World History II 5th
8 May 2014
Cultural Changes for Women in the Postwar World
Women are powerful creatures and feminism in the post war world proves this. During the war women were given the jobs that were left by the men off at war. In the Soviet Union women were even fighting in the war. The war did not last forever and soon the men came back to work and the women were sent back to their previous domestic life styles. Many women were not happy about this. From the 1950's through the 1980's women wanted cultural changes and they got them. From the passing of laws to the formation of activist groups, women showed the world that they were a force to be reckoned with in the postwar world.
The 1950's are known as the "pinnacle of gender inequality" it was the period of time between what people call the waves of feminism. Once the men had returned home from war, they took back their previous jobs now filled by women. These women were sent home back to being mothers and house keepers. Some women were ok with this at first because the men returning from war also resulted in a baby boom. However when the baby boom ended in the late 1950's women wanted to return back to work. Women enjoyed the authority in the work place they liked feeling relied on. Even though some women were able to get jobs, they were never considered equal to men. Their pay was a lot lower than men, there was discrimination, and sexual harassment in the work place. At the same time magazines were using propaganda of domestic women to show the women were more powerful at home. These things led to the second wave of feminism and work toward women rights. Coincidentally the Civil Rights Movement was close to ending and so the women of the United States followed that by example in some ways. By the end of the 1950's science behind birth controls were starting and women were coming together to fight for their rights.
The 1960's brought many cultural changes for women in the United States. May 9th 1960 birth control was legalized, this allowed women to have more freedom, and not have to worry about unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. However abortion was still illegal. In Chicago an underground abortion clinic was opened called "Jane". The year 1963 a book was published by Betty Friedan called "Feminine Mystique" which some say is what kicked off the Women's Liberation Movement. The book discusses the depressions women face from constantly being viewed as less than men. Also in the same year the equal pay legislation was passed granting equal pay to women in jobs that men worked if they did the same job with same conditions. This was a major step considering at the beginning of the 1960's women were only making 60% of what mean were, however it wasn't until 2004 that women made 80% of what men did. In1966 Betty Friedan founded the National Organization for Women (NOW). Their goals were to make rights equal for women, the wanted no more sexual harassment, no more domestic violence and equality at home. NOW is still together today. In 1967 two more groups were founded, the New York Racial Women and the Redstockings. These two groups were radicalists and very fond of protesting.The New York Racial Women did a speak out about abortion in New York to finally say their views on abortion since only men were allowed to testify in the court room. The Redstockings most famously protested the Miss America Beauty Pageant because is was sexist. The 1960's brought more women to work, gave them more rights and gave them more support in the United States.
Across the sea in Europe the same sorts of things were happening. Men and women were returning to the lives they had before the war. 1950's brought families back together and helped them grow. The 50's weren't very eventful for Europe. However like the United Stated the Women's Liberation Movement started in the 1960's. Europe was a little slower than the U.S. They got their cause to fight for more towards the late 1960's. Britain received birth control the year after the U.S. However in 1967 the abortion act was passed in Britain making them the first to legalize abortion. Women were fighting for equal rights to property, divorce, abortion and work, very similar to the United States. Many European countries like Turkey had an increase in women in the work force in the late 60's. One thing that the Soviet Union's women had on the United States was space travel, Valentina Tereshkova was the first in the USSR space race to go into space on June 16th 1963. The 1950's-1960's brought the feminism to European countries.
In the 1970's women got more education, the right to an abortion and maternity leave. The year kicked off with the 1st women's study department at San Diego State University in California. From 1970-1979 there was a 60% increase in women enrollment into colleges, by 1979 there were more women enrolled in college than men. Women felt a set back to their movement came at the start of the 70's with the show Charlie's Angels. Women felt like they had to live up to the idea of these sex symbols of crime fighting. Attention shifted in 1972 when New York legalized abortion and the following year 1st trimester abortion was legalized throughout the United States. This gave women another option besides birth control. Also in 1972 Gloria Steinem published the magazine Ms., this magazine was at the center of the movement in the 1970's because it was an ad free magazine written by women and about women only. Unfortunately for women job equality was still a major issue. Most women were secretaries, book keepers or assistants, no women were making it to high positions in the work field. However still women were leaving their domestic lives behind to go to work. Even though women held many rallies and protests by 1979 women still only earned 62% of what a man earned. Also in the 70's art and literature were very prominent in the women rights movement. There was new art movements, propaganda and literature. To bring attention to the unequal pay Betty Friedan set up a protest where all the women refused to work for one day, they used the slogan "Don't Iron While the Strike is Hot." Although pay wasn't equal in 1979 maternity leave was granted to working women. The 1970's brought women more work and better education.
The next decade brought the end to the Vietnam and Cold War, women got more support and advancements. Sexual harassment was prohibited after 1980. Women were starting to work their way up. 30% of women were graduating with more than a masters degree in field like law and medicine, but they still weren't in very high paying positions. They still only earned 64% of what men earned. However women continued to weasel their way into what was known as a "man's job". Over 9% of women were enlisted into the Army fighting for their country. Geraldine Ferraro was the first women in a major political party to be nominated for the vice presidency. Sandra Day O'conner was the 1st woman Supreme Court justice. Sally Ride was the 1st U.S woman in space. Oprah was the first african american female t.v host to make it big. Oprah along with shows like The Golden Girls made women realize they didn't have to be these sex symbols. Women like these are the reason why women continue to fight and continue to make it farther and farther in life. In 1989 the Cold War ended and women continued to fight but the second wave of feminism had come to an end.
In Europe the 1970's and 80's brought a lot of advancements for women, France and Britain especially. Simone de Beauvoir was a leader of the movement in France. France was the first to legalize abortion in 1974 and they had over 30% women employed by 1989. Protests were held many times in both Britain and France. In Europe, more and more women were being highly educated and they would stay at work to try and be at the top and not have children, this resulted in smaller family sizes. These women who became lawyers were just as qualified as men, but they would still be a lawyer 40 years later while the man, just as qualified, is at the top of the business. It just wasn't fair anywhere. When Italy and Spain both legalized divorce, the women would work longer hours for less pay just to get by in the single mother life. These issues were the highlight of the European Woman's Liberation Movement.
From the passing of laws to the formation of activist groups, women showed the world that they were a force to be reckoned with in the postwar world. The 1950's was the spark that started the flame. Then came the 1960's and 70's which are referred to as the second wave of feminism. Finally was the 1980's which brought an end to the second wave of feminism but brought many good things for women. United States feminists and European feminists all had common goals of equality between men and women. The cultural changes for women in the postwar world from 1950- 1980's showed the world that women were not just house wives, they were capable of much much more.
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