History of Women’s Rights

History has characteristically left the story of the woman from the ancient world times to pre modern time. Upon close introspection, the ‘her story’ is found to exist only pushed to the deepest ends unavailable for the universal interests and concerns. Conscious efforts however, have awoken the great rethinking of this state of affairs hence the history of the woman has been restored to her through her own kind.

The reasons that women history passed passively under the bridge are not because it was inferior or meaningful rather it was a result of the united in academics to pin it down up to the last two decades. Yet, the woman history just like the man’s is rich with a distinctive lack of linearity, logic and coherence and at the same time different in terms of historical difference and experiences in time space. This paper aims therefore to analyze critically the development of women’s rights and gender in history by evaluating the woman in different time spaces and places.

In her writing Dock (p. 26) observes that to understand this intention a few home truths must first be recognized. She states that the difference between women’s history from men does not justify any less value or importance. It neither does not mean that it is a special female problem but rather it should be a general history detailing about the woman.

In this process, the woman great effort must be understood from the point that women’s history is different among the woman. Women do not share same history and the awareness of the otherness from the male perspective that has led to inequality between men and women history makes a clear case for the need to study women’s history.

In this attempt to explain the woman, gender history as clear encompassing strategy must be the main force. With this cannon ready to fire, women’s history should characterized by those efforts that desist from explaining the biological gender and sex attitudes. These perspectives derive their flawed details from the men’s perspective and hence serve the men in terms of politics, social, cultural and economics. Therefore to critically understand and analyze the history of women the cultural relations of women in the society to the men, other women and any other aspect can only give the predetermined motion of this work.

Upon Rampolla’s writing, the question of evaluating how history should be understood bears a heavy responsibility to writing this paper. Rampolla clearly details that history is an attempt to study the past of our society. In this focus, the historian seeks to understand the facts that help to get an insight into the ideas and realities that shaped the lives of men and women in such past.

This may seem a simple task but Rampolla veers from that nerve by stating that the beliefs and the institutions of the past are compelling and a rich showcasing of the human experience. In addition, history is about perceiving and recognizing the diversity of human beliefs and cultures as a way to recreate in a fresh and critical insight of our own world. In that sense therefore history is no child’s play since the relationships between and among events forms the major background.

Further the search for relationship is complicated by the different approaches and methods applied in order to ascertain and understand particular propositions (Rampolla, 2).

Emanating from this view then the study of gender history is the search of the relationships that existed between men and women in the past societies. This is guided by the questions which gender suppressed the other, what were the causes of that suppression, do these factors still continue to influence the perspective of gender, what were the political, social and economic impact of such treatment of women to the society and what events and persons in the past helped to contribute in their shape. This according to Rampolla forms the necessary curiosity of a historian who is guided by different interests that resonate with the society of his lifetime. By understanding how history works the study of gender history becomes easier.

From Dock’s work questions in history derive the answers that the impact of history from the men’s’ perspective contributed to the sidelining of women’s perspective and importance. Dock observes that the definition of gender as a socio-cultural category places value judgments upon constructs.

These judgments are culture oriented and thus women receive the lowest value of the socio-cultural sense hence the exploitation and injustice towards them. The placement of notions and values upon those issues pertaining to women and in the most belittling manner has led to a gender history where the woman has received far below than the male counterpart hence the prospect of inequality.

In terms of gender as social, cultural, historical relations historical questions raise the answers that clarify that gender history must veer from looking at women just as women but rather as an inclusive strategy. In gender relations therefore the interactions of women with other women of varying degrees and positions in the society as well as to the men and in return the study relation of men to women and to fellow comprises a full picture.

In Hughes observation women in prehistoric civilizations were faced with both victim and victor situations. She reveals that the history of women in the societies was not affected by the male exclusion from the daily view of the patriarchal society but rather it issues like age, class, marital status, freedom or slavery, ambition, fecundity and physique made the life of women.

