Browse Social Movements

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Name Description Founding year Related works
Age of Consent Movement As part of a larger social purity campaign in the late nineteenth-century, women and men reformers initiated a movement in 1885 to petition legislators to raise the legal age at which girls could consent to sexual i... As part of a larger social purity campaign in the late nineteenth-century, women and men reformers initiated a movement in 1885 to petition legislators to raise the legal age at which girls could consent to sexual intercourse. Their goal was to prevent the sexual exploitation of young women by criminalizing sexual intercourse with them. By 1920 most states had raised the legal age of consent to either sixteen or eighteen. Reformers were mostly white middle-class women and the campaign drew support from the suffrage movement and women's groups including the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Show more Show less 1885 3
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations Founded in 1886, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was a national organization that brought together skilled workers in a variety of crafts. The AFL's first president was Samuel Gompers who held the position fr... Founded in 1886, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was a national organization that brought together skilled workers in a variety of crafts. The AFL's first president was Samuel Gompers who held the position from 1886 to 1924. In 1903 the Women’s Trade Union League was formed to organize women’s unions and encourage their affiliation with the AFL. In 1955 the AFL merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Show more Show less 1886 6
American Woman Suffrage Association This wing of the woman suffrage movement was formed by New England women opposed to the policies of Stanton and Anthony. Led by Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe, the Association worked for the passage of the Fifteenth... This wing of the woman suffrage movement was formed by New England women opposed to the policies of Stanton and Anthony. Led by Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe, the Association worked for the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and aligned itself closely with the Republican party. The American and the National Woman Suffrage Association (see below) merged in 1890 to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (see entry below). Show more Show less 1869 1
Anti-Sweatshop Movement From 1890 to 1915 reformers in every American city sought to eliminate the low wages, long hours and unsanitary working conditions of home-based tenement industries and crowded workshops called “sweatshops.” Pro... From 1890 to 1915 reformers in every American city sought to eliminate the low wages, long hours and unsanitary working conditions of home-based tenement industries and crowded workshops called “sweatshops.” Prominent in this movement were trade unionists and middle-class women’s organizations including the National Consumers’ Leagues founded in the 1890s, and women reformers like Florence Kelley who sought to encourage consumers, through their purchasing power, employers, through their work practices, and the government, through protective labor legislation, to eliminate sweating. Government responses to the anti-sweatshop campaign included the U.S. House of Representatives’ decision in 1893 to authorize the Committee on Manufactures to investigate “the effect of the so-called ‘sweating system’ of tenement-house labor.” Show more Show less 1890 4
Birth Control Movement The Comstock Law, which made distribution of information about contraception illegal from 1873 to 1936, met with relatively little opposition until the second decade of the twentieth century, when reformers Mary War... The Comstock Law, which made distribution of information about contraception illegal from 1873 to 1936, met with relatively little opposition until the second decade of the twentieth century, when reformers Mary Ware Dennett (1872-1947) and Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) took up the "birth control" cause. From 1916 onwards, Sanger and Dennett competed for leadership, each forming different organizations and promoting different solutions to the issue of making birth control accessible and legal. Dennett founded the National Birth Control League in 1915 and the Voluntary Parenthood League in 1919. Sanger founded the short-lived Birth Control League in 1914, the American Birth Control League in 1921, and helped form the Birth Control Federation of America (1939), renamed the Planned Parenthood Federation in 1942. The Birth Control Movement moved out beyond the borders of the United States with the founding of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in Bombay in 1952. Show more Show less 1915 2
Charity Organization Society Founded in England in 1869, the Charity Organization Society movement began in the United States in New York the late 1870’s. Josephine Shaw Lowell, a prominent theoretician and organizer of the movement, sought t... Founded in England in 1869, the Charity Organization Society movement began in the United States in New York the late 1870’s. Josephine Shaw Lowell, a prominent theoretician and organizer of the movement, sought to rationalize charitable support for poor families by consolidating charitable institutions and promoting scientific methods. Continuing antebellum "friendly visiting" by middle-class women volunteers, the COS was an early, punitive form of social work. During the catastrophic depression of 1893 Josephine Shaw Lowell resigned from the COS and began to work with the New York Consumers’ League to promote minimum wages for low-paid workers, believing that higher wages was the best cure for poverty. The growth of social work after 1900 made the COS a less prominent institution. Show more Show less 1877 1
