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The Role of Women in the 70's


Role of Women in Society

The Long March Towards Women's Equality

The women’s rights movement made significant strides in the 1970’s and took a prominent role within society.  Among these battles were challenging sexism, fighting for free access to legal abortion, and analyzing and overcoming oppression. The Women’s Strike for Equality and other protests in 1970 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (which legalized female suffrage).  The women’s rights movement was brought into the national spotlight in 1973 with the Supreme Court’s decision to constitutionalize the right to an abortion in the Roe v. Wade case.  Feminism reached an even larger audience than ever before at the start of the decade with published works such as Sexual Politics by Kate Millet (1970) and Sisterhood is Powerful by Robin Morgan (1970).  The proportion of women in state legislatures tripled.  Women surpassed men in college enrollment in 1979.  However, the rising divorce rate left an increasing number of women as sole breadwinners and forced more and more of them into poverty.

Feminist political organizations were the driving force behind efforts of the movement concerning social equality and repeal of the remaining oppressive, sexist laws.  These organizations included the National Organization for Women (NOW) formed in 1966 under the leadership of Betty Friedan; the National Women’s Political Caucus (1971), composed of such nationally known feminists as Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, and Gloria Steinem; the Equal Rights Amendment Ratification Council (1973); and the Coalition of Labor Union Women (1973).

One of the primary issues led by NOW during the women's rights movement was the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution. The ERA was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1971 and by the Senate in 1972. On June 30, 1982, however, ratification of the ERA fell three states short of the needed 38.  Later congressional efforts to reintroduce the measure have failed, although a number of states have added equal rights clauses to their constitutions (efforts to ratify ERA in the unratified states continue to this day and twenty-two states have adopted state ERAs). Also, the wage gap failed to close, but it did become smaller and there is still action to ensure pay equality.

Despite these failures, women began to feel success in areas of business, politics, education, science, and law making doors of opportunity were more numerous and much further open than before.  Feminism was growing around the world which was altering the role of women in society.  A significant number of women were becoming heads of state outside of monarchies and heads of government in a number of countries across the world during the 1970s, many being the first women to hold such positions.

 Non-monarch women heads of state and heads of government in this period included Isabel Martinez de Peron as the first woman President in Argentina and the first woman non-monarch head of state in the Western hemisphere in 1974 until being deposed in 1976, Prime Minister Golda Meir of Israel and acting Chairman Soong Ching-ling of the People's Republic of China continuing their leadership from the sixties, Elisabeth Domitien becomes the first woman Prime Minister of the Central African Republic, Indira Gandhi continuing as Prime Minister of India until 1977 (and taking office again in 1980), Lidia Gueiler Tejada becoming the interim President of Bolivia beginning from 1979 to 1980, Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo becoming the first woman Prime Minister of Portugal in 1979, and Margaret Thatcher becoming the first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1979. Thatcher’s political and economic agenda began the first government committed to neoliberalism. Both Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher would remain important political figures in the following decade in the 1980's.

Feminist Movement of the 1970's Documentary 

YouTube Video

Please respond to the following 3 questions regarding The Role of Women in the 70's with a minimum 150 word paragraph each:
   1. What significant events impacted the role of women in the 70's?How?
   2. How is the role of women different today than in the 70's? How is it similar?
   3. According to the documentary, who was most affected by the feminist movement in the 1970's?

Michigan History GLCEs:


8.3.3 Women’s Rights – Analyze the causes and course of the women’s rights movement in the 1960s and1970s (including role of population shifts, birth control, increasing number of women in the work force National Organization for Women (NOW), and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)).

(National Geography Standard 10, p. 203)


2.2.2 Explain and evaluate how Americans, either through individual or collective actions, use constitutional principles and fundamental values to narrow gaps between American ideals and reality with respect to minorities, women, and the disadvantaged. (See USHG 6.1.2; 6.3.2; 7.1.3; 8.3)


Images Taken from:
http://vfa.us/suffrage.htm ; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XklmISebfHw ; htttp://www.barnardcolumbiaiso.wordpress.com