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Unwrapping First Wave Feminism



The feminism waves were aimed at elevating women’s status in society and providing them with equal rights.


The period of feminist activity and thought that occurred during the 19th and early 20th century was referred to as first-wave feminism. The term, coined by Martha Lear, focused on legal issues especially those that were directed towards securing women’s right to vote. The phase largely revolved around gaining basic legal rights for women and directing society towards understanding that women were more than capable of being in positions of leadership in both politics and business.


Women were confined to their households and matters such as marital rape were unheard of because it required treating women as individuals that were in charge of their own choices. Unmarried women were seen as property of their fathers and married women the property of their partners. All of the matters addressed in the aforementioned are still currently present especially in countries such as Malawi. Bills that have been developed such as the bill that bans child marriage and made rape with marriage explicitly illegal in Malawi are the steps that first wave feminism was directed towards.


Although first wave feminism was the first step towards gaining independence for women, it marginalized several ethnic groups. However it gave the world some of the fiercest and most dedicated feminists who inspired the women around them as well as those that came after. Sojourner Truth is remembered for her speech “Ain’t I a Woman” which was aimed at the discussion around of why women’s rights were only valid if you were a white woman.


As feminism developed as a concept, first wave feminists were often disregarded and were referred to as a group of narrow-minded individuals. Despite this, first wave feminism lay the groundwork for future feminists and is extremely relevant in countries where women’s rights are only recently becoming a point of importance.

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