When my grandmother was born in 1917, she was of course a human being — but she was not a person. Not according to the laws of Canada at that time. She was the property of her father, and her mother was his property as well.
When Grandma was about 12, the law recognized women as persons, and conferred on her the first of the rights that we take for granted today.
When my mother reached the age of majority, although she was an adult and a person under the law, her signature was not sufficient for the bank to open an account for her so she could deposit her paycheque. My grandfather had to co-sign for her.
These women, each privileged in her time, did not think this was unusual. But can you imagine the reaction now, if you tried to recreate this? Too many young women don’t think they’re feminists, when they really have no idea what the options are.
My parents raised me to be a person, not a gender, and in that I think they were quite successful. I was describing this to my Malaysian friend last week, and he laughed out loud. Apparently he had noticed. :)