The Women's Rights Movement And Abolitionists

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The mid-nineteenth century, in the US, is synonymous with social reform. The antebellum decades are characterized by an eruption of desire for reforms, in both secular and spiritual contexts. The various reform movements that occurred across the country at the time, pushed for change regarding issues such as women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. These two movements represent persistent fights to realize emancipation and better treatment. Therefore, a brief highlight of the women’s rights movements and the abolition movement reveals more similarities than differences between the two, including the collective fight for emancipation, radical means of reform, dissension among reformist leaders, and the results achieved.

The Seneca Falls Convention in New York is what officially marked the fight for women’s rights in the US. Two prominent ladies – Elizabeth Cady Santon and Lucretia Mott – organized the convention. The Women’s Rights Movement involved a broad spectrum of reforms as seen in the Declaration of Sentiments created by Elizabeth Santon. The Declaration of Sentiments, modeled from the nation’s Declaration of Independence, mainly emphasized the need for women to be accorded equal opportunities and justice like their male counterparts. As the movement persisted, however, it became more dedicated to securing the sacred right of franchise or suffrage for all women. Despite achieving success through the 19th amendment in 1920 where women gained the right to vote, the women’s rights movement was marred by dissension among the leaders, lack of unity, and apathetic women supporters.

​The abolition movement called for change demanding the immediate emancipation of African Americans in the US as opposed to more pacifistic anti-slavery advocates seeking a more gradual reform process. Racial slavery pervaded the US and mostly the Southern region. The constant oppression of African Americans usually led to revolts that were short-lived because of a lack of support to effect significant change. In the early to mid-nineteenth century, however, more radical and unified abolitionist efforts were initiated. African American abolitionists secured support from white Northerners and other white abolitionists who wanted to avoid a war erupting between races in the South. Further, the Great Awakening religious movement led to the widespread revolt against slavery because it was regarded as a sinful, inhumane, and backward practice. The abolitionist movement became more aggressive leading to the use of violent means. The considerable influence of the abolitionist agenda in the political arena contributed to a regional rift between the North and the South that finally culminated in the Civil War. The 15th Amendment granting Male Suffrage for African Americans marked the end of the abolitionist movement.

​The main similarity between these movements is the push for emancipation and equal rights in both reform agendas. Women had long been lowly regarded and denied their basic rights. As the Declaration of Sentiments stated, Women were not allowed to vote, own property, or have a voice in society. Marriage coverture was ingrained in the law declaring women as their husband’s property. This oppression finally led to a persistent fight for equal rights by the Women’s movement. On the other hand, the African American oppression through slavery led to the abolitionist movement requiring the immediate emancipation of slaves. At some point, both abolitionists and women’s rights reformists supported each other’s campaigns. The need for emancipation and equal rights for both women and African Americans led to the initiation of the movements.

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​Another similarity between the two movements is the results they achieved. While the agenda for the women’s rights movement focused on a wide variety of reforms, the course of reform became fixated on achieving suffrage for all women. Eventually, in 1920, after a grueling process involving the aggressive and persistent push for reform, the 19th amendment made it possible for women to vote. The abolitionist movement also started as a reform agenda for the emancipation of African Americans. However, when the 15th Amendment was passed, the abolitionist declared their mission complete and the society continued to live on with the principles of racial egalitarianism. Therefore, each of these movement’s main achievements was the sacred right of franchise.

​Finally, both movements were marred by disagreement and a lack of unity among the reformist leaders. In the women’s rights abolitionist rightsmovement, discord is evident when two factions were formed separately to fight for equality and emancipation because they disagreed on some fundamental issues. The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) was formed to oppose the 15th Amendment purely because it excluded women. Another faction, American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) was formed to criticize the NWSA as racially divisive and to institute national reform at a state level. On the other hand, Abolitionist supporters were divided into the support for Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery. Generally, both camps had elements of divisiveness, which hindered the progress and perhaps the results achieved.

​The differences between these movements were not as pronounced as the similarities, but they still existed. First, the abolitionist movement implemented more radical reform measures as compared to the women’s rights movement movements. The abolitionist revolts, in some instances, perpetrated violent acts that lead to grievous consequences, such as death. Additionally, the abolitionist movement contributed significantly to the Civil War of 1861-65. Conversely, the women’s rights movements implemented assertive demonstrations rather than violent means. While the abolitionist movement received more support overall as compared to the women’s rights movement, the latter was marred by a lack of support from women themselves who can be described as apathetic and un-united during the process of pushing for reforms. The abolitionist movement, on the other hand, was supported by both white and African American reformists. Generally, the differences between these movements are not as significant as the similarities.

​Indeed, the women’s rights and abolitionist movement rights had more in common than they differed. In the 19th century, there was a massive push for reform to restore equality, justice, and overall emancipation of both African Americans and women in society. The constant oppression and violations that had persisted against women and African Americans had become issues of contention leading to radical movements. While both movements were marred with dissension and an overall lack of unity, they both achieved similar results leading to the suffrage of African American males in the 15th Amendment in 1865, and Women’s suffrage in the 19th Amendment later in 1920. However, a few differences such as the extent of radicalism in the abolition movement as compared to the women’s rights movement existed. Regardless, the evolution of American society is impressive considering the hurdles they have had to pass through to become the current world’s superpower.

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