Throughout history, women in the United States and across the world have had varying experiences regarding the political dispensation at different times. Some of the societies in the past show records of influential women in various positions such as priesthood, warriors, writers, and political leaders. However, there exists the contrary documentation in some cultures where women were portrayed as second-rate beings with no capacity to control their desires for luxuries and spending. Early writings provide the imperative evidence of worthy and flourishing females such as Cleopatra, Boudicca, and Esther who made significant and notable contributions to their respective societies as able leaders. Similarly, it is recorded that the first poem that ever survived to the present day era was written by a woman called Enheduanna, who served as the priestess in the early Sumerian civilization. Enheduanna’s poem was the praise or the prayer that was dedicated to a female deity known as Innana. On the other hand, the Roman culture defined the women’s role of home keepers who were not expected to engage in the political affairs of the state. Similar to the Roman practice, the Greek state of democracy did not free women to participate in the electoral process. Therefore, women were not involved in any step of the process of electing officials.
However, in some societies like the Celtic culture of Gaul, which is presently France and the British Isles, women were allowed to become warriors alongside men, and it is asserted that they showed their strength through the fierceness of their attacks on the battlefield. Additionally, around the first and second centuries AD, in early Christian churches like the Gnostic Christianity, it is recorded that there were female bishops who served big roles in their communities. Considerable changes to these old practices developed, however, which saw women lose their strength and humanity in the face of the society that they once served in. The role had transformed to mainly homemaking and nothing else. The woman had one role and that was in the home. Across Europe and America, there was the substantial opposition against females having property or even running businesses. They were forced into political marriages upon which all their possessions would be transferred to their husbands. The laws that escalated women’s chastity expectations were formalized, and the offenders would often face harsh and extreme criminal punishment and social ostracism. The religious conventions, on the other side, played a vital role in propagating women’s bondage through labeling them as the authors of the original sin. The ideology was associated with the Republicanism, which then stated that females were the weaker sex that lacked self-reliance, bravery, physical strength, and independence. It was argued that such attributes were exclusively masculine and could not be owned by women who were characterized as selfish and frivolous beings who could not control their hunger for luxuries and carnal appetites. These practices continued for centuries until some light began to shed in the early 19th century as women now began to fight for equality both in and outside the home.
Before World War I, females had little or no space in the national affairs that were going on. Federal labor laws were against a working woman and kept them out of the workforce. The rules did not recognize their labor productivity, thus considered their participation as a competition against men for available opportunities. Only a few jobs, which were regarded as feminine like teaching, office clerks, and nursing, would be available to women. At the same time, just those from noble families were able to hold down these positions. During such times, the percentage of women in the labor market was approximately fifteen percent. In the context of the conventional setup, women had no freedom to engage in some practices like divorce, family planning, or even smoking in public. These acts were regarded as sinful and prohibited by both the state and religious factions of that time. Additionally, the political freedoms of that time were only enjoyed by men. The federal laws considered women as properties of their husbands and, hence, had no independent right to participate in the electoral process of the state. Similarly, there was little freedom to dress. Most of women clothing covered all body parts up to beyond the knee, with flat shoes as the fashion of the time. This was just some of the ways women were being controlled by their male counterparts.
Concerning the freedom of expression and speech, no woman had the right to speak their own mind on any matter that affected the state. Females were not allowed to access media in order to air their views across their region. Research has shown that various fundamental rights and freedoms like the access to the birth control, the right to participate in elections, the freedom to search for a job, and the freedom of choice were matters that were legally restrained by their male counterparts of that time. Historically, women had little or no democracy and rights to contribute to the political dispensation in their state colonies. The rights to vote and participate in electoral affairs were embedded on the right to own property; a vital factor is that a woman could not acquire property. The laws barred women from such a right of ownership, and by doing so basically told them they could not vote. However, positive changes began to appear in the wake of 1920 due to dramatic changes instigated by the industrial revolution. The introduction of amendments to federal laws saw a robust paradigm shift in the democratization and the freeing of women in the USA.
The rise and the continuation of American Revolution allowed women to take men’s roles in the society and the workplace. Women organized street demonstrations and riots, and some who were scholars then published their articles and poems in protest and proclamation of patriotic views and women liberation. A portion of women joined their male counterparts in the war efforts where women offered the moral and material support to their men during the American Revolution. The females who joined their male counterparts in the battlefields proved that feminism was not a factor of inability in their sacrifice and struggle for space and freedom. Women also participated in the management and daily household affairs during the war since men were engaged in the battlefields. Later, women could march in parades and were allowed to attend Congressional sessions to lobby their legislators in spearheading women agendas. Without the vote at hand, women fought for their political space through numerous means such as creating organizations that support impoverished women and children and joining revolutionary movements in an attempt to address the abolition of slavery. Women were finally moving in the right direction.
