In the mid to late 1980s into the 1920s, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony fought long and hard with their feminist supports to obtain equal rights for women. Women were forced to fight their battle on traditional political and social grounds (Weisbord). Women bravely entered the male dominated political arena and voiced their plans for equality. The right for women to vote was their most noted accomplishment, however they set a trend for equal rights movements in this country.
Not only did their supporters include other women, but also men who believed in gender equality and blacks who were fighting for similar freedoms for themselves. Although women have fought for their rights throughout American history, after the twenties, the feminism wave decreased rapidly. After a long period of women being uninterested in feminism however, women of the 1960s and 1970s changed everything. Starting in the 1960s, feminism began to slowly creep into society again, pulling in an entirely new generation of women.
Women began regressing in areas of feminism and were once again embracing their male given role in society after the twenties. Women were focusing on family and simply being a wife. Fewer than one in ten people, male and female, believed that unmarried people could live happy lives (Mintz 180). They were not involved interested in politics, for female political participation was considered inappropriate. To get a good mental image of what women were like during this time, one could simply watch Mrs. Cleaver from a rerun of the classic television show, Leave It To Beaver.
Women of these times were focused on their femininity and showed little interest in anything else. Things began to change for women in the 1960s however. They were no longer focused on femininity and were emerging in the political arena once more. The beginning of the new interest in feminism became public with the establishment of the Commission on the Status of Women by President Kennedy in 1961 (Freeman 1). The commission was successful in reporting the fact that American women were second-class citizens to men.
This angered women and together with members of the commission, they created one of the most powerful women’s rights groups, The National Organization for Women in 1966. By the time The National Organization for Women was in full force, other organizations began to form. There were two distinctly different groups of movement at this time. They are commonly referred to as the Older Branch and the Younger Branch (Freeman, 2). Women involved at this time were typically white, middle aged, and college educated. Each of these movements had different styles and means of getting their positions heard; however around 1970, they merged socially.
Women were extremely busy politically and socially during the 1960s and 1970s. The biggest problem they faced was organization. They had a difficult time getting together as a group to focus on their goals. With more women attending college and becoming professionals, women immediately became a prominent force in the workplace. Women began to realize they had few rights that were not decided by men. Birth control issues surfaced due to this realization and women fought for their contraceptive freedom in cases such as Griswold v.
Connecticut (1965). Reproductive rights scurried into the front of women’s issues and were debated nationally through cases such as Roe v. Wade (1973). The constitutionally given right of privacy granted women successful outcomes in most of their court cases regarding reproductive rights, however without their actions to bring the issues to court, they would not have been able to enjoy their given rights. It is no mystery that abortion and contraceptive rights were the main priorities of women’s groups in the late sixties and seventies.
They successes outweighed their losses dramatically and because of their brave and ferocious legal battles, women today can enjoy the right to regulate whether or not they want to become a mother. The women of the 1960s and 1970s were different from Stanton and Anthony, however they shared one important quality. They were determined to progress women and their rights. These progressions continue today through established laws and in society’s new female accepting attitude. Women during this time not only relied on court cases to progress themselves, but they also relied much on education.
Educating the public on women’s rights and civil rights in general was a goal for these women. They wanted other women to know their rights and wanted to explain to men why these rights were so important and why they should be respected. They knew that by educating the public, people could make their own decisions with facts, not ignorance. Women in the 1960s and 1970s were indeed not focused on femininity. They were not afraid of entering the political arena. They gained more support for the social progress of women than women of any other time period. They followed the lead of the original feminists and were brave in their actions.
They relied more on education than their predecessors, but also used the court system wisely and viciously. They were confident in their gender and knew they deserved equal laws and equal treatment. They were heroes and will be remembered for their fearlessness. Freeman, Jo. “The Women’s Liberation Movement: Its Origins, Structures And Ideas”. Pittsburgh: Know, Inc, 1971. Mintz, Stephen and Susan Kellogg. Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life. New York: The Free Press, 1988. Weisbord, Albert. “Offshoots of Liberalism – Feminism”. Edited text from The Conquest of Power. M. Secker & Warburg 1938.