A close analysis in global history reveals that the woman came second to man in terms of political and social history. Hughes observes that (p, 10) that the development of global history and that of the woman developed almost at the same period at around 1970s and 1980s However, women’s history had the characteristic of personalization to women though it concerned the West. The limit set to explain the ancient women’s history of Asia and Europe which later changed to al women in history in the 1990s.

In her observation, Hughes observed that gender was a social construction in the history and therefore every society had different construction of what was natural to them. In this sense women’s rights and development could only be explained from a particular society. Thus the world gender issues varied from economic, linguistic, political and religious platforms. In the prehistoric societies characterized by Neolithic ages, Hughes wrote that the societies before agricultures engaged in almost equal society important activities.

The women would collect nuts, roots and leaves that helped to sustain the family just like men who hunted for meat. To an extent what women did sustained the family more than the meat men gathered. In this era patriarchy developed when men controlled the sexual and reproductive nature of the women.

This led to co modification of women illustrated by the enslaving of conquered women as men got killed in wars. The women got devalued due to the fact they could be exchanged using such methods and thus they became second to men sexually and economically.

Hughes features Lerner in this discussion who observes that this pattern was replicated in other areas like the Mediterranean. In this discussion Hughes invokes Docks observation that the gender construction of these early societies help explain the relationship between men and women.

Between women the relationship was that of the conquered and the conqueror although influenced by the patriarchal system. The views concerning matriarchal society could only be proved by figurines, fertility and the rise of importance of motherhood. However this does not explain enough the universal concern of the study of gender history since power relationship between men and women revealed otherwise.

In terms of work, women in history were responsible for agricultural inventions of farming and tendering of plants. The women as the direct contact persons between the issues surrounding the sustainability of the home they contributed to clothing, shelter, cooking, and fetching of water. History indicates that the textile industries of the great Egypt and China started in the home setting to rise to the positions of the society’s sources of power.

As a result the textile industry in places like Egypt became the second largest source of income after agriculture. All these were contributions by women and led to great civilizations but an analysis of the economic position of women did not reflect this. In history the women were found in various disciplines like medicine, agriculture, production of goods and services and general care of the family but there was no explicit accounting of women’s contributions to this great era.

As a result is becomes clear that the men dominated the economic world reinforcing Docks argument that the gender construction of the society was the result of the relations between men and women.

Therefore gender history in this case was that of men created in cultural, social and historical concepts insistent on non existence of women. Therefore the women did not represent the half of the mankind in terms of history although in the actual sense they formed more that half hence Dock’s insistence on gender as a category of the history of women and gender.

In terms of reproduction women sexuality was very important as it formed the line for the existence of the society into the future. Sons and grandsons were valued and the patrilineal society valued children for the survival of the society and hence women were valued and seen in these terms. If women did not give the society children and especially sons they would be divorced falling into oblivion, poverty and disgrace.

The men controlled the social requirements of the society hence chastity in women was seen through virginity lens leading to early marriages. This led to seclusion of women in the family and was not allowed to get out of unless they were veiled for the case of those who were in elite positions of the society in the classical regions. In such instances women played the victims although to some extent they experienced better treatment. In terms of divorce as opposed to modern history women’s historical experience independence allowed them to divorce and inherit property.

In some societies men were punished in equal measure like women for adultery situations and thus women and men were equalized. The women were allowed to remarry and regain their dowries. The burden of keeping and rearing the children was placed with the former husband hence women had their legal rights protected and empowered.

Also due to the short life expectancy the practice of child rearing and care was not just left to women in these societies but included a tall order for men also to ensure the survival of the society due to the foraging nature. Women at times could take independent actions in terms of legal interpretations when their fathers were absent and thus guardians allowed them to be free in that perspective. In summary this marks the earliest of the women gender history in the ancient non literate civilization.

