The greatest social revolution of this century is the gradual, but inexorable rise of women from subordination to equal participation in the work and achievements of society. Women have come a long way. But in many parts of the world they have a long way yet to go.
Women's rise means, most basically, that the intellectual, moral, and spiritual strengths of half the human race are starting to be fully utilized. And the result is beyond measure.
The Monitor's five-part series, "Where Women Stand," traces many facets of this rise: the impact on society at large, the workplace, and, crucially, the family.
The series, which begins today, marks the birth of the women's rights movement in America 150 years ago in Seneca Falls, N.Y. The courageous women who gathered there confronted a society in which most political, educational, and career doors were firmly closed to them. Their "Declaration of Sentiments" set a course that would, over many decades, bring universal suffrage, wider education, and influential careers in law, government, religion, and business.
As women's role in society underwent a revolution, democracy was transformed. Politicians have had to appeal to a constituency they formerly could ignore. "Women's issues" - a misnomer, really, since they affect everyone - have become paramount in many elections. Women's political clout, in America and other democratic lands, is still maturing and building.
On another front, the family, changing roles for women have brought a degree of liberation for both women and men as well as some turmoil and strain. Women's career and work demands often don't coexist easily with the daily tasks of maintaining a home and raising children. Men have had to adapt, taking on new roles themselves, such as a larger part in child care.
The US Census Bureau just reported that for the first time in this country more women than men are finishing high school and graduating from college. Such statistics hint at the continued momentum of the women's movement - which, at heart, is more social, and even spiritual, than political.
"Spiritual" because it involves and requires revised perceptions of women, and men - perceptions that emphasize qualities such as intelligence, wisdom, and ability, rather than physical attributes.
The woman who founded this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in 1891: "In natural law and in religion the right of woman to fill the highest measure of enlightened understanding and the highest places in government, is inalienable...."
That right has generations of new champions, in all parts of the globe. We're privileged to be witnesses to the fuller arrival of what Mrs. Eddy termed "woman's hour."