By: Terry Ahtziry Cardenas Banda, attorney and former professor.
March, the month in which the International Women’s Day is celebrated, it is therefore appropriate to take a few lines to appreciate the history of women’s rights, and how over time women acquired greater rights and gained a respectable place in different areas of our society. Throughout history, women struggled and had to fight for a society that recognizes their rights, such as the right to integrity, the right to vote, the right to hold public office, the right to work, the right to just and equal remuneration, the right to possess property, the right to education, the right to serve in the army, the right to sign legal contracts, and matrimonial and parental rights, among others.
In honor of women and all those who contributed on having a society today with more equal rights for women, we give a brief roadmap of those historical moments that marked the path for recognizing the rights of women. It is necessary to recognize that there are still countries that are behind in this matter and there is still work to do in favor of women’s rights; however, these lines are particularly devoted to addressing the history of women’s rights in Mexico and briefly in the United States.
In Mexico, the rights of women had their unique process, in the old Civil Codes women were forbidden to leave their home unless they married or they turned thirty. During the administration of Salvador Alvarado, military governor of the state of Yucatan, the first tangible steps were taken in favor of women through the reforms known as the Feminist Law which established that women could leave the household after turning 21 years old and parents will encourage daughters to look for work. With this the first advances were made for the rights of women. In 1917, the Family Relations Act was enacted which extended the right to married women to sign contracts, to participate in lawsuits, to be a guardian and to have the same rights as men in regards to their children, as well as the same rights to spend family funds.
During the 19th century, large feminist organizations emerged that fought for the right to vote and political rights for women. In 1946, it was a great step for women in terms of political rights since they were granted the right to vote in municipal elections. For the year 1953, the right to universal suffrage was granted, with Mexico being one of the last Latin American countries to grant women the right to vote. Women of the State of Baja California were the first to participate in electoral votes for governor in the year 1955.
In the 20th century, feminist organizations resurged demanding social rights of women, in search of labor equity and better working conditions. The women’s rights struggle, according to the historian Ana Lau Jaiven, was divided into three stages: organization, establishment and struggle; stagnation processes and subsequent take-off; and alliances, conversions and the search for democratization. On 1995, a new era for women was marked as they began to incorporate their rights and needs into government agendas.
Among the great gains that have been made in favor of women there is their right to participate in the labor world, recognizing the achievement of counting with a female candidate in the last presidential elections, even though the candidate did not win the election, it opens a great door for equality of women’s rights, story that was also experienced in the United States in its recent elections since they as well had a woman candidate for the presidential elections and this candidate obtained the popular vote, nevertheless none of this two remarkable women’s won the election. There is still work to be done, the fight has been strong, great rights have been achieved in favor of women and the work continues in order to achieve equal rights for women in every area.
Before women’s rights fight began in Mexico, the United States already had movements seeking to achieve the recognition of women’s rights, as it happened in the first Convention on Women’s Rights in New York, in 1848. By 1866, organizations were formed and fought for equality of rights for women in the society between which it emphasized the fight for the right to universal suffrage. In 1917, thanks to the work of conventions and associations, the United States took a great step in granting the right to vote to women in New York, which landed on the ratification of the 19 Amendment, amendment that gave all women the right to vote in the United States.
During the 19th century, women’s rights were booming in the United States, since government included on the agenda discussion of the issue of equal rights for women and women were accepted into the education world by allowing them to have the right to education, as well as labor and political rights. It is true that the United States began the fight for women’s rights before Mexico did, both countries have been able to defend women and their rights, but we must continue to recognize, defend and eliminate all discrimination against women or any individual, the fight must be constant and stay on the agenda of every government.