Daughters of the American Revolution Founded in 1891, and still in existence today, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) was the female counterpart to numerous male patriotic societies that sprang up in the 1890s. Initially, the Daughters ref... Founded in 1891, and still in existence today, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) was the female counterpart to numerous male patriotic societies that sprang up in the 1890s. Initially, the Daughters refrained from purely political activities, instead devoting themselves to promoting patriotic celebrations and erecting monuments and markers to honor Revolutionary forefathers. During World War I, DAR members supported war work. After the end of World War I, the DAR opposed women’s pacifist groups including the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Show more Show less 1891 1
Eight-Hour Day Movement Long a goal of labor activists and the issue around which numerous workers’ organizations had formed, the demand for an eight-hour work day increased in the 1880s and 1890s. Both men and women labor activists embr... Long a goal of labor activists and the issue around which numerous workers’ organizations had formed, the demand for an eight-hour work day increased in the 1880s and 1890s. Both men and women labor activists embraced the demand for an eight-hour day in manufacturing industries where the hours of labor commonly exceeded twelve. The campaign for an eight hour day was fought in two ways: unions sought contracts with employers and unions and reformers demanded workplace legislation that would limit working hours. In the 1880s the Knights of Labor were prominent in the movement for an eight-hour day. Show more Show less 1880 3
Equal Rights Amendment Movement After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party conceived of a plan for a new amendment to promote equal rights for women more generally. Written in 1921, and first... After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party conceived of a plan for a new amendment to promote equal rights for women more generally. Written in 1921, and first introduced into Congress in 1923, it finally passed the House and Senate in 1972. Professional women’s organizations predominated in the early movement as women’s labor interests opposed the ERA until the 1960s, viewing it as a threat to protective legislation for women. By the 1970s a broader coalition of women’s groups came to support the ERA in the changed economic and social climate. Show more Show less 1920 3
Feminism, 1960s- Feminism, dedicated to greater equality between men and women, reemerged as a central feature of public life in the 1960s, partly inspired by the burgeoning social movements of that decade: the New Left, the civil... Feminism, dedicated to greater equality between men and women, reemerged as a central feature of public life in the 1960s, partly inspired by the burgeoning social movements of that decade: the New Left, the civil rights movement, opposition to the war in Vietnam, and gay rights. Feminist organizations were numerous and diverse, often competing with one another, and promoted a multitude of social and political issues, including the enforcement of Title VII in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited sex discrimination in employment; access to birth control and abortion; the elimination of pornography and domestic violence, the rights of women of color and lesbian rights. Though challenged by the rise of conservatism in the 1970s, feminist values and ideas changed American life in the last third of the twentieth century and the movement continues as a vital force in the twenty-first century. Show more Show less 1960 2
General Federation of Women's Clubs Founded in 1890 by Jane Cunningham Croly, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs became one of the largest women’s organizations in the country. As President in the 1890s, Ellen Herotin developed the Federation... Founded in 1890 by Jane Cunningham Croly, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs became one of the largest women’s organizations in the country. As President in the 1890s, Ellen Herotin developed the Federation’s political and social interests. Members worked for a variety of social reforms that would benefit women and children. In 1955 membership peaked at 830,000. The Federation continues to be a significant voluntary organization today. Show more Show less 1890 3
Hull House Hull House, founded in Chicago in 1889 by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr, grew into the leading social settlement in the United States. Hull House residents provided space and resources for health, education, rec... Hull House, founded in Chicago in 1889 by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr, grew into the leading social settlement in the United States. Hull House residents provided space and resources for health, education, recreation, and the exercise of citizenship rights in their poor, immigrant neighborhood. By 1910 more than 400 social settlements, staffed largely by college-educated women, were established in poor neighborhoods in American cities. Show more Show less 1889 3
