Feminism started with the idea that
Feminism is generally acknowledged to have "waves" as different time periods focused on different aspects of feminism, often working off the ideas presented by the wave before.
In technical terms, the first wave of feminism could be dated earlier to include pre-nineteenth century women's rights movements. In particular, the French Revolution of 1789 is often attributed as the beginning of the first demands for women's rights. This went on to inspire Mary Wollstonecraft, whose book A Vindication of the Rights of Women was published in 1792. It is widely recognized as one of the earliest significant works of feminist literacy. However, first wave feminism is usually dated as occurring between the mid to late nineteenth century and early 1900's. During the first wave, women began to realize that they must first gain political power before they could bring about social change. This wave focused on gaining the right to vote (universal suffrage). Later, the focus shifted to include sexual, economic, and reproductive concerns.
During the inter-war years, the feminist movement declined. Anti-feminism was on the rise, focusing on the issue of women and work. Women were being 'persuaded' to return to their traditional roles in the home and give up their war jobs. There were also issues within the organized ranks of feminism itself. The ideologies and priorities of certain groups were changing. Some felt that equality with men had been reached and shifted their focus onto the needs of women as women, such as the subjects of birth control, family allowance, and protective legislature. This caused the split into the dominant groups of equality feminism and new feminism. New feminists focused on the role of traditional women in the home and as mothers. Equality feminists encouraged women to look beyond the home and fought for equality with men in every aspect of life. Equality feminists opposed protective legislature, such as maturity leave, purely on principle.
The topic of protective legislature eventually led to the divide of first wave feminism. Middle-class feminists tended to oppose protective legislature, whereas working class feminists largely supported it. This split between the previously dominant equality feminism and the rising new feminism marks the end of the first wave of feminism.