Others muted the differences between men and women and were satisfied to preach absolute equality. But they all reckoned that women could clean up the culture if they were just freed to pursue their goals.
Fast forward to the 21st century. The suffragettes would be dizzy with the changes in the culture, achieved beyond their wildest dreams. Women not only got the vote, but we've had three women as secretary of state, two who were candidates for vice president on a major party ticket and a woman who almost won the Democratic Party nomination for president. Women who are CEOs of major corporations now number almost two dozen.
Women in the aggregate still don't earn as much money as men, but accounting for choices of hours and kinds of work, they're equal. Women have gone ahead of men with earning high school diplomas and college degrees. More women than men are studying in medical and law schools.
But as always, that busy devil is in the details. With success comes disappointment and unintended consequences, what some characterize as "sexual politics" gone too far. Educated women now appropriate the word "slut" like gays have embraced "queer," taking it with pride of ownership. Hookups, as in sexual quickies, are pushed as "gender" neutral in male-female relationships. The idea of female superiority of women, able to civilize the brutish instincts of men, is quaint, indeed.
The nineteenth century feminist would be shocked with the television commercial for President Obama characterizing a young woman's first vote for the president as the equivalent of giving up her virginity. For those who were too busy watching Hurricane Sandy tear up the Atlantic coast, the star of HBO's hit sitcom "Girls" looks coquettishly into the camera, her hip tattoo clearly visible, and says: "The first time shouldn't be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy. Someone who really cares about and understands women."
That guy, she goes on to say with an innocent's leer, is Barack Obama. By now she's clearly talking about a young girl's first vote and the president's promise of free condoms.