After World War I, campaigns and liberation of women’s rights and freedom gathered momentum. In the meantime, with the formation of various several political parties such as the Prohibition Party, Equal Rights party, and Farmers’ Alliance, there were roles created and positions opened for women in the party affairs and conventions to spearhead their issues and concerns of that time. Their campaigns gained enormous power and strength in the 20th century, and by the 1920 elections, females were able to participate in the voting process due to the implementation of the suffrage amendment. There was even a shift in voting places. Saloons and barber shops gave way to schools and churches during this era. Consequently, major parties soon began to create more divisions and posts within their structures for women and accepting them as major and essential drivers of the workforce. The 1920 politics were demonstrated in more unclear terms where there was an ongoing campaign for progressivism combined with the era of the New Deal. It was the period that marked uneventful occurrences as Americans embarked on the war for reforms while the conservative big business moguls took a shift to resign from their positions citing the introduction of the politics of normalcy. The stereotypical view of the conservatives was resoundingly rejected by the newly empowered American females who were gaining momentum in the struggle for the democratization and reforms that they had fought so hard to achieve.
The passage of the Women’s Suffrage Amendment of 1920 led to the eruption of embodied discussions regarding the new woman and her new roles in both society and home. It brought an in-depth analysis of transformations as far as the females’ emancipation was concerned. The new deal led to changes in family and sexual views, women’s freedom to participate in the labor force, and political activism to freely engage in the voting process and to be elected at various levels. The new era of enfranchisement saw a great broadening of the understanding of the women’s contribution towards political, economic, and social advancement. Both the African American and the white women in the oneness of spirited effort quickly clutched the constitutional spearhead of the radicalization process to generate the change that was needed throughout the United States. However, there was still no union among them to help support the suffrage in unison since black women could still be blocked from the white-dominated suffrage regions. There were fears that the emancipation of the African Americans would lead to the collapse of the well-established disenfranchisement in many areas around the United States.
The greatness of women’s determination to liberate themselves had now taken a critical position in influencing the voting patterns. Now, the established parties like the Republicans and the Democrats could not belittle or not notice the effects that women and their voices were having and creating in the political field. They were forced to initiate institutional changes in the political structures of management within the party systems by creating positions for women that once were not allowed. In this regard, the 1928 elections saw some females becoming officeholders with seven headed to the US House of Representatives and hundreds to the state legislatures.
The new opportunities opened windows to continue in the process of activism and the progressive era to allow even further movements in women’s suffrage. The determination to break the barriers towards the social reforms of unlocking poor women and children was unequivocal as females began to lobby for mothers’ pensions, the dependent and the unable, industrial and education reforms, amendments, the implementation of the hour and wage laws, and the expansion of their legal rights. The lobbying process led to an increasingly high number of employment opportunities for women and the independence to make choices in what areas to work. Thus, the women’s spheres of marriage, job, education, and public acceptance had now begun to become a regular social normal in the society. The liberation process could be felt across the United States, as many women were now smoking in public places, an act that was prohibited by both the state and religious organizations before the suffrage movement. On the same note, they were freely able to divorce their husbands if they were not content in their marriages, and the number of employed females rose to above twenty-five percent.
Despite the significant and essential contribution of the women towards their liberation movement, these early human rights activists and political emancipators faced critical setbacks and challenges during the course of their battle for suffrage. One such factor that slowed their vigor and effort for change and transformations was the failure to pass Child Labor Amendment through the Congress. National women had formed a fourteen-member committee to lobby for support throughout the states in order to promote the legislation of federal laws such as the free healthcare provision to mothers and children. Women felt less motivated by men who, on the one hand, wooed them for their votes through appealing speeches and discussions but, on the on the other hand, paid no attention to specific issues and reforms women sought for through lobbying processes.
The divisions among the white women hindered the commitment to their agenda for gaining the total freedom and the social space. After the achievement of the opportunity for every woman to vote, there occurred few issues that could actually help them. Hence, fragmentations along race, class, age, and ideology became significantly evident in their associations. This led to the collapse of their political singleness and viscidness to fight with one voice. The other hampering issue was the aspect of white racism, which restrained African American and white women from coalescing and spearheading their activism agenda movement together. The achievement of the suffrage movement gave African Americans the hope that it was possible to unite with their fellow whites to address the challenges of lynching, economic discrimination, sexual abuse, and extreme male bias. However, the hope faded, and they began to embark on voter registration drives in attempting to elevate the black females amid the racial progress.
