THE CASE FOR REFORM ANTECEDENTS
FOR THE WOMAN'S
Alison M. Parker
The woman's rights movement and the demand for woman suffrage emerged in the first half of the nineteenth century from a variety of other movements. Suffrage became the primary goal of the woman's rights movement during the 1850s and remained so until women finally achieved the right to vote in 1920. In the early 1800s, however, it was not necessarily clear that suffrage would become the preeminent issue. Radical intellectuals and working-class women articulated concerns over the roles and rights of women, but often did so without demanding woman suffrage.
The Industrial Revolution, the second Great Awakening, and changing ideas of women's role in society combined to inspire many Americans, particularly in the North and Midwest, to participate in reform movements. The evangelical revivals of the antebellum era brought more women into reform movements by emphasizing women's greater piety and moral rectitude. Middle-class white women, in particular, benefited from the increasingly mercantilist and capitalist economy, but unlike their fathers and husbands, were ostensibly protected from the crass and corrupt business world by their confinement in the domestic sphere. The ensuing Cult of True Womanhood, or the Cult of Domesticity, seemingly limited women's role to the home, wherein they would nurture their husbands and children by inculcating piety and good citizenship. Although conservative in its origins and expectations, the Cult of True Womanhood also led women into moral reform. Because male religious,