In ancient literate civilization women’s gender history changed from the point of perspective of the ancient ancestors. In Egypt for example women in the high class enjoyed legal, social and economic and political privileges. At the same time women in the low class sections of the society would be able to hold property at times and engage in economic activities like textiles and other small scale transactions. Women were independent and led creative lives with the possibility of some capable of writing.

In Greek women were treated indifferently and were insubordinate to men. The men in Athens, Sparta and Thebes viewed women as the cause of evil in the Greek society and the social status of women reveals that the men dominated the society.

Slavery was common for women of the low social status as well as the love for prostitution while the aristocratic women were left to acquire property independently. In terms of women relationships the women shared in child care, read to one another as well as spinning and weaving in the society of the Greeks. In Hellenistic period however women in Egypt experienced high social status ascending to high positions politically, economically, legally and socially.

In Rome women were clearly below men in all aspects of life. The society was staunchly male and women could not speak in a public places except for the elite and wealthy women who opposed taxation for the indulgence of civil wars largely unsupported by the women. In terms of property ownership women were guided by their fathers later by their husbands and in the first century B.C.E this changed to guardians who followed the wishes of the women.

As a result Rome prospered city in terms of growing markets of real and personal property. For the elites, men and women had equal possession of property, social status that was characterized by adulterous lives. Women often would forego family and children life in favor for one that was extravagant.

Further a revelation indicates that women in the ancient period were deprived the choice of spouses a role that was done by the family members. Women thus struggle to establish and come to terms that were constructed by the society point of view of gender. Thus women fought daily for balance of gender power in their personal relationship in efforts to do away with laws and regulations that put them at lower pedestals.

Gifts to the couple at times were used by the husbands for economic prosperity leaving the wife out. However, women in the ancient world had their own advantages and instances where they experienced independence, prosperity and development. This is as detailed in the above discussion although the freedom over personal bodies and children was severely stripped away from them. In the literate civilization women experienced more insubordination than in the pre literate and non illiterate societies.

The gender constructs therefore depend on the culture and the social relations of the society as Dock notes. Again the perspective of history defining the relationship between the genders illustrates the varying differences concerning the social status of women. This is reinforced by the global focus of gender relation, categories and constructs concerning women history as noted by Hughes.

Nashat (p. 25) writing describes that women lost power in Middle East as a result of their sexual orientation. The rise of their insubordination came as a result of rise of urban life that created trade and economic boost. The need for children led lto women loosing public life for the purposes of caring and raising them. Women thus systematically lost their equality to men in the rising social construction.

Men thus become the owners of farms and trade activities hence downgrading the position of women in the society even for the elite women who had assumed equal position ot that of men.

In this reference Nash at shared her view with Hughes by observing that the social status of women in gender history is construction of the situations laying in every culture and society. As Hughes notes, however, the rise of men as the most powerful in the society did not occur as a result of coercion but rather due to situations evident in the lives of the relations between the two genders.

Women gained protection and security for their future as result of this insubordination and thus their children or nay property belonging to their husbands formed the link to their equal social status position in the society.

Dock’s works observes that to understand gender history the study of gender men and gender women in terms of their relations must but be taken from the point of illuminating rather than eliminating situations which is well captured Nashat and Hughes in the study of women’s history. Nashat answers Hughes call by observing that despite these situations women tried to outdo their demise by creatively going round the restrictions to gain wealth and influence trough either their children, kinship or any other means.

Therefore, in Sumerian and Mesopotamia, urbanization and acculturation largely led to the woman’s ascent to the lowest position of the social scale. Men took this advantage to design a system that would ensure that the woman respected outlined codes that favored the men. The teachings required the woman to follow them all her life that her husband was superior and required obedience without question and if they were not followed the next life would lead to severe punishment.

This resulted in the rise of the veil for the respectable women as opposed to the prostitute. Legally a woman was not supposed to marry after divorce incase the husband was alive and only the men could have as many wives as possible as opposed to one husband for the women. This was the rise of Islam that occurred as a result of the rise of two empires Achaemenids and the Summerian that joined in 530 330 BCE to form Islam in 610.

