Text from PBS Learning Media and videos from Makers: Women Who Make America
The Women’s Movement was a diverse social moment in U.S. history. It sought equal opportunities for women in all aspects of their lives (personal, political, economic, etc.).
The first wave of the women’s feminist movement started in the 19th and early 20th century with leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton fighting for legal rights for women such as the ability to vote and own property. The second wave of the women’s movement, led by women such as Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, occurred in the 1960s and 70s and attempted to combat further social and political inequalities.
What were the experiences of African American and white women facing discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s?
For All Women — African American women saw little in the Women’s Movement that resonated with their lives. They had to work to support their families and saw little in common with the women of NOW.
Awakenings — During the 1950s women were expected to get married, have children and live happily in the suburbs. Advertising and television perpetuated this ideal of women. Jobs were usually low paying and dead ended.
Civil Rights — Radicalized by their experiences for Civil Rights, women began to see that there needed to be a women’s liberation movement.
What was the genesis of Title IX and its impact on providing more opportunities for women in athletics and academia?
What were the reasons many women of the 1950s and early 1960s felt discontent with their position in society? How did they experience difficulty and resistance when they tried to improve themselves? What are the issues behind gender discrimination?
1950s Housewives — Most middle class women of the 1950s became homemakers. Many women felt dissatisfied.
Southern Bell — Lorena Weeks applied for a job with Southern Bell, a telephone company, and was told the job was reserved for men.
What was the Equal Rights Amendment and its meaning? What was the amendment process as prescribed by Article V of the U.S. Constitution and the politically conservative backlash that led to the failure in passing the Equal Rights Amendment?
ERA — The Equal Rights Amendment passed both houses of congress in 1972 leaving only ratification before the law was adopted. Thirty states ratified it in the first year but the culture war was just starting.
Stop ERA — The fight to ratify the ERA ran into a changing political climate, and effective opponents.
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