Christine de Pizan, a 25th-century French writer, was the first Renaissance woman to push for equitable access to education. She advocated for women's rights in her book The Book of the City of Ladies, published in 1405.
In our time, feminists have been fighting against sexism and gender inequality for almost 200 years. The term "feminist" was first used in 1851 by Mary Wollstonecraft, an English writer known for her work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. She argued that women should be given equal rights with men. Her work was followed by others such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony who founded the American Feminist Movement in 1848.
So the first feminist was a writer from France that lived more than 500 years ago. Then in the United States, there were several people who were fighting for women's rights. Finally, in 1951, the term became popular when it was used by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt who was also a political activist. She said that she was a feminist because it meant that women should have equal rights with men.
Nowadays, the word is often associated with women who fight for equality between the sexes, but the first feminists were actually men who wanted to give women equal rights.
In her article, A Vindication of Women's Rights, she advocated that women should have equal access to educational opportunities as men. "She was the first to write on women's equality and rights."
Wollstonecraft was born on 4 April 1759 in Chislehurst, then part of Kent, England. Her father was William Wollstonecraft, who worked for a shipping company, and her mother was Mary Ann Soanes, who died when Mary was nine years old. Due to financial difficulties, Wollstonecraft had to leave school at the age of 12 to help support her family.
Under her married name, Wollstonecraft published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792. The work became a landmark document of the early feminist movement. It argued not only that women were morally superior to men but also that they deserved equal political rights with men.
Two years after its publication, Wollstonecraft gave birth to her daughter Mary Ann. She died in London aged 43 years old from tuberculosis.
Wollstonecraft is regarded as the first documented feminist because she was one of the first people to argue for equal rights both for women and for black people. However, other feminists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Harriet Taylor Mill had written before her.
As a result, Rosseau's radical thesis became a foundational document for the French Revolution and the subsequent political reformation. This is one of the oldest feminist political publications, published in 1792. Wollstonecraft simply asserts that women have the same fundamental rights as men. She does not go so far as to call for a revolution, but her work did help inspire some feminists who were more outspoken.
Rosseau wanted women to be able to participate equally in politics. Before her time, most female authors were either philosophers or poets; they wrote about society without influencing it directly. But now that there were women involved in politics, they needed to know their rights with regard to marriage, divorce, and custody of children. Women had no legal existence apart from their husbands. If a wife divorced her husband, she lost any property she may have owned and could be forced to return to her family. The husband was given the right to file for divorce if he felt like it was necessary for his own happiness. In many cases, he would simply take what he wanted from the household goods and give back the rest. If a woman didn't want to get back into an unhappy marriage, she had no choice but to submit to her husband's will.
Rosseau also wanted women to be able to hold public office. At this time, only men were allowed to vote or run for office.
Harriet Martineau, who was born in 1802, is often considered as the first woman sociologist. She was the first to translate August Comte's work from French to English in 1853. This translation would allow English-speaking scholars to begin learning the writings of Comte, renowned as the father of sociology. Martineau was also one of the first women journalists when she worked for a London newspaper in 1825. Her career as a journalist lasted only a few months because she suffered a nervous breakdown after an incident that caused her to be hospitalized for three months.
After her recovery, she decided to pursue another interest of hers, which was studying society. So, she enrolled at University College London (UCL) where she completed all her courses except for the last one, which required her to write a thesis. The title of her thesis was "Contributions of the Higher Criticism to the History of Religion." It was well received by her audience and can be said to have laid the groundwork for modern social science. In addition to her PhD, she also has a master's degree in theology from King's College London.
Martineau is best known for her book, Society: Its Growth and Structure, which was published in 1838. In this book, she argues that society can be studied using the tools of biology, which at the time were just becoming available. Thus, she is regarded as the first woman biologist.