The history of feminism is the chronological narrative of the movements and ideologies aimed at equal rights for women. While feminists around the world have differed in causes, goals, and intentions depending on time, culture, and country, most Western feminist historians assert that all movements that work to obtain women's rights should be considered feminist movements, even when they did not (or do not) apply the term to themselves. Other historians limit the term to the modern feminist movement and its progeny, and instead use the label "protofeminist" to describe earlier movements.
Modern Western feminist history is split into three time periods, or "waves", each with slightly different aims based on prior progress. First-wave feminism of the 19th and early 20th centuries focuses on overturning legal inequalities, particularly women's suffrage. Second-wave feminism (1960s1980s) broadened debate to include cultural inequalities, gender norms, and the role of women in society. Third-wave feminism (1990s2000s) refers to diverse strains of feminist activity, seen as both a continuation of the second wave and a response to its perceived failures. Although the waves construct has been commonly used to describe the history of feminism, the concept has also been criticized for ignoring and erasing the history between the "waves", by choosing to focus solely on a few famous figures, and popular events.