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How did the Second Wave Feminism movement impact American
society?

           

Period of 1950s-1970s was time of significant
changes in American social and political spheres. During WW2,
many women stepped got into workforce to keep up with war time production needs
and maintain economy. After war was over, while some women went back to be
house wives, many women stayed in workforce and number of these women rose
steadily. (Tompkins) Growing Civil Rights movement prompted women to challenge
their traditional roles in the families, change the dynamic in the families and
workplace. Achievements of feminist movements have redefined women and opened
endless possibilities for women in the future.

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When
we talk about second wave of the feminism during 60s and 70s we need to step
back and acknowledge one of the first significant achievement in women’s rights
movement was “the 19th Amendment affirming women’s right to vote which was
ratified in 1920” (https://www.archives.gov/historical-docs/19th-amendment). Such success fueled women’s
right movement and Alice Paul from National Women’s Party used it to
introduce the Equal Rights Amendment in
Congress in 1923.  Section 1 of this
amendment states “Equality of rights under the law shall not be
denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” (http://www.equalrightsamendment.org).
It meant
to secure equality between women and men in legislation and prevented farther
discrimination of women in various spheres of the live. Unfortunately,
amendment met strong resistance in Congress. It has passed Congress
only at 1972. Until
this day, it hasn’t yet been ratified by needed 38
states to be in Constitution. (http://www.equalrightsamendment.org), but it was
firm step toward direction of securing women’s rights and opportunities. (Tompkins)

During
this period, civil rights movement was growing stronger. It was fueled by
Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, when she refused to give up the seat
on the bus to a white passenger. (“Women in Society, 1961-present.”) This incident encourage other African-Americans stand up to
inequality and inspired second wave in women’s rights movement. Women’s dissatisfaction with their
social position grew. Women were exploited and discriminated against in
workforce: their salaries were much lower than those of the men, many prestigious
positions were occupied solely by men, women help mainly lower assisting
positions and often dealt with sexual harassment. To protect their interests’ and
stand up to injustice women activists began to gather in various organizations,
“the Women’s Bureau of the United Auto Workers, the
National Manpower Council, and the National Federation of Business and
Professional Women’s Clubs… The Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor…
worked throughout the 1950s to increase economic opportunities for women,”
(Tompkins) to name a few. Under
growing pressure for reforms, Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 “that prohibited
the differential pay of men and women for the same work.” “Title VII of
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, made it illegal for
employers to discriminate on the basis of sex, religion, race, or ethnicity.”
(Tompkins) Also,
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), was created to
prevent discrimination in the workplace but wasn’t doing a good job, many women
complain went unaddressed. As the answer to this issue the National Organization for Women was formed in 1966 to oversee
and reinforce equality laws. (Tompkins) On the NOW convention 1967 Aileen
Hernandez stated: “The
way in which the EEOC operated when I was employed by them, convinced me that
there is little commitment of the US Federal government on the sex
discrimination law. NOW has challenged the EEOC because they do not have fair
representation of women in their committee. We must have equal
representation.” (National) NOW consisted mostly from white
middle-class women. Politics of NOW had a lot of supporters and opposition
within working class, professional women and LJBT communities.

Big
changes also reached lives of middle class white housewives. “In 1963, Betty Friedan, published” The Feminine Mystique that
challenged poplar views of the time that women dreamed to be housewives and
raise children. Friedan writes: “For the oldest of these
women… no other dream was possible. The ones in their forties and fifties who
once had other dreams gave them up and threw themselves joyously into life as
housewives. For the youngest, the new wives and mothers, this was the only
dream. They are the ones who quit high school and college to marry, or marked
time in some job in which they had no real interest until they married”. (Friedan)
This publication ringed the bell in heads of many women who were struggling
silently. Instead of thinking that they were the only ones who wasn’t enjoying
their “perfect life”, they saw that there was a woman that felt the same way.
This publication united women of different classes into further growth of
feminist movement. (Tompkins)