Women in the elite position were different from those at the lower level in that they never toiled in labor and pastoralist as the latter. Nomadic Arabian women however played out an active role in public life and by becoming experts in artistic poetry they could influence their men in particular decisions through opinions and criticisms.

This was in contrast to the pre-Islamic Arabia where the position of women took second place after men. A divorced woman could not receive any assistance from her husband yet she was not allowed to remarry. In many cases they would be left to mercies of male family members and the tribe of the family.

Men could divorce at will something women did not have as a legal right. Muhammad teachings supported women and the family in deep and varied ways. Financially, women had been given a voice by the Qur’an and thus they enjoyed the wealth gotten from conquers and without interference from their husbands.

However, when the Islamic culture came into contact with the agrarian older cultures of the Arabian Muslims the restrictions and seclusion of women took a new beginning. These changes were slow as women lost freedom in the public space by around (705-15) as the ruler Walid of Umayyad placed seclusion to a new bid price. He showed preference for the non Arabian cultures and their women which allowed the spread of the veil as women and girls sort to hide from Arabian men.

The conquered populations changed to Islam and without details the public life of women becomes more restrained in contrast to the teachings of Muhammad. The fact that the rulers followed the urban/agrarian life of the ruled explains the development of women’s negative social situations. This led to the development of Shari’ah law in pretense that it was part of teachings of Muhammad.

The theological scenarios supported by the Muslim jurists thus led to women’s discouragement from public space and the influence of older cultures resulted to women being viewed though suspicion in their judgments as was illustrated by the Sasanian society and the clergy. However, on a positive note women’s sexuality was left intact as well as their right for sexual enjoyment.

This allowed women to express their freedom in sexual matters hence gaining power to seek for divorce on grounds of impotence of their husbands (Nashat, 238). To relate with Dock’s view the fact that these development arose as a result of cultural conflict hits a point home by bringing out the idea of gender construction at the cultural point of view.

Just as Hughes notes the Islam women found their positions in the society guided and pushed by issues that emanated from the society’s perspectives. Again religion plays a part to explain gender just like in Greece and Rome. Women accordingly were to remain at the lowest levels of these two social aspects of a society but under systems designed from relations between the gender men and gender women.

Thus in women’s history the gender category construction confirms this relation which reveals women at the receiving end rather than equals. Religion and culture at some point cancelled each other and led to the separation of men and women for very long impeding the women to pursue their own interests except I areas of education.

Women studied the Shari’ah law and become great scholars while others managed to engage in meaningful trade at national and international levels despite the pressure to present marriage and motherhood as the ideal institution. A woman was under her husband or her father if not married and if she bore a son her status was greatly improved. The requirement of women not to engage male strangers made it however difficult for women to manage their property and wealth hence complicating their social status and search for justice where needed.

The society of avoided women had their eyes on trade and wealth thus further making things difficult socially for women who had no interest in children and motherhood. Lower class women had greater freedom in movement and in many cases did not observe the veil requirement in their rural setting where they were involved in light textile industries.

These women engaged in activities like planting seeds, milking, sericulture and they did as much as men. In terms of education however the women gained just as men although gender boundaries reveal that women studied at home rather than the madrasah. They would gain expertise to the point of becoming teachers. Sufism gave greater religion meaning to the women and allowed them to become just like men in search for divine reality.

This led to women separate organizations in religion leading to charity measures by the wealthy and the elite by the twelfth century. Under the Turks and the Ottoman rule the woman gained public space and voice.Thus she rose to the positions of regents and rulers for those in the high social class. Under Islam therefore women contributed largely to the advances of civilizations where their public space was guided by social class and the lifestyle that were dictated greatly by culture and religion.

