Despite the name of the movement, “feminism” is geared towards movement aimed at achieving equality for both sexes. Equality in the realms of economic, political, personal, and social equality. Throughout the Western World’s history, feminism has had a number of so called waves. Each wave has been responsible for change in societal norms, dating back to the 1800s where the term was originally named “féminisme” by the French philosopher Charles Fourier. Starting off with the fight for rights of females, feminism gradually turned into a movement geared towards equality for both sexes as the gap in equality closed. Arguably, the gap still exists, but so to does biological differences between the two sexes. Note that the language of gender is not discussed on this page as the discussion is currently fluid as a new wave is underway, allowing for total acceptance of individuals as human beings rather than simply their gender.
One of the main movements of feminism is the obvious one in which the right to vote was heavily aimed for as women and their supportive counterparts fought for that right. This of course was not the first fight that was made for women’s rights, but it was the first movement that caused a lot of change for women in the Western World.
Prior to this, there were other significant changes to laws in the USA and Canada specifically that affected women, marriage, and families. Starting back in the 1700s, when a change occurred in Pennsylvania that allowed women to own and manage property if married, but only in the event that their husband was incapacitated for one reason or another. This was huge back in those times! It wasn’t until 1821 that the rest of the USA began adopting this same law, but often time not allowing them to control or manage the owned property.
In 1844, US women were granted the right to their own economy and trade licenses… If they were married. It wasn’t until 1850 that women were allowed to own land without having to be married.
Iowa was the first state to have a university that granted the right for women to attend. Following this, as the years went on, the right to have patents, the right to control their own financial earnings, and excruciatingly slowly, the right to branch out in some jobs—1891, the first woman police officer; 1896, lawyers welcomed women. It wasn’t until the 20th century that laws surrounding workplace conditions were initially addressed as they pertained to women — 1908, USA.
In Canada, Edwards vs. Canada happened in 1929, also known as the Persons Case, which allowed women to be senators while also creating a fluid document entitled the Living Tree Doctrine; a doctrine of constitutional interpretation. The Persons Case ensured that this document would be fluid and adapt and change in its interpretation in a liberal manner to adapt to changing times. In 1960, women were granted the right to run in elections with no restrictions.
Birth control was finally an option after the United States vs. One Package of Japanese Pessaries in 1936, ensuring that the federal government could not interfere with doctors who provided their patients with birth control.
Fair wages… In 1963, the USA passed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 aimed at reducing or eliminating wage disparities between the sexes. 1973, Roe v. Wade paired with Doe v. Bolton fought for the right to confidentiality for women so that their choice to obtain an abortion does not heed fire from the government.
More reading at Wikipedia