A while back I listened to the Legacy broadcast regarding W. W. Phelps. It was interesting to me to learn more about women and their cultural context in the 1830s.
It was recorded that W. W. Phelps was overbearing toward his wife (around minute 17:30); in those days, stemming from the Puritan tradition, "men ruled the home," and this was also common in the Church. "Women had little voice in the church -- it was a very rare thing for a woman to stand out and be heard and be listened to on her own. . . . As revelations have continued in these latter days, we can see how important that harmony and equality is between a man and a woman in the marriage covenant. It was not as fully grasped in those days."
I'd love to write up some examples of how women gained a voice over time and how women's organizations, including the Relief Society, assisted in this effort, but I don't think I can take the time! I just love, though, that the women did gain a voice and we continue to have that voice and respect today.