They had however gained in terms of economic, education and property rights as well as in the public space for those who persisted to break the ceilings hence histories that represent continued submissive and victimized women are inconsistent and incorrect. In reference therefore to Dock’s observation, for us to understand gender history in terms of women history there is express need to evaluate the socio-cultural as well as other factors that worked to explain the definition of gender.

Bardsley through her work reinforces Dock’s idea that gender history in explaining the relation of women against other women solidifies the case in the attempt to understand and explain women in the globe. Hence in work she clearly writes that women were largely separate in terms of social class, religion, marital status, age and the place and period which they lived. These concepts took more permanent place in the identification of persons rather than the gender constructs or identity.

In her work on medieval women in the middle ages she places emphasis to Dock’s content that history written by women must authoritatively guide the conscious search for women’s gender in history. Further, she makes it clear that women were divided in terms of Christianity, Jewish, noble peasant, single, married, widowed, old and young. However, women were below men in cases where the man came from the same class like the woman.

However if the man came from a class different from the woman, women would go over board and tretat him as an inferior to her. In religion men were considered higher than women as Hildegard and Clare indicated in their writings. They exercised their right to write their own content as revealed by letters although these were done by scribes.

The property women owned if they were married belonged to their husbands and thus did not have many instances of writing their wills as the most forceful forms of information from this age. Women like Beatrice, Katherine, and Peverel helps us understand the social relations of women through their wills.

They left specific details on what should be done to their property which reveals that the poor women, single and peasants did not have such influence in the social life. As a result of lack of enough books and sources written by women men’s accounts about women would inform about the gender issues of women though with selective insight.

Religious literature chastised women in positive way and other records indicated that women were not that admired as recorded by men. Details from court records indicate that men coupled themselves in prestigious activities that paid high taxes to the King as opposed to the lowly economic activities that attracted women. Therefore women were clustered in the lower sections of economic levels. In addition women were identified in relation to the men either as daughters, wives and widows.

In the early Middle Ages the joining of Celtic, Germanic and Roman cultures had various impacts to women both in the positive and negative sense. The absence of central authority led to increased sexual assaults and exploitation by men those from within and without. Other women managed to gain power like Abbesses which later waned with the coming of the Church.

The merging of these three cultures did not change mush about the individual treatments of the women in each cultures since it only led to a new form of patriarchy that ensured that women were inferior to men. Christianity gave leadership roles to women in the early Middle Ages but had waned at the end of the early Middle Ages.

The high Middle Ages on the contrary were years of growth in all aspects though it never meant that women benefited very much from these development. Women were continually and consistently removed from public spaces through economic systems. The merchant’s guild system was run by men who formed relationship with other men for success and collaboration.

In many cases women just worked alongside men with no apparent say to the public visiting these shops. The lords of the land did not employ women to manage their lands and the manor system did not enlist women in governance and public administration issues.

As economy grew and became complex scholastic possibilities developed in the high Middle Ages in 1000 to 1300. Education had not taken root and thus even the noble were illiterate hence the invention of copying and studying at this time would focus on men leaving the women out. The development of universities led to study of rhetoric, grammar, and logic.

This preceded by schools that were guided and administered by the cathedrals in monasteries. Stories indicate that women would assume male personas to evade the restrictive laws in order to achieve university education. However the rise of prostitutes in the periphery of the universities completed the inequality picture in the urge to satisfy the pleasures of the students who found no fun in the studies.

This is evident in art and literature where women were not represented as well as the building styles that emphasized a society full of men’s concerns. The church and the state as emerging powers did not at all help to change the position of women in the society instead to some extent the call for celibacy by the church served to perpetuate the evil nature of women.

The increased power of the kings led to the decline of women’s marriage autonomy a they showed that such relationships could be used for political gains and alliances. In essence the high Middle Ages led to the lowered status of women than men and therefore they did not experience the growth characterized by this period.

