Different sources offer different information regarding exactly when the feminist movement started. Some references state that the feminism thought dates back to the sixth century BC. The New Internationalist (1992) states: There have always been independent feminists. In sixth century BC Greece, Sappho wrote lesbian poetry and ran a girls’ school. The fifteenth century French writer Christine de Pisan is now regarded as a feminist thinker.
In the seventeenth century English adventurer and political activist Aphra Benn was getting embroiled in the West Indian slave rebellion – and writing 13 novels. The radical way in which some men were thinking during the Age of Reason incidentally changed attitudes towards women. Thinkers like Newton, Locke, Voltaire and Diderot believed that science and reason could explain the world. They began to analyze women in terms of what they deemed ‘natural’ rather than what was divinely ordained.
This was not necessarily better for women. From the 17th century onwards below are the major feminist movement developments according to the New Internationalist (1992). Women played a major role in the 1789 French Revolution and the ideal of ‘Republican Motherhood’ took shape. But, some argued, if women had the task of ‘bringing up the new citizens’, they should also have status. Feminist pamphlets proliferated. In her Rights of Woman, Olympe de Gourges wrote: ‘Woman is born free and her rights are the same as those of man…
if women have the right to go to the scaffold, they must also have the right to go to Parliament. ‘ Parisian women formed political clubs and associations to campaign on issues affecting them. But the male leaders of the Revolution were basically hostile and in 1793 they outlawed all women’s clubs. A woman’s place was in the home, they ruled. This hostility persisted through the nineteenth century. The Napoleonic Code gave all management of family funds to the husband. Not until 1909 did French women have control over their own earnings.
Not until 1944 did they get the vote. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2004) states the below developments on feminism from the 1800s onwards: In the mid-1800s the term ‘feminism’ was used to refer to “the qualities of females”, and it was not until after the First International Women’s Conference in Paris in 1892 that the term, following the French term feministe, was used regularly in English for a belief in and advocacy of equal rights for women based on the idea of the equality of the sexes.
Although the term “feminism” in English is rooted in the mobilization for woman suffrage in Europe and the US during the late 19th and early 20th century, of course efforts to obtain justice for women did not begin or end with this period of activism. So some have found it useful to think of the women’s movement in the US as occurring in “waves”. On the wave model, the struggle to achieve basic political rights during the period from the mid-19th century until the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 counts as “First Wave” feminism.
Feminism waned between the two world wars, to be “revived” in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s as “Second Wave” feminism. In this second wave, feminists pushed beyond the early quest for political rights to fight for greater equality across the board, e. g. , in education, the workplace, and at home. More recent transformations of feminism have resulted in a “Third Wave”.