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United States Herstory Timeline



 Our DNA has been traced back to one black woman in Africa known as the Mitochondrial Eve-


1619 Ninety young single women came from England to become wives "Tobacco Brides"

1619  First black Africans came to Virginia as indentured servants; 

1641 Massachusetts and 1661 Virginia passed slave laws converting indentured servants to slaves. Any small freedoms that might have existed for blacks were taken away;

1700s American women remained under a carryover of British common law: a restrictive legal condition know as coverture.  

(The legal framework that was used for slaves was the same framework that was used for women.  Coverture for women held that they had no legal identity. Everything was under their  fathers and then their husbands. Unmarried women and widows had some freedom but very limited.) 

(Important to keep in mind that 1 in 8 women died in childbirth in America prior to introduction of antibiotics in 1940)


1763 - 1787 American Revolution; 


1776 - In middle of the American Revolution Abagail Adams wrote her famous letter to John Adams saying as you write the founding documents for this new country “Remember the Ladies” because unlimited power in the hands of husbands makes them tyrants and if you don’t remember us “Ladies” we will foment rebellion;


April 14, 1776 John Adams responded and said “Depend on it, We know better than to repeal our masculine systems.”


July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was adopted applying only to white men;

 "Women furiously protested their inferior status and their inability to fully participate in American political life" *


1776 "I have in some measure acted the heroine as well as my dear Husband the Hero."**


1776 We... possess Spirit that will not be conquered.  If our Men as all drawn off and we should be attacked, you would find a race of Amazons in America."***

December 15, 1791 Bill of Rights first 10 amendments to the Declaration of Independence (applying only to white men);

"Many women participated in ratification debates and all played a part in making the new Constitution "work on the ground"*

1790s "Some women took and active role in partisan politics. "Female Politicians" openly engaged in debates in salon, social events and at rallies"*. 


1770 Essay "On the Equality of a Woman" written by Judith Sargent Murray 


1792 Mary Wollstonecraft published "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman"arguing that natural rights-universally bestowed by God, and irrevocable-applied to both women and men.  Women deserved equal educational, economic and political opportunities. The work was favorably received by women and men. *


1800 "Republican Motherhood" encouraged Anglo-American women's education and literacy which approached 50% by 1800.* 


1830s "New York Female Moral Reform Society" lobbied to criminalize prostitution and threatened to publish client's names as women streamed into the nations cities. 


1848 Anti-slavery women including Abby Kelley, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony met in Seneca Falls, New York and laid the foundation for the Women’s Rights Movement;


1848 “Declaration of Sentiments” based on the Declaration of Independence and upholding the equality of women was presented at the Seneca Falls Convention;  

"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men and women are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights ... The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpation on the part of man towards woman."  


1859 Creation of vulcanized rubber allows dependable condoms to be mass produced;


1861-1865 Civil War fought to free all slaves including women; 

1865 President Lincoln assassinated (One wonders if women would have been given more equality in new Amendments if he had lived.) 


1868 Civil War Amendments to the Constitution 13th ending slavery, 14th equal protection of the law and 15th the right to vote were suppose to be for women and men.

(Split among women’s rights activists and final outcome was that amendments were ratified only for men leaving women without freedom, equal protection of law or vote.) 


1870 Abortion criminalized on a Federal level for the first time in the United States; 


1872 Susan B Anthony arrested for casting a ballot in a presidential election.  


1873 Congress passes Comstock Laws criminalizing the distribution of information on contraception in US mail; 


1875 ish States pass state laws criminalizing possessing or selling obscene materials including information on contraception;  (Forced Birthing Demanders stripped women of civil rights forcing 1 in 8 to die to repopulate the Nation after the Civil War.) 


1893 Matilda Joslyn Gage publishes 20 years of research in "Woman, Church and State" outlining the variety of ways in which Christianity oppressed women and reinforced patriarchal systems;


1895-1898 Elizabeth Cady Stanton & committee of 26 women challenged the religious orthodoxy that women should be subordinate to man publishing the "Women's Bible" ;


 1896 Supreme Court established the doctrine of separate but equal in "Plessy v. Ferguson" blessing Jim Crow laws.


1907 The Colony Club opens in New York City bringing women together and they advocate for the vote and equality;


1908 Alva Belmont, as a widow, begins to become a leader for the suffragist movement in New York and Newport Rhode Island;  She underwrites legal scholar Alice Paul. 


1917 Women began picketing the White House “

January 10, 1917 to June 4, 1919 Silent Sentinels stood in front of the White House 6 days a week demanding the right to vote denied them in the 1868 Amendments to the Constitution.

June 22, 1917 arrests began of the Silent Sentinels.  Alice Paul went on hunger strike


1920  Women got the 19th Amendment ratified effectively giving white women the vote;

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." 