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union Founded in 1900, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) initially represented a largely immigrant workforce. The ILGWU and the women within the union gained significant strength during the 1909 shirt... Founded in 1900, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) initially represented a largely immigrant workforce. The ILGWU and the women within the union gained significant strength during the 1909 shirtwaist strike. Throughout its history the ILGWU was a dominant force in the American labor movement with branches around the country. The Union became part of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) in 1995. Show more Show less 1900 3
International Women's Peace Movement From 1915 onwards women reformers, led by Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch, promoted disarmament and world peace through organizations like the United States Women’s Peace Party (1915-1919), and the Women’s In... From 1915 onwards women reformers, led by Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch, promoted disarmament and world peace through organizations like the United States Women’s Peace Party (1915-1919), and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (1919-). Show more Show less 1915 4
Juvenile Court Movement From 1890 to 1915 a wave of juvenile reform (in which women played a prominent role) swept the nation and, within a few years, most states passed juvenile court legislation. Children were increasingly seen to have d... From 1890 to 1915 a wave of juvenile reform (in which women played a prominent role) swept the nation and, within a few years, most states passed juvenile court legislation. Children were increasingly seen to have different needs from adults in the justice system and were provided for accordingly. Show more Show less 1890 3
League of Women Shoppers The League of Women Shoppers was formed in 1935 to serve as a middle-class ally to working people engaged in labor disputes. With the slogan "use your buying power for justice," the LWS challenged women to support f... The League of Women Shoppers was formed in 1935 to serve as a middle-class ally to working people engaged in labor disputes. With the slogan "use your buying power for justice," the LWS challenged women to support fair labor practices with their shopping dollars by purchasing union-produced goods, boycotting manufacturers who mistreated employees, donating to strike relief funds, and writing to store managers. The predominantly middle-class members of the LWS used their social position to attract media attention to the strikes and pickets of workers across race, class, and geographic lines. The LWS had chapters in many major cities—San Francisco, Washington D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis, and Hollywood—and worked with other reform organizations such as the National Consumers League. Show more Show less 1935 1
Massachusetts Federation of Women's Clubs The Massachusetts state affiliate of the General Federation of Women's Clubs (see above) provided a state federation for women's clubs offering social, literary and reform activities for women under the overall umbr... The Massachusetts state affiliate of the General Federation of Women's Clubs (see above) provided a state federation for women's clubs offering social, literary and reform activities for women under the overall umbrella of the General Federation. Its first president was Julia Ward Howe, suffragist and founder of the New England Women's Club in 1868. Show more Show less 1893 1
National American Woman Suffrage Association In 1890 the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, joined Lucy Stone’s American Woman’s Suffrage Association (AWSA) to form the National American Woman Su... In 1890 the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, joined Lucy Stone’s American Woman’s Suffrage Association (AWSA) to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). The suffrage movement had split in 1869 over the issue of black male suffrage in the Fifteenth Amendment. From 1890 to 1920 when woman suffrage was finally added to the U.S. Constitution, NAWSA was the dominant national suffrage organization. Show more Show less 1890 2
National League of Women Voters The League of Women Voters (LWV) is a United States nonpartisan organization that formed out of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1920. In addition to a domestic focus on voter education, t... The League of Women Voters (LWV) is a United States nonpartisan organization that formed out of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1920. In addition to a domestic focus on voter education, the LWV developed international committees to address foreign affairs. In its early years, the LWV established the Department of International Cooperation to Prevent War, which focused on peace work. In 1947 it set up the Carrie Chapman Catt Memorial Fund to provide civic education to women whose countries were transitioning to democratic governments. The name of the Memorial Fund changed to the Overseas Education Fund (OEF) in 1961 and OEF International in 1986. This digital archive includes selected international material from the Department of International Cooperation in the 1920s and 1930s and OEF International material from the 1940s to the 1990s. Show more Show less 1919 4
National Organization for Women The National Organization for Women was formed in 1966 by a group of women frustrated with the failure of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition of sex discr... The National Organization for Women was formed in 1966 by a group of women frustrated with the failure of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition of sex discrimination. NOW was broadly conceived as a feminist organization dedicated to addressing sex and gender discrimination. Through lobbying, legal action, picketing, demonstrations, and marches, NOW supported a variety of causes, including the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, the repeal of restrictive abortion laws, publicly funded child care, the end of sex discrimination in employment, equal treatment of women and men in public accommodations, and lesbian rights. Show more Show less 1966 1
