The History of Contraception and Equal Pay: Gender Equality in America
The fight for gender equality in the United States has been developing since the country began. The reasons for gender today’s gender inequalities are deep seeded in the history of gender inequality in America. Upon arriving to the new world, the colonies quickly implemented policies barring women from voting and owning land. It would be 50 years before women were allowed to own land (with the permission of their husbands) in any state, and more than 100 years before this right was secured in every state. Legal arguments over birth control and the right to work have also limited efforts for true gender equality.
Women were forced to rely on the men in their lives for more than 100 years. It wasn’t until 1900 that women in every state were allowed to both own land and keep their own wages if they worked. In this sense, they were forced to rely on the men in their lives financially. Once women were guaranteed the right to keep their own wages, they still had to fight for equal pay for equal work. A fight that continues today despite the fact that the Equal Pay act, promising women equal pay for equal work, was passed in 1963. The act, unfortunately, did nothing to dismantle the more subtle systems barring women from promotions and equal pay. The stalled dismantling of these systems is the reason a pay gap still exists today. Businesses that provide on-site day care and paid parental leave (to men and women), for example, have more women in positions of power.
For much of American history, the government has also had control over generic contraception. The first birth control clinics for women weren’t available until the early 1900’s, and the Supreme Court continued to argue over a woman’s right to contraception through the introduction of female contraception in the 1950s. Contraception wasn’t ruled legal for married couples until 1965 and for unmarried couples until 1972. Without access to birth control, lack of family planning can seriously impact a woman’s ability to work or create a life outside of the home. This is a major source of modern gender inequality.
It has officially been 100 years since the 19th amendment was passed. Women have had the right to vote for 100 years and gender equality has come a long way, but we still see a pay gaps and other measurable signs of gender inequality, especially for minority women and non-binary genders. Historical and systematic forces are still at play in the form of systematic and prejudicial oppression to create modern gender inequality in America.