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Women’s Movement in the United States


Women’s movement in the United States was divided into two waves. The first wave occurred in the 1840s and helped women to obtain the right to vote. In almost a century, the second wave arose in the early 1960s. After the Second World War, many women found themselves locked at home as housewives, while some of them were interested in making careers.

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One of the representatives of the second wave of the women’s movement was Betty Friedman who stated that women should get an education and work outside their home to achieve happiness and self-esteem (Friedman 323). According to some researchers, she “urged women to break away from their domestic confines, go back to school, pursue careers, and revive the vision of female independence that has been alive before World War II” (May 312). She was the first president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which was formed in 1966 and consisted of women who faced discrimination in the labor market. They insisted on getting equal rights with men by adopting the Equal Rights Amendment and are considered to be moderate feminists. Phyllis Schlafly, the leader of the STOP ERA movement, was one of the critics of Betty Friedman. She claimed that since women were giving birth to children, it was men’s responsibility to provide financial support to the family (Schlafly 193). Therefore, the greatest achievement in women’s rights was the respect for the family. This point of view contradicted with Friedman’s position and emphasized that American women already had a special status and did not need any equal rights. Thus, it was noted that the women’s movement did not secure better jobs for women, but assaulted them as wives and mothers promoting free sex, abortions, and care-centers for children.

According to the definition of feminism, its purpose is to gain equal opportunities and rights with other citizens of the country. Some radical feminists stated that women had to obtain equal rights in domestic relations, not only in politics or in the workplace. They insisted on restructuring of the society, denying the ability of legislative efforts to solve the problem. It is pointed out that “whereas liberal feminists talked of ending sex discrimination, women’s liberationists called for nothing less than the destruction of patriarchy and capitalism” (Echols 320). The representatives of black feminists supported the women’s movement as well, claiming that they are “actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression” (River 264). Moreover, they were involved in it from its first wave in the 1840s. Therefore, it is possible to say that the major goals of the first and second waves of the feminist movement were to achieve equality in gaining higher education and well-paid jobs, choosing and making careers, including political ones. The importance of gaining equality in housework was emphasized as well (Mainardi 338). The most crucial factors that limited the attainments of this movement were some concerns that it was close to the communist ideas about women’s equal rights and could lead to the outspread of pro-communist organizations in the United States.

The second wave of women’s movement gave many women an opportunity to get higher education and make the desired career. Nowadays, women face many problems as well, including sexual assaults and occasional cases of unfair attitude in the workplace.

Works Cited

Echols, Alice. “Women’s Liberation and Sixties Radicalism.” The Sixties: From Memory to History, edited by David R. Farber, University of North Carolina Press, 2002, p. 320.

Friedman, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. Orion Publishing Group, 1983.

Mainardi, Pat. “The Politics of Housework,” Women’s Liberation in the 20th Century, edited by Mary C Lynn, Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1975, p. 338.

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May, Elaine Taylor. Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era. Basic Books, 1988.

River, Combahee. “The Combahee River Collective Statement.” Home girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, edited by Barbara Smith, Rutgers University Press, 1983, p. 264.

Schlafly, Phyllis. “What’s Wrong with ‘Equal Rights’ for Women?” The Phyllis Schlafly Report, vol. 5, no. 7, 1972, p. 193.

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