Younger activists
participated also in “other
political movements of the 1960s, such as the Civil Rights movement, New Left,
and student movements” (Tompkins). However, working with men in this
organizations often led to discrimination and limited opportunities for many
women, many of which eventually left and formed their own organizations that
were focused on more personal issues. (Tompkins) This more radical feminist
movement “created battered women’s shelters and boycotted and
protested companies that discriminated against women or did not provide
adequate services for women” (Tompkins). They also spoke about women right for
abortion when contraception and abortion wasn’t legal, thus limiting women of
their choice to control their life and plan the future. For example, “in
Chicago, a group of feminists formed an underground abortion service called
“Jane.” (Tompkins).  Official
story was that “Jane” was formed to consult women on abortion issue and connect
them with physicians which performed them if pregnancy endangered life of the
woman and they were very pricey. In reality, members of “Jane” service were
trained by experienced physician to perform abortions of the spot and were more
affordable. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-roe-wade-abortion-jane-collective-flashback-perspec-0122-jm-20170119-story.html).
It actively worked to service women until historical court ruling Roe
v. Wade in 1973 that legalized abortions and thus, women’s right to choose what
to do with her body. (http://www.fwhc.org/jane.htm)

Feminist
organizations weren’t limited to white women only, African-American and Mexican-American
women also identified with slogans of feminist moment. Africa-American feminist
Doris Wright states in her petition: “Up to now, you’ve thought that your
situation in this society was very different from that of your white sister…
Energies that should be spent in furthering woman’s and thereby humanity’s
cause are caught up instead on another male ego trip by such
foaming-at-the-mouth phonies as the Black Panthers, Young Lords, Weathermen,
and other “social revolutionaries.” Another load of screaming male
chauvinists!” (Wright) As we see from her address, women, regardless of
color and race, were looking for the same liberties, which would be easier to
achieve as joined women’s front. However, African-American and Mexican-American feminist members were often exposed to racism
within feminists’ groups itself. This prompted establishment of separate
organizations of Chicanas in 1971 and National Black Feminist Organization in
1973. (Tompkins)

Gloria
Steinem, journalist and active member of women’s rights movement, energized
feminist movement even more when she “cofounded the Women’s Action Alliance in 1970” (Martinez)
and year later, the Ms. Magazine
that “brought
feminism out of the limited world of academia and radical politics and into
larger society.” (Martinez) This magazine drew women attention beyond marital status,
common household and fashion advice to serious issues of equal rights,
abortion, domestic violence (Lapham), and
women empowerment. “By the end of its
first year, the magazine had established the Ms. Foundation for Education and
Communication, a nonprofit organization to raise funds benefiting women’s
causes in the areas of employment, reproductive health, violence against women,
and issues affecting young women.” (Lapham) Same
year debuted book Our Bodies, Ourselves. It
first time ever publicly discussed women’s health, possible disease and
prevention, contraception and abortion. It had extreme popularity and have been
reissued multiple times. (Cullen-DuPont, Kathryn. “Our
Bodies, Ourselves.” ) Open discussion of women’s health prompted
women to learn more about their bodies, how to stay healthy and live life the
fullest.

The
60s and 70s was a period or major social reforms (“Women in American
History) that changed the life in America forever. During this time women
gained countless freedoms and opportunities that next generation of young women
had privilege to enjoy. (“Women in American History) Among of few:
legislations that prevented discrimination on bases of sex, religion, race, or
ethnicity, and equal pay; access to abortion; women taking higher and better
payed positions in the workforce; more women proceed degrees and entered mostly
man dominated professions, less sexual harassment in the workplace. Third wave
of feminism in 90s further improved social position of women. Today women
rights activists still working toward elimination of wage gap, breaking The
Glass Ceiling and on the Division of Domestic Labor to name a few.
(https://www.newstatesman.com/v-spot/2013/05/five-main-issues-facing-modern-feminism)
However, situation on those issues is slowly but steadily improving.