From the time immemorial, women have been fighting for their equal ability to compete in a public setting. Be it for everyday functioning or to gain recognition, a woman’s right to be considered equivalent to a man has been a struggle. There are several groups of women who have consistently led the fight for equality for women in public and private office as well. What many people don’t realize is that the first ever women who led the fight for equal rights were the women in the circus industry. Women performers were mostly encouraged as they brought in the crowds to the circus. Even though they were not regarded as having morals for working, they were the ones who stood against the norms of the then society and led a struggle to come up victorious.
Women in the circus industry were able to support themselves and their families by working as performers. These working women led massive suffrage in 1912 in New York City and fought for the 19th amendment to be passed. Common knowledge is that the rally in 1912 was led by women who worked in the garment industry. However, what many people don’t know is the vast support and initiative that the women in the circus industry played in the rally. It even makes sense why they would have been the main perpetrators of the rally. At the time, the circus was the primary type of outdoor entertainment for the average American household that was able to afford. The women workers in the circus industry were also highly paid for their talent and were paid just as much as the men too.
Women were in the circus industry right from 1794, and they have been able to hold consistent employment in the industry as well. Even though their exposure has been for centuries, equality for women has been very slow to establish in other sectors. Women in the circus were looked down upon as not conforming to society’s norms for women. Their efforts to work and perform was stubbed out by religious revivals and public farces. Due to their inability to relate to the circus performing women, they were considered to be ‘the not-ideal-women’ during the time. Marketing campaigns were made to discourage the circus and the women who entertained for money at the time. This led to women who entertained in the circus to be regarded as outcasts that did not fit into society. If a woman was a prostitute, she was received well by the public than a woman in the circus because of the wages, she was able to make in line with a man.
These women stood together and led rallies and other social protests to be accepted as rightful workers. Their right to be treated equally to any other woman was important to them. When they were able to earn just as much as men in the industry, there was no need for them to question why they could not vote in elections either. Their right to vote came into effect because of the rally they led along with the women in the garment labor force for the 19th amendment to be passed.