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I am trying to find the origins of the word "feminist." When was it first used and by whom? Has it always had the negative stereotype? Did women during the 1960's use this term when they self-identified with the women's rights movement, or did they call themselves something else? Any info you would have would be helpful. - Theresa

Feminism really began as a term in France (feminisme) around the end of the 1800s. However, the principals behind this actual term - i.e., the struggle for equality - have been around since the beginning of the Western world. It came to the U.S. at the beginning of the 1900s via an article about a French Suffragist named Madeline Pelltier. But it didn't come into popular usage until the 1960s or 1970s. At that time, women's liberationist was actually the preferred term, but that started to get a bad name, so it was abandoned for feminism. Now, that has a bad name. However, what this example shows, and what I believe, is that the name is in many ways irrelevant because it's what's behind the name, i.e. equality, that is frightening to people. Therefore, we should stick with the name. Read the work of Nancy Cott for more on the history of the word.