Laws against gender
discrimination and stereotyping
were introduced in the 1970s,
giving women the opportunity to do
previously male dominated
careers, and vice versa.
Did not mean that discrimination and
inequality didn't exist, as these
opportunities didn't mean equal pay.
Very few women went into skilled
professions, even during the 1970s
less that 5% of managers were
There was however, a suggested 'glass
ceiling' that prevented women from
reaching top jobs in companies,
regardless of leglislation.
NOW and other feminist groups found it
necessary to make law suits to ensure
that employers obeyed the law,
especially in cases like pregnancy with
women now going into ex-male careers.
1979: Successful case against a case female
firefighter who was refused to be able to feed her
baby on her times off. The authorities threatened
disciplinary action if she breast-fed in the
1970: 47% of women had
a job, more married women
than unmarried. These
were mostly middle-class
and well educated.
Yet federal government still refused to provide paid maternity leave and
child-care facilities by 1992, even after female lobbying. (mid 1980s only 5
states gave partially paid maternity leave.)
Working women in the 1970s and 1980s mostly
supported feminist activists
mid-1990s, the wage gap had virtually
been removed for young educated women
(98%). Still a class divided between white
and ethnic minorities, characterized by
The wage gap really affected women who were the sole
bread winners in poorer classes, they couldn't afford
childcare or even to provide for their children. This
particularly affected AAs who in 1960 were the highest
proportion of single mothers.
The confidence and assurance that
feminism provided took effect upon
educated women in the 1990s, who
were now achieving degrees as good
as/better than men.
Many women successfully began
to make their own businesses
through their own enterprises in
the 1990s, because mainstream
business were discriminant.
These women also had homes and families.
Radical Feminism 1970s
In the 1970s feminists became more
radical in their demands as well as their
means of protest.
This made feminist campaigns
fragmented and hence limited
(1968-1973) were a radical
splinter group of NOW who
argued that for women to
be truly liberated, they had
with men and abolish
The 'Radicalesbians' 1973
believed that gender shouldn't exist
and people should only know
eachother as people, and that
lesbianism liberated women.
Combined women's rights and gay
Betty Friedan declared
abortion 'a woman's civil
right' and the campaign
leading to Roe v. Wade
(1973) which eventually
established this right.
This issue created the anti-feminist
movement that supported the traditional
values of home and family, alongside
Radical feminists challenged the
traditional image of womanhood and
influenced the thinking of younger
women. The media covered public
feminist demonstrations and
published writings of leading
feminists like Betty Friedan.
(1972) The magazine 'Ms' by Gloria Steinem was popular
and promoted feminist ideals and hence provided a
balance to the critical approach male dominated
publications took on women's rights. Exposed controversial
topics like rape and domestic abuse and even publish a
front cover of a bruised woman's face in 1976.
Popular culture urged young girls to reject
characteristics that previously defined
femininity, through music (Reddy's I am
Woman), film, etc.
1968 radical feminists publicly crowned a sheep
as the winner of the Miss America competition as it
was seen as a degrading contest for women.
1968: 65% of girls wanted to be
housewives. 1978: only 25% did!
The contraceptive Pill was
introduced in the early 1970s, which
was liberating as it gave women full
control over child bearing, and
therefore they would often take
opportunites for careers and
education more in life.
Alarmed those with
1985: over 70% of women supported
the efforts of feminists to better lives of
women. It was becoming clear that
women had more choices for their life,
rather than just to be a wife and a
The rise of Anti-feminism/ demise of
The Demise of Radical
Some feminists demanded such radical things that
not only the traditional women but also the men
rejected them. By 1990 only 40%(at it's highest)
supported gender equality, problematic as Congress
and State legislatures were still male dominated.
Poorer women felt that the
feminist propaganda didn't
resemble the situations of their
lives. Therefore there was no
mass feminist support.
Local branches of NOW didn't
necessarily reflect the whole
organisations priorities, e.g. rape
centres, contraception, self-defence
classes. Couldn't harness a united
support of all it's members across the
mid-1970s many liberal feminists formed
groups pursuing their own special agendas,
this was on the basic of things like wage as
well as different ethnicities representing their
Many women's demands had been met
by the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission in the 1960s under JFK.
The anti-feminist backlash from
conservative women fought
passionately against the right
for a legal abortion and the
Equal Rights Amendment
(ERA), which the opposition
fought just as strongly towards.
Radical feminism became synonymous with abortion.
Drove many women to
believe wholly in the 'seperate
spheres' ideas and join
Phyllis Schlafly. A leader of
anti-feminism. Particularly against
She was ironically a woman
with a difficult careers as well
as a husband and children,
making her a full time wife. She
was Roman Catholic.
Women who supported abortion weren't
'real' women as they denied their natural
instinct as a mother.
Was a capable, driven and determined
leader for anti-feminism.