In the Later Middle Ages the situation did not change for in terms of gender constructions. The Black Death in the fifteenth and sixteenth century had a serious impact on the people of Europe. It caused untold death to many without any differentiation of class. As result women would rise to positions of bailiffs, jurors, churchwardens and aletaster. Many women from the rural areas moved to towns as they had not been largely affected by the Bubonic plague and they married at younger levels in a bid to replace the lost population.

Although Black Death served to illuminate about the society’s determination to survive it did not help in any way to change the status of women as they still were placed below men in the public space. By the end of Middle Ages Renaissance came into focus but scholars found no major impact upon women in the society.

The intellectual rebirth was male oriented placed the man on top of everything leaving out the woman. Despite a few who took girls to school these eras did not provide any new meaning to women although it changed in simple ways the concept of women and their status. However besides this observation there were instance where women circumvented the restrictions in their lives to ascend to the high public space and other times use their influence to suit their interests.

In this work therefore Bardsley traces the views of Nashat by observing that women would try to struggle with the forces that persistently pushed them down through innovate ways. It also reveals the same issues that were in Middle East and both illustrate that understanding women from the eyes of fellow women gives a better insight to the gender history of women.

The celebration of motherhood in Medieavla Europe however was not very strong as in Middle East and women had lower benefits when compared to Islamic women.

In her article Sonbol makes a clear pitch in support of the position of women in the marriage institution in Egypt and Palestine. She observes that the economic position of women in a major equaled that of men as provided by Shari’ah law. She clearly makes case that women had their own property guaranteed from the interpretations of the law governing the society.

Women would get these economic positions through inheritance of wealth from their families and guardians who could be either men or women. The role of the courts is illustrated as to give women’s petition views legal rights to take care of property left by husbands to the children.

This was a result of the observation that the mothers would ensure the property and avoid conflicts caused when the guardianship role was taken by male persons in the extended family. Sonbol’s observation in a strong case contributes to the equal treatment of women and men in the courts when it came to trials and petitions.

The courts records contradicted the popular views by scholars that women were objects of victimization and insubordination. She traces this situation to the family set where the man and the wife have separate control of their business and property. She observes that due to the reality of divorce the need for personal control of economic ends was necessary to help women maintain their social status.

Women who had taken the crucial age and acted as first wives took control of the property left by the husbands on behalf of the orphans and other young wives. This reinforces the women gender relations observed by Dock that women relationship in the history of gender about women serves to explain the social status.

Women thus in Egypt and Palestine supported each other as well as caring for economic interests of those who mattered in their society. Women would become agents of the court for women and men and therefore in this exercise women were empowered to invest and prosper in real estates and property.

Her article supports women and observes that they were as well successful as the men in the marriage institution hence the public space of women would be explained from the management of wealth gained from various areas like dowry and others. The search for solutions to cases of disputes in the courts and in the market place illustrates women’s importance in this Islamic society.

These articles all reinforce the ideas in Docks article that women’s history should take first and foremost the perspective of the women themselves. Dock’s asserts that women’s social status has been universally pushed to the low levels behind the man. This has been as result of gender construct from gender relations between women and men.

This is true of ancient civilization society where the woman was seen in terms of sexual orientation. Her position in the society is seen in terms of child rearing, motherhood, family care which in the sense of the woman’s perspective counts more. Gender history as written by men has consistently left out women in the account of history and therefore women have to take their history by their own strength to advance the major importance of their presence in history.

Dock’s wishes thus find supportive claim and power in the words of Nashat, Bardsley, Sonbol and Rampolla. They all agree that the result of women being subordinate to men is as a result of cultural, social and historical situations that have maintained the power of matriarchy. As a conclusion therefore women’s history must be rewritten from the point of women who understand their world better to change this view.

In other words women are equal and sometimes greater than men when measures by the approaches and studies carefully instituted by fellow women. This means that women must be ready to empower each as they related with men. These studies urge men to drop their lopsided view of the ‘other’ sex and embrace the importance of women as equal persons on the social status scale of the society.

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