Social Movements and Gender Equality

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A social movement refers to collective activities designed to bring about or resist primary changes in a society or group (Lunardini, 1994). These movements can dramatically shape the direction of society. Some of the most important changes that have been brought about by social movements concern women's rights and the way our society views women. Although there are countless people and eras to consider when discussing these movements, below are three examples from the second half of the twentieth century that have significantly affected public opinion on gender issues, and have brought about change in the role women play in the modern work force.

One social movement that has significantly affected public opinion of gender issues but tends to be overlooked occurred when America entered World War II. History classes often focus on the political and military aspects of World War II, and therefore disregard the efforts made by women in the United States during this time (Anderson, 1988). In 1942, the federal government created a fictional character, known as "Rosie the Riveter" to encourage women to take part in the war effort by joining the labor force and taking jobs that were usually held by men (Henry, 2005). By the end of the war, six million women had entered the work force for the first time (Ivy & Backlund, 2008). Women could be found doing anything from clerical jobs in war-related industries to factory jobs as welders, riveters, assemblers, or inspectors. Therefore, the number of occupations open to women and minorities significantly increased when there were not enough white males around to fill these positions. Another positive effect of women joining these occupations is that as discrimination in the work place went down, women's wages rose substantially (Kaufman, 2002). According to Anderson (1988), as this movement took women from their homes and placed them in the work force, it "dramatically altered the roles of status of women, placing...
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