The Campaign Begins

In the late 1700s, women such as Olympe de Gouges in France and Mary Wollstonecraft in England had begun to call for women's rights. Later, their successors—mostly from the middle class—took up the struggle. In the United States, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony campaigned for the abolition of slavery. In the process, they realized the severe restrictions on their own lives. They became the founders of the American women's rights movement.

Over time, women began to break the barriers that kept them out of universities and professions. By the late 1800s, a few women trained as doctors or lawyers. Others became explorers, researchers, or inventors, often without recognition. For example, Julia Brainerd Hall worked with her brother to develop an aluminum-producing process. Their company became hugely successful, but Charles Hall received almost all of the credit.

The Suffrage Movement

By the late 1800s, married women in some countries had won the right to control their own property. The struggle for political rights proved far more difficult. In the United States, the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 demanded that women be granted the right to vote. In Europe, groups dedicated to women's suffrage, or women's right to vote, emerged in the later 1800s.

Photo of a group of women holding signs while gathered on the street. Signs all bear the phrase votes for women.

In Britain, the first petition for women's suffrage was presented to Parliament in 1867. The suffragist movement continued until Parliament finally granted women over 30 the right to vote in 1918. Women gained the same voting rights as men in 1928.

Among men, some liberals and socialists supported women's suffrage. In general, though, suffragists faced intense opposition. Some critics claimed that women were too emotional to be allowed to vote. Others argued that women needed to be “protected” from grubby politics or that a woman's place was in the home, not in government.

To such claims, Sojourner Truth, an African American suffragist, is credited with replying, “Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman?”

On the edges of the Western world, women made faster strides. In New Zealand, Australia, and some western territories of the United States, women won the vote by the early 1900s. There, women who had “tamed the frontier” alongside men were not dismissed as weak and helpless. In the United States, Wyoming became the first state to grant women the right to vote. In much of the Western world, however, the women's suffrage struggle took much longer. By 1920, women in Britain and the United States had finally won the vote.

The Rise of Public Education

By the late 1800s, reformers persuaded many governments to set up public schools and require basic education for all children. Teaching “the three Rs”—reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic—was thought to produce better citizens. In addition, industrialized societies recognized the need for a literate workforce. Schools taught punctuality, obedience to authority, disciplined work habits, and patriotism. In European schools, children also received basic religious education.

Improving Public Schools

At first, elementary schools were primitive. Many teachers had little schooling themselves. In rural areas, students attended class only during the times when they were not needed on the farm or in their parents' shops.

By the late 1800s, a growing number of children were in school, and the quality of elementary education improved. Teachers received training at normal schools, where the latest “norms and standards” of educational practices were taught.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments