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Second-wave feminism

External video
Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy (President's Commission on the Status of Women) - NARA cropped.jpg
Prospects of Mankind with Eleanor Roosevelt; What Status For Women?, 59:07, 1962.
Eleanor Roosevelt, chair of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, interviews President John F. Kennedy, Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg and others, Open Vault from WGBH

Second-wave feminism is a period of feminist activity and thought that first began in the early 1960s in the United States, and eventually spread throughout the Western world and beyond. In the United States the movement lasted through the early 1980s. It later became a worldwide movement that was strong in Europe and parts of Asia, such as Turkey and Israel, where it began in the 1980s, and it began at other times in other countries.

Whereas first-wave feminism focused mainly on suffrage and overturning legal obstacles to gender equality (e.g., voting rights, property rights), second-wave feminism broadened the debate to a wide range of issues: sexuality, family, the workplace, reproductive rights, de facto inequalities, and official legal inequalities. Second-wave feminism also drew attention to domestic violence and marital rape issues, establishment of rape crisis and battered women's shelters, and changes in custody and divorce law. Its major effort was the attempted passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the United States Constitution, in which they were defeated by anti-feminists led by Phyllis Schlafly, who argued as an anti-ERA view that the ERA meant women would be drafted into the military.

Many historians view the second-wave feminist era in America as ending in the early 1980s with the intra-feminism disputes of the feminist sex wars over issues such as sexuality and pornography, which ushered in the era of third-wave feminism in the early 1990s.



