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Woman suffrage headquarters in Upper Euclid Avenue, Cleveland--A, 1912.
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From French féminisme circa 1837, ultimately from Latin fēminīnus, from fēmina ‎(woman). First recorded in English in 1851, originally meaning "the state of being feminine." Sense of "advocacy of women's rights" is from 1895.


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feminism ‎(countable and uncountable, plural feminisms)

  1. (dated) The state of being feminine; femininity. [from 1851; less common after 1895]
    • 1875 July 24, The Medical Times and Gazette, age 105:
      His hair is delicate and silky, and of a light chesnut — one of M. Lorrain's signs of feminism.
  2. A social theory or political movement which argues that legal and social restrictions on women must be removed in order to bring about equality of both sexes in all aspects of public and private life.
    • 1926 November 27, “The Talk of the Town”, The New Yorker, ISSN 0028-792X, page 17: 
      Women are still forbidden to smoke there... Ardent though we are in feminism, we applaud this stand...
    • 1996, Jan Jindy Pettman, Worlding Women: A feminist international politics, pages ix-x:
      There are by now many feminisms (Tong, 1989; Humm, 1992). Alongside and often overlapping with older-identified distinctions between liberal, socialist, radical and cultural feminisms, for example (important as they are in their different accounts of sexual difference and gender power), are variously named black, third-world ethnic-minority feminisms, themselves far from homogenous.


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