The 1960’s was a critical time in the adolescence of the United States. Its history of
racism and chauvinism had finally caught up to it, forcing these issues to the forefront. With
feminism and civil rights having their own movements, it was only a matter of time before
someone had to make up their mind about what side they were on. The people who felt the
most this burden of choice were women. If a woman were African American, she would have
to choose to fight either for women or for her race, whereas white women could choose to
ignore what was going on with race, so that she could promote her own cause. These moral
and social conundrums forced tensions to run high, like every time the country faced great
changes. To explore the conflict and or collectivism of the 60’s equality movements, it is crucial
to understand the history of each movement separately, as well as the moment when they
came into contact. It is also important to analyze white women who fought for civil rights and
African American women who fought for woman’s rights, since they are the bridges of the gaps
between these two movements. Once there is a clear understanding of the history of each group
separately, it is possible to examine where and how they may have come into contact with each
other, and whether or not this contact was beneficial to either of the movements.
The Feminist movement began in a chapel in upstate Ney York on July 19, 1848, where
a group of women, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, met collectively to declare that they had the
same rights as men. Using the declaration of independence as their framework, they crafted what
they dubbed “a declaration of sentiments,” a document demanding that, “they have immediate
admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United
States.” With this finally declared, the long journey began toward getting these demands met.
For the next 72 years, women of all colors, creeds and origins, campaigned around the country
in their quest to spread the message of woman’s suffrage to all women and men. While small
battles for equality were being won in towns across America, women decided that one right
would solidify their campaign for equality, the right to vote. The right to vote encompasses the
ability to always have a voice; therefore it was so crucial for women to get the right to vote.
Finally in 1920, after 72 long years of fighting, women of the United States rejoiced as they
finally could not be ignored because, from then on, they had the right to vote.
Beginning that date, women steadily chopped away the institutionalized sexism all
around them, progressively winning victories for equality. By the time 1960 rolled around,
women had succeeded in gaining some of their reproductive rights, like birth control and the
birth control pill. They were also on the brink of gaining equal pay, which eventually happened
in 1963, when the Federal government finally, after 20 years, passed the Equal Pay Act, making
it illegal to pay a woman less than a man for the same work. Unfortunately, the victories already
achieved were not extended to black women because they were still seen as black, not women.
This brings us to 1964, when the first victory for both the civil rights and feminist movement
was won. This victory was the Civil Rights Act which, interestingly enough, did not initially
include the gender issue. This was added on at the last minute, but in an effort not to get the bill
passed. Even with gender included, the bill was passed on July 2nd 1964 with six titles, including
equal voting registration, desegregation of all public accommodations, facilities and schools, and
banned employer discrimination for any reason.
The Civil Rights movement actually began in 1954 with the ruling of the Supreme Court
case Brown vs. Board of Education, where school...
References: Cornwall, Andrea, and Maxine Molyneux. "The Politics of Rights—Dilemmas for Feminist
Praxis: an introduction." Third World Quarterly 27.7 (2006): 1175-1191
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Kerber, Linda K and De Hart, Jane Sherron. Woman’s America: Refocusing the Past. New York:
Oxford University Press, 2004
Morris, Aldon. "Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975 (Book)." American
Journal of Sociology 96.3 (1990): 799
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