Similarly, the most astounding and damaging moment for the women’s era of reforms was the rise and the spread of the Red Scare hysteria. It was the created American fear that the Russian revolution and the communist party of the United States would promote their governmental policies. The concern was fast adopted by opponents of reforms to deem women’s associations as un-American in context. The fear led to the passage of restrictive laws, which hindered females’ movements and groups to continue with their programs for change, thus throwing such activists into a dilemma. This would set women’s suffrage back and do away with gains that were previously achieved.
The present inclusion of women in the political space is one the most vibrant issues for the discussion in today’s society. There has been a progressive change in the manner and the sense in which the participation, contribution, and the involvement of women in politics is treated in both the State and Federal governments. Females who have been able to serve in the political offices have proved to the society that their capacity and capability to deliver to the community is beyond measure and in no way a hindrance to that position. Research studies have confirmed that females are generally more attracted to policies that are geared towards bringing reforms on the social, economic, and marital spheres than men. Regarding bills and policy agendas that are presented in the legislative houses, women do focus most of their attention and energy on matters about labor reforms, public education, environment, minimum wage laws, healthcare issues and policies, housing facilities, children rights, divorce, and marriage. The current electoral force is made up of a good number of women who actively take part in the policy-making and formulation of bills and agenda at both state and federal levels of government.
Women’s current participation in the politics can be studied and viewed from various angles of their involvement. One the ways of how women engage in the current political activities is through the voter registration and turnout processes. Since voting is the most basic way by which opinions and ideas can be expressed and fully accounted for in the public debates, females of today have seized the opportunity to make decisive outcomes in the United States electoral processes. According to the 2015 report by the Center for American Women and Politics, women constitute the highest number of registered voters and have participated in the presidential elections at higher rates than their male counterparts since the 1980s. The stronger voter turnout by females in the United States reflects an absolute commitment throughout the world to expand their participation in politics. In the 2012 United States general elections, the US Department of Commerce 2013 report showed that 58.5% of registered female voters took part in the voting compared to 54.4% of men. The Department of Commerce has similarly demonstrated that the voter turnout among women is higher than that of males across the individual states.
The aspect of focus to understand the contribution and the involvement of women in the political environment is their representation in the elected offices. States like New Hampshire and Washington have the most significant score regarding the elective post index amongst women, while Alabama shows the lowest index. There may be some direct correlation between southern states and northern states in this regard. However, it is seamlessly clear that all the states have women representation in some form and capacity. Additionally, the Center for American Women and Politics report written during 2015 showed that out of the 535 congress seats, 104 of them were held by women, and the continuation has been on the rise since the1960s. The trend is registered in senatorial positions across the states as well. For instance, by 2015, the share of Senate seats by women had reached 43% in Arizona. From the years 2004 to 2015, the number of women occupying Senate seats had raised in 27 states while in the state assemblies, the share had increased in 32 regions. Moreover, by the end of March 2015, there were six states with female governors, including Oklahoma, South Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, and New Mexico. There is an increasing passion of women being led to take on larger roles in their government.
Similarly, the 2015 report by the national governors association confirms that 36 women have served as US governors throughout the history of the United States. According to 2004 report by Dolan, most of the research affirms that females are at the similar position as men to run for and win political offices; however, the involvement is still very negligible at some levels of government. On that note, there are several proposed action plans and items that are put in place to spearhead the involvement of women in elected offices. Such projects include their recruitment to run political posts and the expansion and the creation of campaign training to emphasize on choosing politics as a career rather than an afterthought. This is done for the mobilization of funds and the strengthening of female networks for the successful and strategic engagement in the public and political affairs. There are also campaigns to raise awareness among the people on the role of female elected officials and giving these women the respect equal to their male counterparts that are similar office bearers. This movement will help ensure the future of women in politics and allow their roles to grow to match those roles enjoyed by males.
The other factor that has helped women to make impeccable strides in the political journey is the institutional resources that are dedicated to assisting them in the progress of the political arena. These resources include the state chapters of the National Women’s Political Caucus, campaign training programs, women’s political actions, and committees. The resources act as amplifiers to the females’ voices through the promotion and the prioritization of their issues. The resources also ensure that they can access statewide associations and support systems for the establishment of networks to aid in the navigation through the political turbulence that is mostly male-predominant. Women are giving these resources in an effort to help give them a fighting chance when seeking an elected office.
