Feminism Facts
Feminism Facts

63 Interesting Facts about Feminism

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published January 28, 2017Updated March 8, 2019
  • The term “feminism” appeared in the English language in the 1890s, though women’s conscious struggle against discrimination and sexism is much older.[2]
  • Most varieties of feminism have fought to dispel the belief that there is a natural, biologically determined essence of the feminine that is universal and unchangeable. Many feminists feel that essentialism has contributed to the belief that women were not as efficient as men in the political and public spheres.[2]
  • Early modern feminist activity aimed to dispel the early modern (1550–1700) belief that society was founded on the rule of the father. This meant that the man was the head of household, just as the monarch was the head of state and Jesus the head of the church. Consequently, women had very few formal rights and were not represented in the law. One political event that challenged this belief was the successful accession of Queen Elizabeth I to the English throne.[5]
  • Globally, about 1 in 3 women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime.[5]
  • American lawyer Martha Wright Griffiths helped push the Sex Discrimination Act in 1964 as part of the Civil Rights Act. The act aims to help protect women against discrimination on the job and in their everyday lives.[1]
  • Approximately 38% of all murders of women globally are committed by their intimate partners.[5]
  • Interesting Feminism Fact
    Only 20% of Americans consider themselves "feminists"
  • According to a recent survey, just 20% of Americans consider themselves feminists. Approximately 8% consider themselves as anti-feminists, while 63% said they are neither. However most respondents (82%) believed that men and women should be equal, with just 9% saying that men and women should not be equal.[7]
  • The first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was Jane Addams (1860–1935). She is also considered to be the founder of the social work profession in the United States.[1]
  • According to the U.N., 99.3% of women and girls in Egypt have been subjected to sexual harassment.[5]
  • Over 130 million women in the world have undergone female genital mutilation. This is when girls have either part or all of the clitoris and inner and outer labia cut off, without anesthesia. Often, they have a part of their vagina sewn up as well.[9]
  • After her husband died, Cherokee leader Nancy Ward led her tribe to a victory against the Creek tribe in a 1775 battle. She later became head of the Woman’s Council and a member of the Council of Chiefs. She played a key role in the Cherokee nation throughout her life.[1]
  • In 10 countries, women are legally bound to obey their husbands. Only 76 countries have legislation that directly targets domestic violence; just 57 of them include sexual abuse.[9]
  • Worldwide, just 24% of senior management roles are held by women.[5]
  • The definition of “feminism” is fraught with controversy and challenges, such as whom to include, what to leave out, and what constitutes feminism’s unifying themes. Generally, as author bell hooks famously defines it, feminism is “the struggle to end sexist oppression.”[5]
  • Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.

    - Cheris Kramarae

  • In the 1990s, the pop group the Spice Girls introduced the phenomenon of “Girl Power,” which assumed that women could use society’s expectations of female behavior to manipulate patriarchy and achieve success through female bonding.[5]
  • In Britain, the sculptor Allen Jones became the target of feminist attacks for his series “Women as Furniture,” which depicted women with fetishized bodies used as supports for coffee tables.[5]
  • Some feminist artists, such as Angela Carter (1940–1992) use grotesque imagery in their art to expose and critique acceptable images of the “feminine body.”[5]
  • Some feminists, including bell hooks, argue that men’s liberation should be included in the aims of feminism because men have also been harmed by traditional gender roles.[5]
  • Major feminist theorists include Mary Wollstonecraft, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Shulamith Firestone, Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, Gloria Watkins (pen name bell hooks), Gerda Lerner, and Judith Butler.[8]
  • In 1950, women comprised less than 2% of the U.S. military. Currently, about 14% of active members in the U.S armed forces are women.[1]
  • Interesting Gender Equality Fact
    Human trafficking fuels violence against women
  • Approximately 1.2 million children worldwide are victims of human trafficking, and over 80% are girls.[9]
  • Women hold the two highest IQ scores ever recorded.[1]
  • The first woman to run and finish the Boston Marathon was Roberta Gibb in 1966. However, because women were not allowed to officially enter the race until 1972, she did not get credit for it.[1]
  • The U.S. Congress places in the bottom half of national governments around the world in terms of women members.[6]
  • Fifty-two countries have had a female head of state over the past 50 years, including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Liberia, and China. However, the United States is among those who never have.[6]
  • American women are twice as likely as men to retire in poverty.[5]
  • An 1837 book titled Exercise for Ladies advised women to avoid horseback riding because it deforms the lower part of the body. The book was just one of many during the Victorian era that argued that women should avoid doing strenuous type of exertion or exercise.[5]
  • The world’s first novel, The Tale of the Genji, was published by a woman, Murasaki Shikibu, in the early 11th century.[1]
  • Women are more likely to get a high school diploma than men. In addition, over 60% of college degrees in the United States are awarded to women.[1]
  • Little Known Feminism Facts
    Women outnumber men in American colleges