Argued the traditional role of
women whilst dismissing the
radical feminists as anti-family
radicals and lesbians. She gained
massive support from many
women who readily saw that
liberation wasn't the means of
achieving women's rights.
In her book 'The power of the
Positive Women' (1977) she
re-phrased the separate
spheres philosophy to
appeal it to all the women
who rejected feminism.
As groups like NOW
became more radical in
search of ERA, they
destruction of this became
The ERA campaign 1920s-1982
Began in the 1920s, activists like Alice Paul
sought it as the vote wasn't seen as enough to
secure equal rights.
Constantly presented to Congress 1920s-1970s,
even had an amended version pass in 1950, but
this wasn't good enough.
Most opposition came from trade
unions who didn't want an influx of
equally paid women impacting on the
male job-market. Some feminists
wanted gender specific leglislation for
work as part of ERA.
Passed by Congress in 1972, but by 1979 it was clear
that the 3/4 agreement needed for ratification was
unlikely. Some feminists even began to re-think the
meaning of equality, they wanted equal treatment but to
have gender differences recognised, hence not being
treated as 'equals' per se.
Many argued that the goals of ERA were already solved by
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Employment
opportunities Act of 1972 and the 14th amendment (equal
protection under the law).
In 1972 Schlafly established a National
Committee to stop ERA and exposed what
ERA would in effect do to the states yet to
ratify it. e.g. women in heavy industry,
divorced men not paying maintainence,
unisex bathrooms. The strongest
arguement was the threat to the home,
which gained support from women and
ERA got wrapped up in
the debate of Roe V.
Wade and abortion.
Ensured no more ratifications
and the period for the
ratification expired (1982),
especially since by then
support for ERA had reduced.
Roe V. Wade 1973
A really significant test case that established
women's rights to a legal abortion in the first 6
months of pregnancy, and the right that she can make
that choice alone. This was a burning issue in the 1970s.
Equally as controversial as it entailed that a
woman should have the right to her own body
and to make decisions on child bearing.
The constitutional right to contraception
was only formed in 1965 for married couples
and 1972 for unmarried couples.
Arguements for were that women would only have
painful back-street abortions otherwise. As well as
from anti-feminist groups who said
abortion-supporters rejected their natural body.
Opposed by groups like the
'National Right to Life Committee'
(1973) who formed as a response
to the decision. Sought to secure
the protection of an unborn child by
the Constitution. Its Board had
members from all 50 states.
Groups like this generally
believed that life begins at
conception. Those who
opposed argued that
before 6 months an
abortion should be okay.
The Politics of Roe v. Wade
Brought abortion to the centre
stage of political circles.
A change in the 1970s of the importance of
the vote to the mass of women, there was a
significant increase in the amount of women's
female issues to
try and win their
Yet women were
critically divided on the
opinion of abortion.
opposed abortion. In 1976
and 1980 they called for an
amendment to ban abortion.
Nixon (1969-74) didn't
express a view, whilst Reagan
(81-89) and Bush Snr. (89-93)
stongly opposed abortion.
Reagan and Bush dealt with pro-abortion
cases by appointing judges for the Supreme
Court cases whom they knew were
focused on middle-class women
voters who were mostly
Regardless of the constant challenges to Roe v.
Wade, it remained in place. Yet the argument of
abortion is still contentious.
Women in Politics 1969-1992
By 1992 women still hadn't secured a strong base in
the political system to influence policy or the attitudes of
the male politicians.
An increased political
awareness, following the
increase in women voting.
There was an increase in women putting themselves up for election, 1968: 20
women, 1990: 78 women. Yet it was not until 1992 when women took a
significant number of seats in the Senate.
Shirley Chisholm in 1972
was the first black women
up for presidential
nomination. She had a long
political career from
In 1971 the 'National Women's Political Caucus
was formed to encourage and prepare women
for standing for election by Steinem (editor of
The amount of women running for
Congress and state legislatures doubled
between 1974 and 1994.
As well as an increase in
the number of women
running for other political
Until the 1990s women tended to pursue careers in business and law
rather than politics.
Apart from Bill Clinton's presidency in 1992
opening up huge opportunities for women, 1/3 of
his appointments were female.
Women preferred lobbying and
court cases as they'd proved that
they can be successful in these
areas, e.g Roe v. Wade
Most obstacles in politics were
placed by men. Republicans alligned
themselves with the conservative
women who opposed the new
feminists and hence stood to
represent and to defend the
protection of the family and the
Bush vetoed a bill providing paid
paternity leave. Hence by 1990s there
were not federal laws establishing
paid maternity leave.
The Democrats appreciated female
support. 1972 passing the Child
Development Act, setting up daycares for
working mothers nationally, but Nixon
vetoed it as it would 'damage family
Home protection was still the most important aspect, and
sometimes handicap to progressing women's rights.