WOMEN - a true story

Terrified by recent situations in Poland, I took the liberty of taking a little trip and digging into the history of women's rights. It is quite a misfortune, because it was difficult for me to put all these facts together to form a concise whole. I realize that some events or dates may have escaped my attention, but I hope that I have mana- ged to chart the turbulence of women's history and, at the same time, pay homage to everyone who stood by their side. In addition, I would like to warn you that the word 'Women' is being strongly misused in the follo- wing text 

1789, the French Revolution. Change means change. The first demands and statements on women's rights. 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft. Author of “Calling for Women's Rights”. - which referred to the unequal treatment of women, male honor, or the apparent distinction of women in society.

It is 1793, Olympe de Gouges, the first woman to fight for women's rights is beheaded for drawing up a dec- laration of the Rights of the Woman and of the Citizen during the French Revolution that was under way. “'A woman is born and remains free and equal in her rights as a man'. — That was the first article of the declaration. Indeed, (ironically speaking) extremely controversial. There was also a point in the declaration: “If a woman can legitimately hang on the gallows, she should also have the right to stand on the rostrum. Olympe has experien- ced herself how wrong she was. She was an extremely eloquent woman, author of the epistolary novel 'Memoirs of Mrs. de Valmont' and numerous plays, including the loudest criticism of slavery and racism. She was also a founder of literary salons. Okay, so Olympe, what's next? With the Industrial Revolution, women are starting to take up positions in factories as a result of which they are becoming increasingly independent. The desire for change hangs in the air.

1839, “the Woman of England” by Sarah Ellis is released to the world. However, Sarah didn't get too much attention, but when a man suddenly started supporting a woman, interest in women's rights increased. It was John Stuart Mill. He was one of the first men to take the side of women. He believed women deserved a right to divorce and remarry. That is fine. We go on.

1848-Seneca Falls. We have it! First Convention on Women's Rights. Led by Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Women are demanding the right to vote. 68 women and 32 men (I was surprised by such a high num- ber myself ) sign the 'Declaration of Sentiments', which marks the beginning of a decade of activism and, as a result, of giving women the right to vote. Frederick Douglass, (he also signed the Declaration), a former slave, becomes a female ally and helps to push through new demands.

1849. The first woman completes her medical studies and receives a doctorate in the United States. Congratula- tions to Dr Elizabeth Blackwell.

1865-1870. England. Something is beginning to happen - a campaign to give women the right to vote. As a result, tax-paying homeowners will be given the right to vote in municipal elections.

1882. Virgina Woolf is born. A well-known feminist and philosopher.

1869, IMPORTANT. 10th of December. Wyomig approves the first ever law giving women the opportunity to vote and to hold office. It makes it the first state that has committed such thing.

1869. United States. The first National Association of Suffragettes is created.

1897. London. First Federation of British suffragettes. Millicent Fawcent becomes head of the Federation. Eme- lina Pankhurst becomes one of the representatives. I advise you to keep this name in mind.

1902. Australia gives women the right to vote. However, it is important to note that the indigenous Australians are only given the right to vote in THEIR OWN country (with all the respect, but they were there first) in 1962!

1906. Finland., you can already vote there.

1908. Denmark (fully 1915, but  still it's a good place to start).

1913. Norway.

1915. Iceland.

1915, And there you go (I already have tears in my eyes), on the 18th (or as some sources say on the 10th) of November 300 suffragettes march towards the House of Parliament. They demand rights. On the spot they are greeted by a police cordon (It reminds me of something). The activists are brutally beaten and sexual violence occurs. The action lasts 6 hours. As a result of the police brutality (pulling their hair or trampling them using their horse's hooves) two of the female activists die, including the sister of the above-mentioned Pankhurst,
who is becoming one of the most combatant suffragettes. 150 people were arrested. Many of them were sexually harassed. 

1915. Other countries grant voting rights. The Netherlands (fully in 1919), Russia, Latvia, Estonia, Uruguay (fully in 1927).

1916. Margaret Sanger opens a Birth Control clinic in New York.

1917 – we have the first Congresswoman. Well done, Jeannette Rankin. 


1917. Polish Women convene the Congresswoman. What is the result? Not only gaining the rights to vote a year later, but also the FIRST POLISH FEMALE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT (You go, girl!)!

1918. Poland (it turns out that once, instead of going back, it was a progressive country), Lithuania, Germany, Austria, Great Britain (fully in 1928), Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan. Slowly more and more countries join the list (Full Timeline below). The world is increasingly progressive about gender differences. However, there is something coming up that is overshadowing or even completely denying human rights issues for a moment — World War II ... 

50’s, the so-called Second Wave of Feminism. Debates on sexual violence and relationship pathologies are beginning. Changes are taking place in many countries, making it impossible to mention every single one. The fight for women's rights is linked to the fight for general respect for human rights, including the end of racial discrimination.

1955. United States. Rosa Parks (Black Female Citizen of the United States) refuses to give a seat to a white man. The human rights movement begins. FINALLY.

1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination on grounds of race, religion, nationality or gender. (Well, let us say it worked).

Many important events have taken place and are taking place until today. We are notoriously hearing 'For the first time in history, a woman...'. It is beautiful to hear about further progress in respect for human rights.

Although this story deserves a happy ending, we are still far from it. Women are very much discriminated against on the basis of their gender. Physical and psychological violence is a daily occurrence.

According to a World Bank report, only in six countries do women have exactly the same rights as men. It should also be remembered that it also hard for males as they are forced into toxic masculinity and as a result they are not allowed any sign of vulnerability.
Recently, I have observed increasing consent from the Polish authorities, and even calls for sexism, nationalism or homophobia. I have never seen so many negative statements online before. We cannot go back. Let these hundreds of years of fighting for rights not go to waste. Without Human Rights there is no real society. Let us respect each other and remember that the point can change depending on a circle of people we surround ourselves with.

The article was created with the help of Alicja Urbanik Kopeć, who runs the "nstytut humanizowania historii polski", on a facebook platform.

Written by Barbara Głębocka

Barbara Głębocka