The campaign training on the same note helps to provide the access to valuable ideas and insights for great campaigns and setting fundamental strategies. Moreover, the establishment of sound political action committees assists in supplying funds to women who want to run for political positions and to help women engineer and operate strong election campaigns. Such organizations do also take a keen interest in policies that are women-friendly by offering and organizing financial solicitation programs. These committees work with states, cities, and counties to identify anomalies in laws and policies and recommend changes and adjustments to the inequities that give men the edge in those particular areas. The national females’ political caucus, on the other hand, helps to establish the mobilization programs at the grassroots level to raise the number of women who run for offices at the various levels of government. They also cooperate to offer the institutional support and moral support through recruitments and endorsements.
There exist various patterns regarding women in the current political terrain in the United States. One of such factors that exert a problem in women’s contemporary trends in the political realm is the male gatekeeping syndrome. It is a system where the political representation and individual structures are entirely composed of male dominion, thereby keeping women firmly out of the governance. It is attributed to the rise of elite male partisanship through which respect, wisdom, and greatness are accorded regarding the gender. Socially, women have been assumed to be limited to family matters; hence, they cannot make any meaningful contribution outside the family situation. It means that females have little or preferably no voice regarding political and governance issues; thus, males are always those that norm prepares throughout the societal structures to keep them rooted to the civic offices. However, the attitude is fast diminishing, and today, any legislative body without women will face severe and fierce criticism from the public and will be deemed to have no democratic legitimacy to transact any affairs on behalf of the electorates. Women have, therefore, the ability to enjoy the access to political resources and necessities in the United States, and many of them have able to ascend to higher positions of decision making within the political parties. This is true at the local, state, and the federal levels of government.
Secondly, there are challenges regarding gender equality issues. It is a matter that continues to affect and influence the political and democratic processes throughout the United States. There is a persistence of gender inequality in women representation in cases of national stake and interest despite the continued campaigns of women against it. It, at all levels of office and political landscape, is less compared to men. Females are also behind men when it comes to crucial and participatory issues and discussions on many levels and occasions in issues of the government. The engagement with political activities and processes is one the most fundamental and vitally important factors for one to consider when trying to predict the participation of the sexes in the electoral processes. The involvement would constitute elements of having interest in political affairs, seeking to know party manifestos and positions and participating in campaign programs.
In most occasions, studies have shown that men are frequently interested in political discussions, following political news and airing their opinions concerning party ideologies. Over the past decades, men have continued to register higher political knowledge scores in comparison to women during that same time. The gender gap in the engagement process is linked to the nature of the political and economic structure of the United States and cited as one of the reasons for the gender inequality concerning civic engagement and behavior. As the formal employment continues to rise, many women are claimed to be occupying undervalued sectors of the economy, and because the welfare state is influenced by the resource distribution, the gendered paid occupations limit the strength of women to engage in and connect to the political landscape. Similarly, resource-based factors have also been defined as reasons for the gender inequality in the engagement process across the party lines. For instance, the gender gap in the context of political knowledge is attributed to the existing disparities in political party membership and education.
To conclude, it is factual that women have faced severe limitations on their ability to act and behave as political beings from the earliest to the modern times. However, studies have shown certain circumstances where the ability of females to perform roles regarded as masculine prevailed with records of success being observed. In various countries across the world, more so in America as detailed in the discussion, the journey towards the emancipation and the enfranchisement process was a long tedious adventure that required self-determination, sacrifice, and denial. These attributes could be apparent, even though they were still disregarded by the individual states both during and after the two world wars. Women in one accord and unison rose to their feet to express their dissatisfaction with the federal and state laws that did not create equal chances for them to participate, engage, and involve in the political dispensations of their states. Hence, significant steps and strides have been achieved in allowing women to become more actively involved in political matters all over the board. Women are holding jobs that were once male dominated as well as acquiring elected seats at all levels of government. Women have run for and obtained every possible elected position, except for one. The position of President of the United States is the one position that has yet to be obtained. However, in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton did have a higher popular vote than her male counterpart and eventual President in Donald Trump.
However, some challenges still retard women in the political involvement movement. There will always be a challenge where women are looked at as inferior to their male counterparts and just not giving the accolades or recognition that they deserved. Women will constantly be looked at as homemakers and not able, either physically or mentally, to do jobs that men are capable of doing. Women must stand together to help ensure that the rights and privileges, that were bestowed on us from previous battles and encounters, are strengthened and not weakened. By increasing the value and place of women in the political realm, it will ultimately lead to better opportunities for women in all areas of their life. Women will be treated as equals and receiving equal pay as men for doing the same job. The power of women in politics is greater at this point in the history of the United States than at any other time. Strides need to be taken to ensure the progress and maintain what women have already achieved. The future for women in the political field is undoubtedly at its brightest and with hard work and dedication by all women, it will only get better.