National Woman Suffrage Association Founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony after the demise of the American Equal Rights Association, this woman suffrage organization supported a wide range of women's rights issues. Led by an all-women... Founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony after the demise of the American Equal Rights Association, this woman suffrage organization supported a wide range of women's rights issues. Led by an all-women slate of officers, the Association promoted a conscious strategy of organizing women independently of male-dominated political parties. Competition between the National and the American Woman Suffrage Association (see above) divided the woman suffrage movement until the two organizations merged in 1890. Show more Show less 1869 1
National Woman's Party, US In 1916 Alice Paul, founder of the militant suffragist organization, the Congressional Union of Woman Suffrage (CUWS), mobilized her supporters to launch the National Woman's Party (NWP). The NWP used civil disobedi... In 1916 Alice Paul, founder of the militant suffragist organization, the Congressional Union of Woman Suffrage (CUWS), mobilized her supporters to launch the National Woman's Party (NWP). The NWP used civil disobedience tactics to promote the passage of the woman suffrage amendment. Paul’s strategies contributed to the passage of the federal Suffrage Amendment in 1919 and its ratification in 1920. After 1920 the NWP turned its attention to the passage of an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Show more Show less 1916 1
Settlement House Movement The first social settlement in the United States was founded in New York City in 1886; by 1910 there were 400 in cities throughout the United States. Settlements brought middle-class reformers to live in working-cl... The first social settlement in the United States was founded in New York City in 1886; by 1910 there were 400 in cities throughout the United States. Settlements brought middle-class reformers to live in working-class immigrant neighborhoods, where they undertook a variety of social reforms and became experts in the nation’s social, economic and political problems. Women dominated the movement, both as leaders and as settlement house residents. The effects of the movement were felt at the municipal, state and federal levels. Allied with trade unionists, intellectuals, medical professionals, immigrant leaders and reform politicians, settlement experts sought to Americanize recent immigrants and at the same time drafted legislation that promoted better living and working conditions for immigrant working people in American cities. Their effect continued in the New Deal of the 1930s. Show more Show less 1886 2
Social Purity Movement The social purity movement began in the 1870s in response to efforts to regulate prostitution in American cities; social purists organized to defeat efforts to regulate prostitution, believing that prostitution was... The social purity movement began in the 1870s in response to efforts to regulate prostitution in American cities; social purists organized to defeat efforts to regulate prostitution, believing that prostitution was a social evil that needed to be abolished. The key organization in this movement was the New York Committee for the Prevention of the State Regulation of Vice, led by Abby Hopper Gibbons, Emily Blackwell, Aaron Macy Powell and his wife, Anna Rice Powell, and Elizabeth Gay and founded in the 1870s. The movement’s main supporters consisted of white middle-class women as well as supporters from the suffrage movement and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Show more Show less 1870 1
Temperance Movement The movement to limit the consumption of alcohol began around 1800, when alcohol consumption was at an all-time high in the United States. Sobriety became a value associated with modernizing trends that included sel... The movement to limit the consumption of alcohol began around 1800, when alcohol consumption was at an all-time high in the United States. Sobriety became a value associated with modernizing trends that included self control and individualism, and was supported by working-class as well as middle-class Protestants. Dominated by men before 1860, the temperance movement nevertheless offered women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton a forum where they developed public speaking skills. In the depression winter of 1873-74, the women’s temperance movement exploded in Ohio with public demonstrations in which women protested the effects of men’s alchohol consumption on women and families. Organized by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the women’s temperance movement worked closely with the woman suffrage movement and became the most important vehicle for the participation of both black and white women in public life between 1873 and 1900. Although WCTU membership remained high and their international efforts were notable after 1900, other women’s organizations emerged to shape women’s activism in the decades before 1920. The passage of the prohibition amendment to the U.S. constitution in 1919 was largely due to the efforts of men in the anti-saloon league, a much more conservative organization than the WCTU. Show more Show less 1800 4

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