Women’s rights have come along way. There are still many pockets of inequality and more work must be done to allow women to be treated equally to men and for the importance of diversity to be recognized. Yet when we look back through history at how badly women were treated in the past, it is clear to see that improvements have been made. One of the best examples of this is hidden away in 1908 New York.
You could argue that the women’s rights movement began in 1848 when the first women’s rights convention was held. Here they asked for equal rights for men and women. Hundreds of women gathered for the convention. 1893 may mark the most important date as this is when women were first given the right to vote. The landmark action that happened in New Zealand led by Kate Sheppard. This victory inspired women around the world to stand up for their rights.
Yet while women were rising up and creating positive action, men were still trying to keep them down. In 1908 a new law was passed in New York that banned women from smoking in public. Business owners were asked to stop any women from smoking on their premises. A New York Times article at the time captured how controversial the law was as it asked if ladies would rebel. The law did not last long. A day later (another Kate) Katie Mulcahy was fined $5 for breaking the law and was imprisoned for refusing to pay.
However most found the law confusing as there seemed no fit punishment to fit such a small crime. Mulcahy was later released and the law was vetoed shortly after. While it was another victory for women’s rights it better serves as a highlight of the needless oppression they faced and the bizarre arrogance that men at the time had in their feelings of superiority.
Women would continue to fight for their rights and make great strides over the next hundred years. Today more than 14 women are leaders of countries around the world. While still a minority when compared to the total number of countries it at least shows how far those countries have come. One of the most notable is Jacinda Ardern who leads the country of New Zealand all those years after Kate Sheppard started the fight for woman’s rights. Today women count for 8% of all national leaders and 2% of all presidential posts. It is clear that these numbers do not reflect the balance we seek in society but they are a start.