Marxist Feminism

    Marxist feminists believe that capitalism is the source of the oppression of women. They also believe that capitalists benefit from women's oppression. They think that...

    • There is a possibility for cooperation between both working-class men and women.

    • Believe that gender inequality would decrease in a Communist Society.

    Liberal Feminism

    In liberal Feminism, its followers believe that there are no beneficiaries from the inequalities between genders, outlining that men and women are both victims. They believe that gender inequality is not created and fed by institutions in society, but by culture.

    • Men and women are put into strict gender roles due to socialisation.
    • They aim for a change in the structure that already exists in society, not revolutionary change.
    • The main thesis is the fight for equal opportunities.

    Difference/Postmodern Feminism

    Difference Feminists don't recognise women as one single homogenous group. They are often concerned with sexism in education, and language, viewing the connection between knowledge and power as a key element in the right for equality.

    Did you know?

    The third wave of feminism started in the 1990s, it was in response to how the second wave was perceived as acting in the privileging of white, straight women.

    First Wave Feminism

    The First Wave of Feminism often refers to the movements that took place between the late 19th century and the early 20th century. This period of feminism was tasked to gain basic legal rights for the women of the US. During this time, the leaders of the feminist movement aimed for legal and educational reform, respect and listeners.

    Did you know?

    Feminists are often said to have been inspired by events such as the Temperance Movement, Abolitionist Movement and the French Revolution and the strategy used within them.

    The event which is tied closely to this wave of feminism is the Women's Rights Convention of July 1848.

    Women's Rights Convention of July 1848

    The Women's Rights Convention of July 1848 is a very significant feminist-led event, it represented the movement of women's suffrage as it was the first women's rights convention that was actually organised by women their selves.

    • Held in New York, Seneca Falls
    • Had a total of 300 attendees
    • The event was organised by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott
    • The Declaration of Sentiments was signed by 32 men, and 68 women, something that highly influenced the following years of activism, and the eventual passage of the 19th Amendment

    US Feminism Roll of Honor, Women's Rights Convention StudySmarterFig. 4 Roll of Honour, Women's Rights Convention

    Declaration of Sentiments

    This declaration called upon women to fight, organise and petition for their rights. Structured as a statement of demands and issues based on the Declaration of Independence.

    Did you know?

    Two feminist leaders, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were actually barred from the World Anti-Slavery Convention that took place in London in 1840!

    Feminist Movements Today

    The feminist movement has changed drastically over time, mainly in its purpose, as it has achieved its goals. However, in all four feminist waves, the movement's drive to end inequality through reform both socially and legally has never altered! As society changes, women and their positions in power grow, making the movement more effective. Feminism is a multi-defined concept that needs to update as times and cultures shift, Clinical postdoc Kate Richmond believes that...

    Historically, feminism has been perceived as a white, heterosexual, middle-class movement. Many of us want to see it broadened.3

    Fourth-wave feminism

    The fourth wave of feminism is often regarded as starting in 2012, this wave of feminism is greatly centred around the growth of technology including the internet, and the ideology of intersectionality.

    US Feminism My Body My Choice written on wall StudySmarterFig. 5 My Body My Choice written on wall


    An analytical framework of how social categorisations such as gender, class and race have an interconnected nature of being and how this produces a system of discrimination and disadvantage of particular groups.

    An example of movement during the fourth-wave feminist period is the 'My Body, My Choice' concept. This movement started in the late 20th Century as a response to the rising criminalisation and control that particular governments were imposing on sexuality and reproduction. As of 9 November 2022, abortion is banned in 13 US states: Wisconsin, Texas, West Virginia, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana, Kentucky, Idaho, Alabama and Arkansas.4The words 'My Body, My Choice' have quickly become words of power and retaliation as women fight for their reproductive rights.

    US Feminism - Key takeaways

    • US Feminism refers to the movement that fights for equal rights for women living in the US in all categories: political, cultural, social and economical.
    • Feminism in the US grew quickly during the 1960s and is still an expanding movement in the current time period.
    • There are three key women that are connected to that start of the American feminist movement: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony.
    • Marxist, Difference, Radical and Liberal feminism are the most recognised types of feminism, they differ in their approaches and opinions but share the aim of equality of opportunity.
    • Feminism in the US since 2012 is classed as the fourth wave of feminism, it fights for the same purpose of equality, but has large movements regarding the fight for reproductive rights and access to abortion.


    1. U.S. Const. Amend. 19.
    2. Rosemarie Tong, (2018). Radical Feminism.
    3. Kate Richmond, (2006).
    4. Brittney McNamara, (2022). Where Abortion Is Illegal Now: Abortion Law By State.
    Frequently Asked Questions about US Feminism

    What is feminism in the United States?

    Feminism throughout the US often refers to the group of ides and movements that are used to create an equal state of living for women in the US. This refers to political, cultural, social and economic rights for women.

    When did feminism become popular in the US?

    Feminism became popular in the US beginning in the 1960s, growing quickly over the next 30 years. This fast-growing movement expanding the amount of opportunities for women in the US.

    Who was the first American feminist?

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton is often classed as the first American feminist, as she is recognised as the found of the nineteenth century movement in feminism. Stanton organised the 1848 Women's rights convention, the first convention of its kind.

    Who started the feminist movement in the USA?

    The start of the feminist movement in the USA is credited to the following women: Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

    What are the 4 types of feminism?

    There are four key types of feminism: Marxist, Difference, Radical and Liberal. All types take different approached, actions and opinions on the end goal of equality for women.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Elizabethan Cady Stanton is classed as the first American feminist.T/F?

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott helped organise the 1848 Women's rights convention. T/F?

    The 1848 Women’s rights convention was the second convention of its kind that was organised and led by women.T/F?


    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team History Teachers

    • 10 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner