Jean Matthew's new study of the early years of the women's rights movement outlines the period from 1828 to 1976 as a distinct "first phase." Ms. Matthews situates this early feminist activity within the lively nineteenth-century debate over the Woman Question and pays attention to the opponents as well as the advocates of equal rights for women. Her book demonstrates that the intense conflict generated by the movement was due less to any specific reform proposals than to the realization-among men and women-that the early feminists were aiming at a complete rethinking of what womanhood meant and of the relationship between the sexes. In many ways, as Ms. Matthews shows, the early nineteenth-century movement-in its origins, individualism, hostility to tight organization, dedication to self-discovery, and concern for health issues-strongly resembled the revived feminism of the 1970s. Like the late-twentieth-century movement, its nineteenth-century precursor fostered an initial yearning for personal "liberation" and opportunity, and was later riven by issues of race and sexuality, and confused over the perennial question of "difference." Women's Struggle for Equality builds upon recent scholarship to present a concise synthesis of what was probably the most exciting period of early American feminism.
Jean Matthews is professor emeritus at the University of Western Ontario, and author of Toward a New Society and Women's Struggle for Equality, a history of the women's movement from 1828 to 1876, also in the American Ways Series. She lives in Oakland, California.
Part 1 Preface vii Part 2 THE WOMAN QUESTION 3 Chapter 3 A post-Revolutionary settlement: separate spheres. Ambiguous relations of eductation, reform, and feminism. Some activist defenders of woman's sphere: Emma Willard, Catharine Beecher, Sarah J. Hale. A radical stream of equal rights: Frances Wright, Robert Part 4 CHALLENGING ROLES, ASSERTING RIGHTS 28 Chapter 5 Claiming the right to speak: Maria Stuart, the Grimke sisters. Antislavery and feminism. A schoolgirl debate on women's rights. Raising the counsciousness of middle-class women. Margaret Fuller and self-development. Part 6 LAUNCHING A MOVEMENT: SENECA FALLS AND AFTER 53 Chapter 7 Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. Organizational structures of social movements. Susan B. Anthony. Importance of the "public sphere." The conventions. Men in the movement. The press and the movement. Fears of role reversal. Feminist dress and the bloomer c Part 8 DIAGNOSING THE PROBLEM: WHAT DID WOMEN WANT? 84 Chapter 9 Some characteristics of the movement, its leaders and constituency. Sojourner Truth. Attraction to "New Age" movements. Motivation. Goals of the movement. Self-development and independence. Importance of work. Individualism and rights. The right to vote. Part 10 ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS 116 Chapter 11 The women's rights movement, the Civil War, and postwar reconstruction. Disputes over priorities. Women and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Failed Kansas campaign and founding of the Revolution. Abortive attempts at alliance with labor. New Part 12 SEX AND SUFFRAGE 148 Chapter 13 The divorce question again. Candy Stanton and issues of sexuality, birth control, and abortion. Victoria Woodhull and free love. Constitutionalism and the "New Departure." Facing new opponents. The arguments from science. New rivals for the loyalty of Ame Part 14 CENTENNIAL: THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENT IN 1876 180 Chapter 15 American feminists contemplate how to celebrate 1776. The Women's Declaration of Rights. Part 16 A Note on Sources 187 Part 17 Appendix: Declaration of Sentiments, 1848 199 Part 18 Index 203