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Second Wave Feminism

John F Kennedy


Second Wave Feminism:
John F Kennedy was the 35th American President who served in office from January 20,1961 to November 22, 1963.

One of the important events during his presidency was the emergence of Second Wave Feminism and the Women's Rights Movement.

Definition and Summary of the Second Wave Feminism
Summary and definition:
Second Wave Feminism and the Women's Rights Movement (1960's - 1990's) encompassed a wide variety of  ideologies and movements concerned with the interests of females, their status, opportunities and social progress.

Feminism and the Women's Rights Movement is closely associated with women-led activism for equality, especially in relation to sex discrimination in the workplace, in their personal lives in relation to reproduction and contraception, and for more opportunities in politics.

Facts about Second Wave Feminism
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Second Wave Feminism.

In 1837, French philosopher Charles Fourier coined the term in 1837 in writing about the indelible link between women’s status and social progress. The word “feminism” became strongly associated women-led activism for equality.

The history of the modern feminist movements is divided into three "waves", the late 1800's to the early 1900's, the 1960's to the 1990's and Feminism during modern times.

First-wave feminists were active in the late 1800's and early 1900's  were strong activists in the suffrage movement as they fought for women's right to vote. First-wave feminists also interrelated with the temperance and abolitionist movements.

Second-wave feminists were active in the 1960's to the 1990's, re-awakened by the Women’s Rights Movement they campaigned for equal pay with men and also focused on sexuality and reproductive rights.

Third-wave feminists continue activism in modern times to achieve goals related to Feminism for gender equality and equal opportunities within what is still perceived as a male dominated society. The pay gap between men and women is still 20%.

WW2 sparked the second wave feminists as women entered the workforce while men were fighting the war overseas. The fictional character Rosie the Riveter became a famous icon representing women workers the numbers of which had risen from 14.6 million in 1941 to nearly 20 million working women

In the 1940's women earned 50% less than men in wages. By the 1960's American women were earning 60 cents for every dollar a man earned.

The Women's Liberation Movement, also called 'Women's Lib' and the Women’s Rights Movement were established to combat sexism and to gain full social and political rights and opportunities for women equal to those of men.

Second-wave feminists became Civil Rights activists and members of the Women’s Rights Movement campaigning for equal pay in the workplace and seeking more control and fulfillment in their personal lives at home.

On May 9, 1960, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first oral contraceptive, commonly known as "the Pill" granting greater reproductive freedom, birth control, to American women.

In 1961, demonstrations by 50,000 women in 60 cities, were mobilized by Women Strike for Peace, to protest above ground testing of nuclear bombs.

John F Kennedy became president on January 20,1961 and began advocating and supporting Women's rights. JFK established the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) to advise on issues concerning the status of women.

Eleanor Roosevelt, the influential widow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was appointed to chair the PCSW which  called for federal action against sex discrimination and backed equal pay for women.

On March 6, 1961, President Kennedy established the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity to investigate employment practices and on June 10, 1963, JFK signed the Equal Pay Act to establish equal pay for equal work among men and women.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan was published in 1963 and became an immediate best seller. Friedan spoke of the utter boredom and lack of fulfillment of the suburban housewife who were "deadened by domesticity" but too socially conditioned to recognize their own desperation.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by Present Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964. Section VII of the act prohibited discrimination by private employers based on sex and established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to enforce the provision.

The EEOC was unable to enforce the gender discrimination provision so in June 1966, whilst attending the Third National Conference on the Commission on the Status of Women in Washington, D.C., Betty Friedan and 28 women founded the National Organization for Women (NOW).

In 1965 President Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 ordering “federal agencies and federal contractor’s to take ‘affirmative action ‘ in overcoming employment discrimination”.

In 1965 in the legal case of Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court struck down the remaining law that restricted access to contraception for married couples.

In 1965 Anna Pauline "Pauli" Murray coauthored an article with Mary Eastwood in the George Washington Law Review about sexism. The article was called “Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII” blasting sexism by alluding to the infamous Jim Crow laws.

Shulamith "Shulie" Firestone became a central figure in the early development of radical feminism and a founding member of the New York Radical Women, Redstockings, and New York Radical Feminists. "Shulie" Firestone book 'Dialectic of Sex' was published in 1970.

New York Radical Women was an early second-wave feminist radical feminist group that existed from 1967–1969. They attracted nationwide media attention in Atlantic City, NJ, on September 7, 1968 when they unfurled a banner at the 1968 Miss America pageant displaying the words, "Womens Liberation". They protested that the Miss America pageant was a degrading "cattle parade" that reduced women to mere objects of beauty.

The Redstockings of the Women's Liberation Movement were a radical New York group established in February 1969 after the breakup of New York Radical Women. The name 'Redstockings' combinined the term bluestocking, meaning intellectual women, with "red", for its association with the revolutionary left.

The Redstockings staged a counter pageant in which they crowned a sheep as Miss America and threw "oppressive" feminine artifacts such as bras, makeup, girdles, high-heels and  false eyelashes into the trashcan. This action led to the "Burn the bra" Women's lib slogan.

In May 1969, NOW activists marched in Washington D.C. for Mother's Day, demanding "Rights, Not Roses."

Australian author Germaine Greer became one of the major voices of the second-wave feminist movement when her book, the Female Eunuch, was published in 1970.

In 1970 a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co., that jobs held by men and women need to be "substantially equal" but not "identical" to fall under the protection of the Equal Pay Act. This meant that an employer could not change the job titles of women workers in order to pay them less than men.

On March 22, 1972 the Equal Rights Amendment for Women was passed by Congress stating that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The amendment was hailed as a major victory for women’s rights movements.

Congress passed Title IX of the Higher Education Act in 1972, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program receiving federal funds. The law forced all-male schools to open their doors to women and athletic programs to sponsor and finance female sports teams.

The 1973 legal case of Roe v Wade was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of abortion in which the decision of Judge Harry A. Blackmun legalized first trimester abortions. As a result of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court established a woman's right to safe and legal abortion, overriding the anti-abortion laws of many states.

In February 1973, the National Organization for Women (NOW) established the National Task Force on Rape to redefine rape as a crime of violence and examine existing rape statutes

In 1968 the EEOC had ruled that sex-segregated "help wanted" adverts in newspapers were illegal. The ruling was upheld in 1973 by the Supreme Court and opened the way for women to apply for higher-paying jobs hitherto open only to men.

Prior to the mid-1970s marital rape was exempted from ordinary rape laws. The first marital rape law was enacted in Nebraska in 1976, making it illegal for a husband to rape his wife.

The 'Feminine Mystique' inspired American feminist author Marilyn French to write the 'Women's Room' that was published in 1977

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 banning employment discrimination against pregnant women.

Feminism and the Second Wave feminists witnessed extraordinary progress for women in a relatively short period of time. Women today, the Third-wave feminists, continue to fight for the ideals of Feminism and gender equality.

US American History
1945-1993: Cold War Era

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