The Women's Movement

Topics: Feminism, Cold War, National Organization for Women Pages: 6 (2093 words) Published: April 25, 2013
The Women’s Movement
The women’s rights movement was a huge turning point for women because they had succeeded in the altering of their status as a group and changing their lives of countless men and women. Gender, Ideology, and Historical Change: Explaining the Women’s Movement was a great chapter because it explained and analyzed the change and causes of the women’s movement. Elaine Tyler May’s essay, Cold War Ideology and the Rise of Feminism and Women’s Liberation and Sixties Radicalism by Alice Echols both gave important but different opinions and ideas about the women’s movement. Also, the primary sources reflect a number of economic, cultural, political, and demographic influences on the women’s movement. This chapter really explains how the Cold War ideologies, other protests and the free speech movements occurring during this time helped spark the rise or the women’s right’s movements.

In Cold War Ideology and the Rise of Feminism by Elaine Tyler May, May examines the impact of political changes on American families, specifically the relationship of a Cold War ideology and the ideal of domesticity in the 1960s. May believed that with security as the common thread, the Cold War ideology and the domestic revival reinforced each other. Personal adaption, rather than political resistance, characterized the era. However, postwar domesticity never fully delivered on its promises because the baby-boom children who grew up in suburban homes abandoned the containment ethos when they grew up. They challenged both the imperatives of the cold war and the domestic ideology that came with it. The first to criticize the status quo were postwar parents themselves. In 1963, Betty Friedan published her exposé of domesticity, The Feminine Mystique. Friedan was a postwar wife and mother who spoke directly to women and lived according to the domestic containment ideology. In her book she encouraged women to go back to school, pursue careers, and revive the vision of female independence that had been alive before WWII. The Feminine Mystique became a national sensation because it enabled women across the country to find their voices. Pretty soon, hundreds of readers wrote to Friedan telling their stories. Friedan’s book sparked the readers to comment not only on the connection between women’s and men’s fate, but between domesticity and cold war politics (May, 303-304).

Even though The Feminine Mystique advocated a change for women, change came slowly. However, on November 1, 1961, 50,000 American housewives walked out of their homes and jobs in a massive protest, Women Strike for Peace. Within a year their numbers grew to several hundred thousand. The Women Strike for Peace leaders underwent a lot of problems regarding their protest. They were called before the House of Un-American Activities Committee to be questioned. They spoke as mothers while under questioning and they continued to protest and advocate for women. By increasing the political pressure, several important new public policies that challenged the status quo resulted. President Kennedy established the President’s Commission on the Status of Women chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt. Within the next three years, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. While these policies were taking shape, student movements came and from these movements came the new feminism. This new feminist movement demanded access to professional occupations and skilled jobs, protested low wages and worked for pay equity. These were demands that were pushed way beyond Friedan’s call for self-realization. When Nixon became president, the ideology of the cold war remained a powerful force in national politics. Then when Reagan became president, containment returned with its support for cold war militancy and calls for strengthened “traditional” family. In recent decade, the domestic ideology and cold war militancy have risen and...
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