The full text of the resolution reads:
  • Twenty years after it was first proposed, the Equal Pay Act became law in the U.S., and it established equality of pay for men and women performing equal work. However, it did not originally cover executives, administrators, outside salespeople, or professionals. In 1972, Congress enacted the Educational Amendments of 1972, which (among other things) amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to expand the coverage of the Equal Pay Act to these employees, by excluding the Equal Pay Act from the professional workers exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique was published, became a best-seller, and laid the groundwork for the second-wave feminist movement in the U.S.
  • Alice S. Rossi presented "Equality Between the Sexes: An Immodest Proposal" at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences conference.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law in the U.S., and it barred employment discrimination on account of sex, race, etc. by private employers, employment agencies, and unions.
  • The [U.S.] Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was established; in its first five years, 50,000 complaints of gender discrimination were received.
  • Haven House, the first "modern" women's shelter in the world, opened in California.
  • Casey Hayden and Mary King published "Sex and Caste: A Kind of Memo", detailing women's inequality within the civil rights organization SNCC.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut struck down the only remaining state law banning the use of contraceptives by married couples.
  • The case Weeks v. Southern Bell marked a major triumph in the fight against restrictive labor laws and company regulations on the hours and conditions of women's work in the U.S., opening many previously male-only jobs to women.
  • The "Woman Question" was raised for the first time at a Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) conference.
  • EEOC commissioners were appointed to enforce the Civil Rights Act. Among them there was only one woman, Aileen Hernandez, a future president of the National Organization for Women.
  • According to Fred R. Shapiro, in American Speech (Vol. 60, No. 1, Spring 1985), the term "sexism" was most likely coined on November 18, 1965, by Pauline M. Leet during the "Student-Faculty Forum" at Franklin and Marshall College. The term appears in Leet's forum contribution titled "Women and the Undergraduate", in which she defines it by comparing it to racism, saying in part, "When you argue…that since fewer women write good poetry this justifies their total exclusion, you are taking a position analogous to that of the racist—I might call you in this case a 'sexist'… Both the racist and the sexist are acting as if all that has happened had never happened, and both of them are making decisions and coming to conclusions about someone's value by referring to factors which are in both cases irrelevant."
  • Twenty-eight women, among them Betty Friedan, founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) to function as a civil rights organization for women. Betty Friedan became its first president. The group is now one of the largest women's groups in the U.S. and pursues its goals through extensive legislative lobbying, litigation, and public demonstrations.
  • Barbara Jordan was elected to the Texas Senate. She was the first African-American woman in the Texas legislature.
  • Flight attendants filed Title VII complaints about being forced to quit when they married, got pregnant or reached age 35.
  • Robin Morgan led members of New York Radical Women to protest the Miss America Pageant of 1968, which they decried as sexist and racist.
  • The first American national gathering of women's liberation activists was held in Lake Villa, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois.
  • Coretta Scott King assumed leadership of the African-American Civil Rights Movement following the death of her husband, and expanded the movement's platform to include women's rights.
  • The EEOC issued revised guidelines on sex discrimination, making it clear that the widespread practice of publishing "help wanted" advertisements that use "male" and "female" column headings violates Title VII.
  • New York feminists buried a dummy of "Traditional Womanhood" at the all-women's Jeannette Rankin Brigade demonstration against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C.
  • For the first time, feminists used the slogan "Sisterhood is Powerful."
  • The first public speakout against abortion laws was held in New York City.
  • Notes from the First Year, a women's liberation theoretical journal, was published by New York Radical Women.
  • NOW celebrated Mother's Day with the slogan "Rights, Not Roses".
  • Mary Daly, professor of theology at Boston College, published a scathing criticism of the Catholic Church's view and treatment of women entitled "The Church and the Second Sex."
  • 850 sewing machinists at Ford in Dagenham, which is in Britain, went on strike for equal pay and against sex discrimination. This ultimately led to the passing of the Equal Pay Act 1970, the first legislation in the United Kingdom aimed at ending pay discrimination between men and women.
  • According to Fred R. Shapiro, the first time the term "sexism" appeared in print was in Caroline Bird's speech "On Being Born Female", which was published on November 15, 1968, in Vital Speeches of the Day (p. 6). In this speech she said in part, "There is recognition abroad that we are in many ways a sexist country. Sexism is judging people by their sex when sex doesn't matter. Sexism is intended to rhyme with racism."
  • The American radical organization organized.
  • Members of Redstockings disrupted a hearing on abortion laws of the New York Legislature when the panel of witnesses turned out to be 14 men and a nun. The group demanded repeal, not reform, of laws restricting abortion.
  • NARAL Pro-Choice America, then called The National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), was founded.
  • California adopted a "no fault" divorce law, allowing couples to divorce by mutual consent. It was the first state to do so; by 2010 every state had adopted a similar law. Legislation was also passed regarding equal division of common property.
  • Switzerland allowed women to vote in national elections. However, some cantons did not allow women to vote in local elections until 1994.
  • Jane O'Reilly's article "The Housewife's Moment of Truth" was published in the first edition of Ms. Magazine, which appeared as an insert to New York Magazine. The O'Reilly article introduced the idea of "Click!," which O'Reilly described as the following: "The women in the group looked at her, looked at each other, and ... click! A moment of truth. The shock of recognition. Instant sisterhood... Those clicks are coming faster and faster. They were nearly audible last summer, which was a very angry summer for American women. Not redneck-angry from screaming because we are so frustrated and unfulfilled-angry, but clicking-things-into-place-angry, because we have suddenly and shockingly perceived the basic disorder in what has been believed to be the natural order of things."
  • Linda Nochlin's essay "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" was published in ARTnews. This essay is largely considered a pioneering text of the feminist art history movement.
  • The first women's liberation march in London occurred.
  • In the U.S. Supreme Court Case Reed v Reed, for the first time since the Fourteenth Amendment went into effect in 1868, the Court struck down a state law on the ground that it discriminated against women in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of that amendment. The law in question—enacted in Idaho in 1864—required that when the father and mother of a deceased person both sought appointment as administrator of the estate, the man had to be preferred over the woman.
  • The Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective was founded in New York. It was one of the first feminist theater groups formed to write and produce plays about women's issues and to provide work experience in theatrical professions which had been dominated by men.
  • The song "I Am Woman" was published. It was a popular song performed by Australian singer Helen Reddy, which became an enduring anthem for the women's liberation movement.
  • Women's Equality Day has been August 26 in America since 1971. This resolution was passed in 1971 designating August 26 of each year as Women's Equality Day:
  • Women are allowed on the floor of the for the first time.
  • American tennis player Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match in 1973. This match is remembered for its effect on society and its contribution to the women's movement.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Roe v. Wade that laws prohibiting abortion are unconstitutional. States are constitutionally allowed to place regulations on abortion which fall short of prohibition after the first trimester.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court held that sex-segregated help wanted ads are illegal in Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, 413 U.S. 376.
