The term 'feminism' originated in France and was not widely used until the 1890s. anachronistically (K. Offen, Signs, 14/1, 1988,)
Feminism as- i.e. collective action by women to improve women's position/condition - did occur before the 1890s. Feminism is also defined as ‘advocacy of equal rights for women coupled with organised and sustained action for the purpose of achieving them’.
Many feminist historians refer to women’s rights activity from the 1840s to the 1920s as ‘First Wave feminism’ and to contemporary women’s movements as ‘Second Wave feminism’.
Brief Historical review
In the USA women's rights activity started around 1848,
In Germany the General German Women's Association was formed in 1865 and
In France the Society for the Demand for Women's Rights was set up in 1866.
In 1867 the first women's suffrage groups started in Britain and in Sweden, the Association for Married Women's Property Rights was formed in 1873.
There were also women's rights groups in Russia from the 1860s and in Italy from the 1890s.
First Wave feminism not limited to USA & Europe - also women’s movements in China, Persia, India, Palestine & Argentina - quite a lot of contact between organisations in different countries –
International Council of Women formed 1888 and the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance in 1902.
Across Europe, groups of predominantly middle class women began campaigning for access to higher education and the professions, for married women's property rights, for the reform of (male) sexual conduct and, eventually, for the vote (for suffrage).
The feminist movement in Western society, including
broad employment for women at more equitable wages
("equal pay for equal work");
the right to initiate divorce proceedings and "no fault" divorce;
the right of women to make individual decision regarding pregnancy, including obtaining contraceptives and safe abortions; and many others.
The shape and strength of the movement varied from country to country, and the differences were predominantly due to the different political circumstances in the different countries.
In Britain, working class women were a significant minority in the feminist movement but in Germany, the middle class and working class feminist organisations remained divided.
Many middle class feminists of the mid-nineteenth century came from families which were unconventional in some ways - for example, Quaker or Unitarian in religion and/or involved in other movements for political reform. Many working class feminists were active in trades unions and political parties.
The impact of feminism developing in the West was naturally seen in Ottoman society as well. In the last decade of the Ottoman Empire, societies emerged with names like “Taal-i Nisvan” (The Advancement of Women) or “Müdafaa-i Hukuk-u Nisvan” (The Defense of the Rights of Women). Severela women’s magazines were published including Kadınlar Dünyası and Kadınlara Mahsus Gazete. The essence of these efforts was to expand the sphere of civil rights through the struggle to establish women as human beings deserving equal "human and citizen" rights. In the footsteps of their western counterparts, Ottoman women demanded more rights in public domains, like the right to education and political privileges, but also voiced their demand for more equality in the domestic realm.
Some writers sought to extend the principle of natural rights to all human beings, for example, in the
Olympe de Gouge, Declaration of the Rights of Women, 1791
Mary Wollstonecraft , The Vindication of the Rights of Woman ,1792