The Effect of Technological Advances on Women's Rights

by Alexys Matcuk

The Women's Rights movement was a very important time in history for generations of women to come. It gave women the right to vote, right to an education, right to work, etc. What really gave the Women's Rights Movement its momentum was technology which helped spread information and news to other women interested in joining the movement and educated men on why women should have the same rights as they do. I am researching how the role of technology helped men understand political science and realize how important the women's rights movement was and how Southwestern University went from being male dominated to having a campus with many female faculty members and having the first female president in the history of Southwestern University. .

The Women's Rights Movement started in 1848 when the first woman's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. It was spearheaded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. The main point of the movement was to bring attention to the inequality between men and women and to bring attention to women's rights and to fight for them. The movement went on until 1920, when the NWP(National Women's Party) picketed the White House and demanded Wilson and the Congress to pass a women's suffrage amendment, and finally the 19th amendment which enfranchised women was put into effect. However, in May 1885, Southwestern University released another volume of their monthly magazine called The Alamo


and San Jacinto Monthly. In that specific volume, there was an excerpt called “Women in Politics”. This passage showed that they believed that women should not be in

politics, that “she can secure her ‘rights,’yea, all that is in the power of man to give,by appealing to his affections...her sole access to the will of man, is through the channel of affection. By nature, then, we see, that woman is disqualified to assume public functions, or to direct the affairs of State.” [1] They were no different than any other males at the time when it came to what women can do. They believed women were supposed to stay in the house all day taking care of the kids, cleaning, cooking and making sure there was a hot meal on the table by the time their husbands got home from work and that their very nice and gentle nature is no fit for things like having jobs, going to school, or being in politics or anything that was deemed a “males job”. After this was published, the movement started getting a ton of spotlight and attention. This was due to science taking a turn for the best during this time period. There were technological advances with the telegraph, but there were also new inventions such as the first ever radio and telephone. “The new electrical industries in particular- telegraphy, telephone, lighting and radio- attracted an early and growing involvement by practising scientists”.[2] This growth in technology also led to a spread of information from state to state all around the country. This helped the movement because as the information about what they were fighting for spread, it allowed for them to gain followers. More women started to realize that they wanted to do more in their life than be stuck at home with the kids doing home chores. There were also men who supported the movement and were not affected by the thought of women being allowed to do what men were allowed to do and thought that women should be allowed an education and that it was important to be educated.

Women wanted more to life than to be seen and treated as less than men. They wanted more than to stay home all day with children while needing to clean and cook. Even when women were allowed to secure jobs, they were paid even less than men were for doing the same job. For example, women who became telegraphers were underpaid compared to men. “They competed directly with men, demanding, and occasionally getting, equal pay; they moved into both management and senior technical positions. Women telegraphers comprised a subculture of technically educated workers whose skills, mobility and independence set them apart from their contemporaries.”[3] Women would do what they needed to do to get jobs and get the pay they deserved. Even well educated women were still seen as less than men. There was a gender gap when it came to who worked certain jobs. “... women were preferred for the subordinate technical roles of telephone operator and lamp inspector.”[4] While women were able to have jobs, there was still a gap between the sex’s because men would do the “manly” jobs and women had to work these jobs because they were seen as “more patient “ and “meticulous”. This fueled the movement even more.

Around this time, Southwestern released another monthly magazine issue that had an


excerpt called “Female Education”. This excerpt was a little different than the one prior, and they wrote that “A subject which is now receiving a great deal of attention is that of woman, her sphere, her duties and rights. There is, however, none of more importance than her education… It has been discussed on scientific principles… The necessity for female education need hardly be discussed. It is the greatest factor in our civilization.”[5] As is obvious, they went from saying that women do not need rights when they belong in the house, to saying that they deserve an education and that there is nothing more important and that their rights are important. This shows how big of an impact that the Women's Rights movement had on society and how it was growing and impacting so many. The growth is due to the telegraph, increase in the production of newspapers, and the new use of the radio. Southwestern was starting to open their minds and understand where their women's opinions were coming from. As Agustí Nieto-Galán said, “.. there is the question of the relationship between public understanding and public support for science…”, which is very apparent in this time period because when the Women's Rights Movement started , which involved Political Science.[6] Men did not try to understand where women were coming from. They had a poor understanding of the science revolving the movement at first but as time went on, they started learning and understanding the premise of it all, and the movement started receiving male supporters as well when they realized that they would not like it if they were the ones without rights and if they were seen as too inept to work or recieve an education and that things would be better and easier if women were allowed to do the same things as men. Also, take into account what C.P. Snow says in “The Two Cultures”, “That is, its members need not, and of course often do not, always completely understand each other…” (101), much like scientists, women and men at that time and beyond dont understand each other very much, but can come together and figure things out and fight for things to be fair.[7] This is like what a male dominated Southwestern university did, they in time started to agree with women about their rights and what they deserve, and they helped advocate to people of their school and town for women's rights.

Fast forward a century and half, and Southwestern University has tons of female faculty employed at their school. There are many women professors, it is my first year attending the school and I have had 8 women professors out of the 9 classes I have taken. Tons of women also work in administration, the business office, the book store, the Commons, the cove, and there are even lots of women who are the coaches or assistant coaches of the sports team. Also recently, it was announced that the new president of Southwestern University, Laura E. Skandera Trombley, is the first woman in Southwestern history to be the president of the school. That is a huge accomplishment for women all over. It really shows how much Southwestern University has adapted to change and did a very good job at involving and employing women over the years since they used to believe that women were not fit to vote or recieve an education, let alone be the president of the university. All these years it has been a male dominated position but finally the 16th president is a woman and it opens up doors for her and other women like her who want to join a job field that is male dominated, such as being a sports reporter, being a neurosurgeon, and many other jobs where the number of men working is much larger than the number of females working in that job field. Females have been fighting for opportunities like this since the mid 1800’s and even today there are still problems with the way men see and treat women, and there is still a huge wage gap between men and women even when women deserve to be paid the same or even more as men for their job.

In all, the Women's Rights Movement was enhanced by the upcoming new technologies in both communication and printing. If it were not for these advancements in technology, the movement would not have had the kick it needed to create a real change for women. Women fought hard for their rights and it was places like Southwestern University that could have really helped them, even though they believed women should only have certain jobs, their belief in women education was just another one in many that led to a huge change for them. The Women's Rights Movement opened a lot of new doors and new opportunities for us women in today's day and age. Without them we would still not be able to vote, get an education, have a job, and many things that were not available to them either. As can see, Southwestern University ended up being swayed into siding with the Women's Rights Movement and the use of technology and advocacy helped get the Women's Rights movement on its feet and successfully getting the rights. The understanding of science and others opinions behind it really helped with the movement and rights.

[1] Knight, R. E. L. “Women in Politics.” in The Alamo and San Jacinto Monthly, 227-32. The Literary Society, 1885.

Accessed May 7, 2020.

[2] Johnston, Sean F. History of Science: A Beginners Guide (Beginners Guides), Ch. 2. Oneworld Publications.

[3] Scott, Hilda. “Introduction: Women in Politics,” in International Journal of Sociology, 3-11. 1978, Accessed May 7, 2020

[4] Johnston, Sean F. History of Science: A Beginners Guide (Beginners Guides), Ch. 3. Oneworld Publications.

[5] Andrews, Frank. “Female Education” in The Alamo and San Jacinto Monthly, 233-37. The Literary Society, 1885.

[6] Nieto-Galán, Agustí. Science in the Public Sphere, Ch. 3.


[7] Snow, C.P. The Two Cultures, 101. The American Council of Learned Societies,2015.