• Women’s Rights

    During the Constitutional Convention, Abigail Adams reminded her husband, John Adams, to “remember the ladies.” Unfortunately, her advice wasn’t heeded. Although the Declaration of Independence declared that all men are equal, free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, women in America were given few rights. Women could not own property, vote, run a business, or bring a lawsuit to court. If they worked, their earnings were given to their husbands.

    In the 1820s, many people opposed slavery. These people were often called “abolitionists” because they wanted to abolish slavery. Some people felt that freeing black slaves was only a start; they wanted to ensure freedom and opportunities for all people, including women.


    Fun Facts

    • Lucretia Mott, a well-educated Bostonian, was one of the first women to speak out boldly about the rights of women and slaves. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, she went on speaking tours and wrote pamphlets demanding that women be treated fairly.
    • These women’s most public battle was often for suffrage, or the right to vote. Many of them also fought for reforms around the issues of alcohol use, prisons, capital punishment, and workers’ rights.
    • Other women quietly and independently worked to create change. Emma Hart Willard, for example, started a high school exclusively for girls. Elizabeth Blackwell became the first female doctor in America, in spite of intense pressure and criticism.
    • Change came slowly for women. The 19th amendment, which guaranteed the right to vote for women, didn’t pass until 1920, almost 100 years after the first organized movements for women rights.


    1. Abolish: to do away with; end
    2. Heed: listen, follow
    3. Suffrage: the right to vote in elections

    Questions and Answers

    Question: Did men support the women’s movement?

    Answer: Early activists for women’s rights were often ridiculed, mocked, or criticized. Both men and women feared the changes that the women’s movement might bring.

    Learn More

    Visit Scholastic to learn more about the women’s rights movement.



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