Today’s Zinn chapter on the gender struggles in the United States and the subsequent poems by two iconic female American poets, Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley, clearly demonstrated how gender inequality is an ongoing issue in our nation since its inception. Howard Zinn begins by talking about the impossible standards that women were held to in the colonial era. The men were always right and whatever they did was wrong. Men wrote literature directed at women to put these sexist beliefs in their heads, like in Advice to a Daughter. Women were taught to be seen but not heard, and always be subservient to their husbands, masters, or fathers. However, this construct, unlike others we studied, cannot be bypassed. Women in the upper class still face sexism like women in the lower class. Their lives are of better quality, but their rights are the same. They are treated as objects and never asked about their own opinion on anything.
It was so rare for women to have published literature because of the public disregard for women’s opinions. The poems of Bradstreet and Wheatley were of utmost importance to the transition to women having more rights and an equal say. When men across the world were able to read the published poems of women and actually hear their ideas for the first time, they saw them as equals and not inferiors for the first time. Their poems provoked conversation and were relatable to the present time. They were widely revered across America and England despite initial backlash about publishing women’s literature, especially black women’s literature in the case of Phillis Wheatley. The work of these great American poets encouraged other women to speak their minds and fight for the rights they deserve. The famous Seneca Falls Convention was the first major step in fighting for women’s suffrage, something that wouldn’t be achieved until 1920. Only a few short years after that in 1933, A woman named Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born. In this new society where Women could finally participate in the government, she worked her way to the top of the judicial system in America and became a Supreme Court Justice. Her career as a Supreme Court Justice was catalyzed by the powerful women before her who fought for gender equality since the first women landed in the colonies. RBG’s lifelong career in politics and law and her work against gender discrimination will truly be remembered for centuries to come.