Women's Century of Progress



It's been over 40 years since Title IX became a law prohibiting gender discrimination in any educational institution receiving federal funds. Join Active Minds as we use this anniversary to reflect on a century of women's progress in the United States. From women's suffrage to the Women's Liberation movement of the 1960's to the role of women in the workforce today and the serious consideration of a woman for President, we will examine how far women have come as well as what many claim remains undone.

Key Lecture Points

  • The women’s suffrage movement in the United States began with the Seneca Falls Conference in 1848 and culminated with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Although the main goal of the movement was the right to vote for women, many of the same women seeking enfranchisement also worked for other social causes such as better factory working conditions and temperance.
  • An Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution was first proposed in 1923 and was introduced into Congress that same year. Its objective was to affirm that men and women have equal rights under the law. It has been reintroduced into nearly every Congressional session since 1923, but it has yet to be ratified. • The Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s emerged alongside the Civil Rights movement and the anti-war movement. Women wanted equal rights for all, including themselves.
  • Title IX became law in 1972 and prohibits sex discrimination in any educational institution receiving federal funds. Title IX has increased the numbers of athletic programs and athletic scholarships for women. Studies have proven that female student athletes are more likely to continue in school to graduation and less likely to use drugs, get pregnant or be obese as adults.
  • Women are 46.8% of the US workforce. Women have been hit less hard than men in the current economic crisis because the predominately male industries of construction and manufacturing have lost more jobs than the predominately female sectors of healthcare, education and state/local government.
  • Despite the strides made by the women over the past 100 years, inequality still continues. Women working full-time in the US earn on average 77% of what men earn and only 12 Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs or presidents.

Exploration Questions

  • How was the suffrage movement related to other social movements in the early 20th century? The Sixties?
  • What factors led to the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment to become a Constitutional Amendment?
  • What effects did the passage of Title IX in 1972 have on education, society, and women’s rights in the United States?

Reflective Questions

  • How has the role of women in American society changed during the last 100 years? What are the most significant changes you’ve seen in your lifetime?
  • Do you think women serving in the military should be assigned to combat units?

More to Explore

Books for Further Reading

  • McMillen, Sally G. Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement. (paperback) Oxford University Press, 2009. 310 pages. The convention that started the women’s suffrage movement.
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  • Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Broadway, 2011. 400 pages. The story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman whose cells have become one of the most important tools in medical research.
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  • Walbert, Kate. A Short History of Women (paperback) Scribner, 2010. 272 pages. This novel chronicles 5 generations of women starting in 1914 with a suffragette activist.
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