1950 women relieved by feminists in the late 1960s and the Women’s Movement and social revolution underway. Bra burning feminists definitely alienated many from assuming further understanding of the practice. But it was a practice, a demonstrated by women who rejected the confines of their social role, their place in the family and in their communities. All women did not agree with the tactics taken by some, in fact there was quite a bit of polarity among women in the country. True liberation of limitations of sexual identity restricting women’s choices and expression had a certain amount of agreement, but expressing that statement was not always agreed upon.
The hard work of our grandparents who went to work with no health benefits, retirement or unemployment or social programs that helped the elderly, poor and needy was a result of the church and the families. There were those who didn’t identify with the process as it occurred in the late 60’s. Six million women went to work to take the jobs of the men who were sent overseas during World War II. The women then returned to their homes after the war and the men took their jobs again. Better working conditions for workers came about as a result of those women on the jobs during the war, and is seen by some as the beginning of civil rights. The New Deal brought about the soldiers returning getting VA loans for school and to purchase homes and often relocating to different parts of the country forming nuclear families where there had mostly been extended families. Now another war was happening in Viet Nam, men were drafted and dissension and protests about the war were common. Those protests allowed the women to organize and bring about the issues that crystalized in the Women’s Movement in the late 60’s.
But it must be said that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the pivotal moment that made the “injuries of sex” established by the Commission on the Status of Women in 1966, appointed by President John Kennedy, that changed the platform of what was possible for women.
Seeking change and bettering the support of families and equitable conditions in the work place have been a process voiced and advanced by women all along the way from the suffragettes, through World War II and most specifically during the Viet Nam war.
The sexual revolution had as its basis women having what Gloria Steinem termed “the right to the satisfaction and compensation of work.” Only 4% of the workers were women in 1941, but by the 1990’s, 53% of women worked outside the home. Revolution is about conflict, with and without bloodshed, dissatisfaction and a break in the cultural cohesiveness is an important factor. As well, a revolution represents a breakdown in the assumption of implied and specific beliefs and orientation by a majority to diverse and often conflicting viewpoints and standards by a minority that makes itself heard.
The Viet Nam war is credited with cracking the door for some of the changes that brought about the many classes and groups in the continuum of equality and opportunity. Women who had participated in Anti War and Civil Rights Movements had found themselves allocated to their roles as supporters. The movement that formed in 1966 was a product of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 which gave ground to the social changes the women specifically demanded. Women’s circles, women’s groups, women’s study groups that raised the consciousness of women, and men to define the practice of feminism. Equality is one aspect of feminism, social, political and economic equality for all sexes is a broader definition.
Betty Frieden created a movement of women who came together and created a platform for the National Organization of Women in 1970. Equal pay for equal jobs was identified and a part of the movement for many. In 1997, the Paycheck Fairness Act would be introduced by Senator Thomas Daschle of South Dakota. It would be 2013 when the Paycheck Fairness Act through the work of Lily Ledbetter.
The conditions for change as the morality was challenged around the issues of inequality have been at the center. Lines were drawn between different segments of the population all across the country producing great conflict, polarities and an environment for those conditions to be recognized as core to new laws, new identities and new practices. They happened in families, in communities, in neighborhoods. Those changes took some time and were fostered by the relentless commitment by the women and men who took the challenges on.
Around the country, Ivy League and State Universities came to the streets in protest of the war, and in support of Civil Rights. Women came together, as they had from the days of the Suffragettes and before, and changed their own consciousness about power and the sharing of the benefits economically and socially. Discontent, anger and revolting against the assumed practices of state and national government are what the generations before us gave to this generation. Women’s ability to choose their destiny over their biology is often seen as a consequence of the birth control law in 1964, the right to choose in 1973 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
How was this being lived through by many women at that time? Their stories give a fuller picture of that experience. But it is critical that recognition is given to the process of freedom and liberation of women now in 2014 because in 40 states women’s rights are being challenged. To know that the freedom women have today is a benefit that comes from that generation, the Margaret Sanger’s, the Bella Abzug’s, the Jane Fonda’s is important. What we have comes from a generation who made the demands that produced the changes we enjoy, and we must be responsible to carry forward those gains to our granddaughters and theirs.