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Gender equity, also called gender equality, generally refers to the movement and process of achieving equality between men and women. It stemmed from the belief by many of the injustice of gender inequality. Throughout history, women were thought of as inferior in physical strength, religious traditions and philosophical. The idea of gender equity has a relatively short history. Under the end of the 19th century, women were excluded from taking part in voting and politics, certain public events, education and in many professions.

The history of the gender equity movement is centuries old and includes changes in how women were represented intellectually, politically, socially and economically. With the advent of Christianity, the Old Testament figure of Eve came to embody “the sinful woman” ( who represents all women) who condemned humanity by corrupting Adam. Moreover, since Eve was born out of Adam’s rib, the link between Woman’s physicality and debt to Man was made more manifest. As far back as the first five centuries AD, women’s inferiority to men was justified by their physiological weakness. The Greek philosopher and medical doctor, Galen (AD 129 – 200), wrote of women’s lack of self-restraint whereas men were characterized by having self-control. These views justified the mostly held dominant view that women were physiologically, intellectually and spiritually inferior to men. Isotta Nogarola (1417-1461) defended Eve in her debate with Ludovico Foscarini, ‘Of the Equal or Unequal Sin of Adam and Eve’, claiming that Eve was less guilty than Adam because of “women’s natural ignorance.” Even as women became more educated, they eventually were compelled to abandon their studies in favor of marriage.

By the late 19th century and the turn of the 20th century, women the world over were pushing for greater equality. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the United States, and the Suffragettes led by the Pankhurts in England were among the first pioneers of the “women’s movement.” This was a period of much activity as women organized themselves into public and high-profile advocacy groups, campaigning for the right to vote and equality in economic and property rights. Women were granted the right to vote in New Zealand in 1898, in the United States in 1919 and in Britain in 1928 (to all women over the age of 21 years.)


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