Throughout the history of the World, women have overcome many obstacles to make important contributions to
society. Women faced discrimination in many areas, such as education, careers, legal rights and voting rights,
and in many parts of the world today still do.
During colonial times, girls and boys were educated differently. Girls went to "dame" schools where they were
taught how to read and write. The "master" schools -- similar to today's high schools -- were for boys. Girls could
attend the master schools, generally during the summer when boys worked and only if space was available. Or
they were simply educated at home.
In the 1800s, opportunities for women in education began to improve. High schools and colleges for girls were
established in the United States. Some colleges and universities that accepted only young men began to
accept young women. In 1833, Oberlin College became the first higher education institution for young women
and men. At the beginning of the 20th century, more than one third of all college students were women.
Women and the Law
In early America, women had few legal rights. Married women could not own property or make contracts on their
own. In Africa women are still prejudiced and in only recent years, as recent as the 1990's, could women
purchase and own moveable or immoveable property without the authority and sanction of their husbands. This
applied even to banking accounts.
During the 1800s in the United States, many states began to pass laws that gave women more control over their
lives. Laws were passed that allowed women to own property, make contracts and have control of any money
they earned. Other laws helped women who had been mistreated and abandoned by their husbands and women
who became widows when their husbands died. South Africa and Africa in general is centuries behind in
assisting women who are left destitute by their former spouses or partners, and who have the responsibility of
raising children and maintaining a home - if they have one. There is little in the way of social security for
women in Southern Africa, and of course the law in South Africa is "only as good as the lawyer you can afford".
Women have little or no backup, financially or otherwise and often find themselves in extremely difficult
situations, with having to pay for extremely expensive (and dangerous) public education, basic services that rank
amongst the most expensive in the world and inflation at a record high every month.
Women and the World of Work
During the colonial period, a few women had careers in fields associated with men, such as medicine,law, and
ministry. Many women who earned wages worked in jobs they could do at home, such as run a boarding house
or work as a seamstress.
As industry rose in the 1800s, women began to work outside of the home in factory jobs. Most worked for long
hours with little pay in poor working conditions. In some families, children also worked in factories. With such
high unemployment throughout the world today many women, although qualified or experienced, are unable to
During the 19th century, women began to gain acceptance in certain professional careers, especially teaching
and writing. Women faced discrimination in many other professions, such as medicine. Women were not
accepted into medical universities attended by men. In the early 1800s, nearly all hospital nurses were men.
By the beginning of the 20th century, some conditions for women in work showed signs of improvements. The
United States government passed laws that improved working conditions for women who worked in factories.
More women entered the field of medicine as top medical schools began to accept women.
Increasing numbers of women entered the work force, mainly in clerical jobs, factories, service and sale
positions. During World War II, thousands of women joined the military as nurses and office workers. Many
women also worked in factories, building materials needed for the war effort.
Even though many women worked in the same jobs as men, women earned less money than their male
coworkers. In 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, a law requiring companies to pay women the same
wages as men for the same work. However, by 1970, women still earned only about 55 percent of what men
During the 1800s, women began to speak up and organise to gain women's rights. In 1848, the first women's
rights meeting was held in New York. One important issue from that meeting was women's suffrage -- the right to
Leaders in the women's suffrage movement included Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy
Stone. For many years, these women and thousands of others across America worked to get the vote for women.
In 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote. The bill became law in
Women slowly began to gain leadership roles in government. Today, women hold many different political
offices, from local governments to advisors in the cabinets of various governments.
March is the annual celebration of International Women's History Month, a time to honour
and acknowledge the achievements and contributions of women throughout the world,
and throughout history
Join us as we explore some of the many accomplishments of women in history. Here you
will find printables, lesson plans, complete eBooks and biographies of some of the most
famous and also lesser-known women from around the globe (past and present) who
Homeschool unless otherwise stipulated.