  • The first woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize was Edith Wharton in 1921 for her novel The Age of Innocence.[1]
  • The only woman to win two Nobel prizes was Marie Curie (1867–1934). Her first award was for physics and her second was for chemistry.[1]
  • In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive. However, Saudi women are currently challenging this law.[4]
  • In 1777, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington became a heroine of the American Revolutionary War when she rode her horse, Star, to warn the American colonial forces that the British were approaching. She rode over 40 miles in the dark (more than twice the distance of Paul Revere).[1]
  • In Yemen, women are not allowed to leave their house without their husbands.[4]
  • Abolitionists Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) and Lucretia Mott (1793–1880) launched a national movement for women’s right in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. Along with Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), they devoted their lives to fight for women’s suffrage. Finally, after a 70-year battle, the 19th Amendment was finally ratified on August 18, 1920.[2]
  • Wyoming was the first state in the United States to grant voting rights to women. It was also the first state to elect a female governor.[1]
  • Interesting Hatshepsut Fact
    Hatshepsut was the first female pharaoh of Egypt
  • Hatshepsut (1508–1458 B.C.) was one of the most powerful, productive, and successful women in the ancient world. She reigned for over 20 years, though her images were later defaced on temples and inscriptions, most likely as an attempt to erase her from history.[1]
  • The first woman in the modern era to rule a country as an elected leader was Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, who was elected prime minister in 1960 and then later reelected in 1970.[1]
  • The first woman to run for U.S. president was Victoria Woodhull (1838–1927). She ran for office in 1872 under the National Woman’s Suffrage Association. While women were not able to vote, there were no laws prohibiting them from running for office.[1]
  • The first country to grant women the right to vote in the modern era was New Zealand in 1893.[1]
  • In 1770, the British Parliament proposed a bill that women using makeup should be punished for witchcraft.[5]
  • Birth control activist Margaret Sanger was arrested in 1916 for distributing information on contraception at her birth control clinic (the first in the U.S.). Birth control is still a controversial topic, with some groups continuing to ban it.[1]
  • In Ecuador, abortion is illegal unless you are “demented” or an “idiot.” Additionally, the law is often used to criminalize miscarriages.[4]
  • In Saudi Arabia and Morocco, rape victims can be charged with a crime, such as engaging in illicit sex. Tragically, a 16-year-old girl in Morocco killed herself after a judge forced her to marry her rapist under a law that dismisses rape charges if the parties marry.[4]
  • In 2014, an estimated 14 million girls worldwide, some as young as 8 years old, were married.[9]
  • Interesting Child Bride Fact
    Every year, about 14 million girls are married before they turn 18

  • Women have invented several important technologies, including the windshield wiper, industrial lathes, Liquid Paper, bras, nonreflective glass, the dishwasher, disposable diapers, petroleum refining methods, and much more.[1]
  • Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818–1894) was an active member of the suffrage movement in the United States throughout her life and helped popularize the Turkish style of pantaloons in the 1850s that took on her name (bloomers).[1]
  • The first woman to lead an Islamic nation was Benazir Bhutto who, in 1988 at the age 35, became the first and only prime minister of Pakistan. She was assassinated in 2007 by a car bomb after leaving a political rally. In 2008, she was one of seven people awarded the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights.[1]
  • The feminist movement is usually categorized into three waves. The First Wave begins with the suffragette movement and the struggle for extending the right to vote to women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Second Wave spans the mid 1960s through the late 1970s, with debates about abortion and equal pay. The Third Wave began in the early 1990s and is associated with the emergence of alternative feminisms, such as queer and nonwhite feminism.[2]
  • Major feminist philosophical works include A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), The Subjection of Women (1869), The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), The Second Sex (1949), The Feminine Mystique (1963), The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution (1970), The Creation of Patriarchy (1986), and Gender Trouble (1990).[8]
  • Interesting Mary Wollstonecraft Fact
    Mary Wollstonecraft's daughter, Mary Shelley, wrote the famous novel, Frankenstein
  • The publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) is generally thought to be the first conscious effort to engage polemically with issues of discrimination based on gender. She wrote it as a rejoinder to Swiss-French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s argument that women were sentimental and frivolous and could only occupy a subordinate position to their husbands.[2]
  • Some feminists have argued that both colonial oppression and Western feminism have marginalized postcolonial women. In response, alternative types of feminism have emerged, such as black and postcolonial feminisms, third-world feminism, indigenous feminism, African feminism, Stiwanism, negofeminism, femalism, transnational feminism, and Africana womanism.[2]
  • Women are not allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia or in Vatican City.[4]
  • In 1652, the Quakers established the Society of Friends in England. Within the family, Quakers did not differentiate between the roles of men and women. Consequently, many women in the American women’s right movement were Quakers.[1]
  • In the early 19th century, married women in Europe and the U.S. had no legal identity apart from their husbands, a status known as coverture. This meant that women could not be party in a lawsuit, sit on a jury, own property if widowed, or write a will. Custody was also usually granted to the children’s father.[5]
  • In some parts of India, road safety laws do not apply to women—an exemption that kills or injures thousands of women each year.[4]
  • There are various forms of feminism, including lesbian feminism (argues heterosexuality perpetuates women’s sexual oppression), cultural feminism (women have been separate from each other and convinced of their inferiority), socialist feminism (women are held back by lack of education and social discrimination), Marxist feminism (the division of labor and lack of support for working mothers excludes them from productive labor), and radical feminism (opposes marriage and patriarchy), among many others.[4]
  • In Yemen, women are considered to be only “half a witness.” This means that a single woman’s testimony isn’t taken seriously unless it is backed by a man’s word. Additionally, women cannot testify at all in cases of adultery, libel, theft, or sodomy.[4]
  • Interesting Feminist Fact
    The United States does not guarantee paid maternity leave
  • Mothers of newborns are guaranteed paid leave in 188 countries. Only 9 countries do not: Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, Tonga, and the United states.[6]
  • Sojourner Truth (1797–1883) was an American abolitionist who also advocated black women’s rights.[1]
  • The introduction of the birth control pill in 1965 helped women choose between a full-time career and motherhood—or do both.[5]
  • Some feminists, such as Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon, have attempted to make the production of pornography a violation of civil rights.[5]
  • Women are responsible for up to 2/3 of global working hours, but they earn only 1/10th of the global income.[3]

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