The advent of Islam sought not only to introduce a new kind of social order but to limit the excesses of Meccan society, which directly harmed women and girls. Early Islam sought to elevate women and define them as independent agents possessed of free will, responsible for their own actions and imbued with certain rights and privileges over men.
Perhaps we should also ask a simple question about the rights of a woman in any given society: can she determine when she has children, and how many of them she will have? If she cannot, then what use are her supposed positions of honor or status? But come to think of it, shouldn't that right extend to women in the so-called developed first world, too?