(It wasn't until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act blocked the States from discrimination in voting) 


1923 Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman draft an Equal Rights Amendment solidifying rights that women were slated to get after the Civil War; 

Final Draft being voted on today -  

Section 1:  “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”   

 ERA introduced in every session of Congress until it passed in 1972;


1939 1 in 8 women are still dying in childbirth;  (Today 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast invasive breast cancer) 


1940 introduction of antibiotics begins to reduce maternal mortality; 


 1948 President Truman integrated the armed services and began dismantling Jim Crow laws.


1954 Supreme Court held in "Brown v. Board of Education that racially serrated public schools are inherently unequal and violate the Constitution. 


1964 Civil Rights Act which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, 

 (Alice Paul was instrumental in getting the word sex included in Title VII so discrimination against women by employers with more than 15 employees became illegal. However without the ERA in place there remains great latitude for discrimination and no federal protection for employers with under 15 employees.)


1965   6.5 million women are taking the birth control pill;  (average number of children for a women if she doesn't have access to reliable birth control is seven) 


1972 Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”) passes in House & Senate and is sent to States to ratify; 


1972 Title IX becomes law making sex discrimination illegal on school campuses accepting Federal funds;  (Penalty for non compliance is the removal of Federal Funding. Since 1972 no school has had the funding cut for sex discrimination.) 

"No person in the US shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance"


1972 MS Magazine founded by Gloria Steinem and Letty Cottin Pogrebin during the "Second-Wave Feminist Movement".  


1972 Pornographers begin ramp up of pornography (hate speech against women)  as courts refuse to limit First Amendment Rights;


1973 Supreme Court decides "Roe v Wade" recognizing a women's right to privacy and her right to end a pregnancy without Government interference; 


1973 September Billie Jean King wins over Bobby Riggs in the battle of the sexes tennis match. 


1973 "US Open tournament offer equal prize money to both women and men for the first time"*


1977 Hyde Amendment defunds US Government paying for abortion except clear risk of mother's death. Carving out Medicaid, Medicare, Military, Peace Corps Volunteers, US servicewomen and veterans, women in prison or immigration detention facilities, Federal Employees, DC residents  (Covering 1 in 5 US women of reproductive age);  


1979 UN adopts a treaty Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. (CEDAW) 

(The United States and Palau have signed, but not ratified the treaty. The Holy See (Vatican), Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Tonga are not signatories to CEDAW)


1979 First Epic Feminist Artwork by Judy Chicago "The Dinner Party" goes on tour. It is seen by 15 million people.  

1982 Deadline for State ratification of Equal Rights Amendment expires. 

Just needed 3 additional States of 15 to ratify for ERA to be added to Constitution;

Unratified States - Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia 


2010 Supreme Court case "Citizens United" cements legal corporate citizenship; 


2011 Justice Scalia clearly states that it is legal to discriminate against women because the ERA remains unratified and says the US needs to ratify ERA for Constitutional equality;


2011 Activists continue working on grassroots to get ERA ratified leads political fight; 

2012 Helene de Boissiere-Swanson begins pilgrimage walking across the 14 unratified States to bring awareness for the need of ERA ratification.  

2012 Emerge America begins training Democratic women to run for office in Nevada the only State with legalized prostitution;


2014 Supreme Court case "Hobby Lobby" grants corporations the right to deny employees birth control under health plans; 


2015 Jessica Neuwirth, Esq. of ERA Coalition coordinates with director Kamala Lopez and has a book “Equal Means Equal” published.  It is a clarion call for the ERA; 


 2015 President Obama issues a new law guaranteeing free coverage of birth control;


2016 Director Kamala Lopez releases the documentary “Equal Means Equal” exposing what the US looks like for women without the ERA;


2016 President Barack Obama designated Sewall-Belmont House in Washington DC as the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, named for Alice Paul and Alva Belmont; 


2017 January 21st - worldwide protests for women's rights as human rights involving 10 million people.

2017 March 22 -  Nevada becomes 36th State to ratify the ERA.  (Now need 2 more States to ratify) 


2017 Bills introduced in Senate (Cardin) & House (Speier) to drop the arbitrary ratification deadline  (S.J. Res 5 & H.J. Res 53)


2017 New launch of website for activists and funding-


2017 President Trump rolls back the birth control mandate allowing any employer to choose not to include birth control in it's health plan. 


2017 Senate voting rules changed and ultra conservative Neil Gorsuch put onto the Supreme Court. 


2017 Gloria Steinem celebrates 45 years of MS Magazine. 

2017 Girl Scout Troop 3484 begins Twitter ERA Campaign & creates Girl Scout Symbol with ERA

2018 #MeToo and #TimesUp is trending 


2018 Women's Marches held again across the Country & the world with women asserting that they are to be equally honored and respected.  



2018 02/09 Activists gather in Richmond Virginia and watch as men on the Rules committee vote to deny hearings on the Equal Rights Amendment.  (Dies in Committee yet again)  




Rethinking Eve 



*(NY Historical Society Joyce B. Cowin Women's History Gallery)  

**Mary Fish Noyes Stillman













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