  • AT&T agreed to end discrimination in women's salaries and to pay retroactive compensation to women employees.
  • The [American] National Black Feminist Organization was formed.
  • The term "sexual harassment" was used in 1973 in "Saturn's Rings", a report authored by Mary Rowe to the then President and Chancellor of MIT about various forms of gender issues. Rowe has stated that she believes she was not the first to use the term, since sexual harassment was being discussed in women's groups in Massachusetts in the early 1970s, but that MIT may have been the first or one of the first large organizations to discuss the topic (in the MIT Academic Council), and to develop relevant policies and procedures. MIT at the time also recognized the injuries caused by racial harassment and the harassment of women of color which may be both racial and sexual.
  • Five all-male colleges at University of Oxford opened admissions to women.
  • Contraception became free for women in the United Kingdom.
  • Virago Press, a British feminist press, was set up by the publisher Carmen Callil. Its first title, Life As We Have Known It, was published in 1975.
  • The Women's Aid Federation was set up to unite battered women's shelters in Britain.
  • The Equal Credit Opportunity Act became law in the U.S. It prohibits discrimination in consumer credit practices on the basis of sex, race, marital status, religion, national origin, age, or receipt of public assistance.
  • In Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers cannot justify paying women lower wages because that is what they traditionally received under the "going market rate." A wage differential occurring "simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women" is unacceptable.
  • The U.S. First Lady Betty Ford was pro-choice. A moderate Republican, Ford lobbied to ratify the ERA, earning the ire of conservatives, who dub her "No Lady".
  • The Mexican-American Women's National Association was founded.
  • The American Coalition of Labor Union Women was founded.
  • The Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) of 1974 was enacted in 1974 to promote educational equity for American girls and women, including those who suffer multiple discrimination based on gender and on race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, or age, and to provide funds to help education agencies and institutions meet the requirements of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
  • Dell Williams founded the first feminist sex toy business in the United States, Eve's Garden, in New York City in 1974.Eve's Garden was also the first woman-owned and woman-operated sex toy business in America.
  • The Equal Pay Act 1970 took effect in the UK.
  • The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 became law in the UK, making it illegal to discriminate against women in education, recruitment, and advertising.
  • The Employment Protection Act 1975 became law in the UK, introducing statutory maternity provision and making it illegal to fire a woman because she is pregnant.
  • In Taylor v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court held that women could not be excluded from a venire, or jury pool, on the basis of having to register for jury duty, thus overturning Hoyt v. Florida, the 1961 case that had allowed such a practice.
  • The U.N. sponsored the First International Conference on Women in Mexico City.
  • U.S. federal employees' salaries could be garnished for child support and alimony.
  • Tish Sommers, chairwoman of NOW's Older Women Task Force, coined the phrase "displaced homemaker".
  • American feminist Susan Brownmiller published the landmark book Against Our Will, about rape. She later became one of TIME's "Women of the Year" (see below).
  • NOW sponsored "Alice Doesn't" Day, asking women across the country to go on strike for one day.
  • Joan Little, who was raped by a guard while in jail, was acquitted of murdering her offender. The case established a precedent in America for killing as self-defense against rape.
  • In New York City, the first women's bank opened.
  • The United States armed forces opened its military academies to women.
  • Time declared: "[F]eminism has transcended the feminist movement. In 1975 the women's drive penetrated every layer of society, matured beyond ideology to a new status of general—and sometimes unconscious—acceptance." The Time Person of the Year award goes to American Women, celebrating the successes of the feminist movement.
  • The Equal Opportunities Commission came into effect in the UK (besides Northern Ireland, where it came into effect in 1976) to oversee the Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Acts.
  • The first "Take Back the Night" march was held. It was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in October 1975, after the murder of a microbiologist, Susan Alexander Speeth, who was stabbed to death while walking home alone.
  • The Canadian Human Rights Act was passed, prohibiting discrimination based on characteristics including sex and sexual orientation, and requiring "equal pay for work of equal value."
  • In the U.S., the first National Women's Conference in a century was held in Houston, Texas. Women from all over the country, 20,000 in all, gathered to pass a National Plan of Action.
  • The National Association of Cuban-American Women was established.
  • The first women pilots of the United States Air Force graduated.
  • International Women's Day was formalized as an annual event by the U.N. General Assembly.
  • The first Rape Crisis Centre opened in London.
  • In a landmark ruling, the Washington Supreme Court, sitting en banc, declared that Yvonne Wanrow was entitled to have a jury consider her actions in the light of her "perceptions of the situation, including those perceptions which were the product of our nation's long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination." The ruling was the first in America recognizing the particular legal problems of women who defend themselves or their children from male attackers, and was again affirmed by the Washington Supreme Court in denying the prosecutor's petition for rehearing in 1979. Before the Wanrow decision, standard jury instructions asked what a "reasonably prudent man" would have done, even if the accused was a woman; the Wanrow decision set a precedent that when a woman is tried in a criminal trial the juries should ask "what a reasonably prudent woman similarly situated would have done."
  • The Oregon v. Rideout decision, in which Rideout was acquitted of raping his wife, led to many American states allowing prosecution for marital and cohabitation rape.
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act banned employment discrimination against pregnant women in the U.S., stating a woman cannot be fired or denied a job or a promotion because she is or may become pregnant, nor can she be forced to take a pregnancy leave if she is willing and able to work.
  • The Equal Rights Amendment's deadline arrived with the ERA still three states short of ratification; there was a successful bill to extend the ERA's deadline to 1982, but it was still not ratified by then.
  • Margaret Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
  • The feminist art piece The Dinner Party, by American feminist artist Judy Chicago, was first put on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
  • Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357 (1979), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the court ruled that the exemption on request of women from jury service under Missouri law, resulting in an average of less than 15% women on jury venires in the forum county, violated the "fair-cross-section" requirement of the Sixth Amendment as made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth.
  • In the U.S., the early 1980s were marked by the end of the second wave and the beginning of the feminist sex wars. Many historians view the second-wave feminist era in America as ending in the early 1980s with the intra-feminism disputes of the feminist sex wars over issues such as sexuality and pornography, which ushered in the era of third-wave feminism in the early 1990s.
  • The second wave began in the 1980s in Turkey and in Israel.
  • The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted by the Canada Act of 1982, and it declares (among other things), "15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. (2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability....28. Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons."
  • In 1983, the women's minister of France, Yvette Roudy, passed a law obliging all companies with more than 50 employees to carry out a comparative salary survey between men and women.
  • The Japanese Equal Employment Opportunity Law of 1985, effective in April 1986, prohibits gender discrimination with respect to recruitment, hiring, promotion, training, and job assignment.
  • The Guerrilla Girls formed in the early 1980s as a response to sexism and racism in the art world. Known for their protest art and their usage of gorilla masks to remain anonymous, the group actively calls out issues within the contemporary art world.
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