What does it mean to be a feminist?

What does it mean to be a feminist?

Merriam-Webster defines feminism as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes." The term feminist has sometimes been used to label people fighting for gender equality. Although it has sometimes held negative connotations, many feminists have continued to embrace the term and define it for themselves.

Jane Elizabeth Jones

Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

". . . [W]e should demand our recognition as equal members of the human family; . . . as human beings; and when this point is once established, the term "Woman's Rights" will become obsolete . . . . It is then human rights for which we contend."

Jane Elizabeth Jones, 1850

Speaking at the 1850 Ohio Women’s Convention in Salem, Ohio, Jane Elizabeth Jones opened her address by reminding her audience that women do not seek special rights because they are women, but equal rights because they are human.

Connie Schultz

Courtesy of Connie Schultz, photo by Lylah Rose Wolff

“. . . I can still hear the exasperation in my father's voice as he demanded an explanation. . . . ’When did you become a feminist?’ . . . ‘You made me,’ I told my father many times over the years. . . . A part of Dad, I think, didn't mind taking credit for that part of me."

Connie Schultz, 2018

Born and raised in Ashtabula, Ohio, Connie Schultz is the proud daughter of working-class parents. She wrote for The Cleveland Plain Dealer from 1993-2011, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 2005. Schultz’s writings continue to focus on her political opinions, including gender equality.

Gloria Steinem

Photo by Carly Romeo

‪"Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie."

Gloria Steinem, 2008

Reacting to Sarah Palin’s vice presidential candidacy in 2008, Gloria Steinem (1934-present) made it clear that women would not cast their ballot for simply any woman, but for the candidate that best supported the needs of all women. 

Paula Haines

Ohio History Connection

“. . . [M]y idea of a feminist growing up was an angry woman.... And I never really identified with that. But now . . . I say, "Yeah I'm a feminist," because I'm all about empowering women and helping us to show ourselves as an equal sex. . . . I think it's all in approach."

Paula Haines, 2019

In a recent oral history, Paula Haines (1964-present) described how her team at Freedom a la Cart consciously helps women in ways that will empower them. Her organization provides skills and opportunities that enable sex trafficking survivors to overcome future challenges and successfully reintegrate into society.