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Flashcards in 1941-1969 Deck (15)
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Changing attitudes of women in WW2

- In contrast to the situation in 1919, by 1945
there was evidence that women’s attitude to work was

- These women who had served in the armed forces had
broadened their horizons whereas the majority of married
women on the home front had been happy to return to their
domestic roles in 1919

- After 1945 around 75% wanted to remain in paid

- In particular, married women had shown during the war
years that they could take care of their houses and children
as well as work

- This was in spite of the fact that federal grants for day care
centres for working mother in the armaments industry,
awarded under the Lanham Act, were gradually withdrawn
between 1942 and 1946 while only three states continued
to fund child care


Immediate aftermath of the war

- In the immediate aftermath of the war; large numbers of women
were laid off to make way for returning soldiers

- This was a clear indication that the concept of separate spheres
had certainly not been eradicated


Higher education in post war years

- Although more women were entering higher education, the
number of men was increasing at a much faster rate as a result
of the generous grants provided for them by the federal

- This has a knock-on effect on admission to professional

- Even social work, which had traditionally been the preserve of
middle-class women, was taken over by male university students
and graduates undertaking research into social issues,
sometimes to inform government policy


Women and work by the 1960s

- By 1960s, there were twice as many working women as 1940

- 40% of all women over 16 years were working, and 30% of
women workers were married; the number of working mothers
has risen from 1.5 million in 1940 to 6.6 million by 1960

- For the most part, they worked in relatively low prestige jobs for
wages that remained significantly lower than those of men in
similar occupations

- By 1964, 42% of married women in the workplace were from
households where the male income was in the $7000-$10,000

- 37% of women came from homes where male earnings were
below $3,000 per annum


Explain why there was a rapid growth in women in work in the 1960s

- The enormous increase in the number of women working must
also be seen in the context of economic change in the USA

- During the 1950s, the service industry overtook manufacturing in
generating the majority of the national income

- Such an economy became virtually dependent on female labour,
in part because it was cheaper and consequently expanded
profit margins

- The successful layncg of the Russian Sputnic in October 1956
marked the beginning of the ‘Space Race’

- The US recognised the need to harness all of its talents and
abilities to be ahead of the game – female as well as male

- This resulted in a further expansion and reappraisal of
educational provision particularly in universities

- Although the impact of this may not appear statistically
significant in terms of women in higher paid, highly technical
occupations in comparison with men

- It did mark recognition of what women could offer and resulted
in greater opportunities in the creation of higher education


Changing attitudes by the 1960s

- What is clear is a change of attitude, at least within the better off
American families irrespective of their ethnic origins

- By the late 1960s, the opportunities that a second income
provided for the family to enjoy a better lifestyle and enriched
leisure time, outweighed any earlier concept of the necessity for
the male to be seen to provide

- A survey in Illinois in the late 1960s showed that middle-class
families with a second wage spent 45% more on gifts and
recreation, 95% more on restaurant meals and 35% more on
household goods than those that relied only on the paternal

- This resulted in a greater merging of the male and female roles
and responsibilities in the home

- It was not, however, a trend that was replicated in the homes of
the lower-income families where the inability of the male
breadwinner to provide for the family continued to be seen as a

- More importantly, girls of working-class mothers grew up with
higher expectations for themselves, intending to be well-
educated and to establish themselves in a career before
considering marriage

- There was, by this time, a growing tendency for middle-class and
some working-class women to marry later and produce fewer

- In this respect the 1960s may be seen as a turning point in the
position and role of women in American society


March on Washington - January 1968

- In January 1968, 5000 women led by activist and pacifist
Jeanette Rankin marched on the Congress to demonstrate
against the Vietnam War

- A breakaway group of young feminists demonstrated their
rejection of traditional womanhood in a ceremony of sorts in the
national military cemetery at Arlington, Virginia

- This involved the ritual burying of what they saw to be the weak,
submissive and dependent women, so long admired

- This may be seen as a defiant manifestation of the ‘new’
feminism that had been growing during the late 1950s and early

- The ritual was hardly spontaneous; after months of
consciousness raising, they had decided that they demanded
that they are heard as citizens, not mothers.


What was 'new feminism'

- During the period of 1941-69, the emergence of ‘new feminism’
meant that there was a new force ready to tackle America’s
‘separate spheres’ idea of women and their roles in society. Civil
rights for women was growing importance during this period in

- The ‘new’ feminism was also a response to the failure of
government to respond positively to the demands for equal rights
and particularly for equal pay that had been the quest of earlier
feminist campaigners following the successful acquisition of the
vote for women back in the 1920s


How did actions of president exacerbate the demands of 'new feminism'

- This was exacerbated when the politics of President Kennedy
(1961-1963) failed to deliver what they at first promised

- Kennedy was the first President to appear to consider seriously
the status of women in the USA after he was elected in 1960;
this encouraged activists.

- But when President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of
Women reported in 1963, the message it gave out was a mixed

- On the one hand the resulting Equal Pay Act embodied the
principle of equal pay for women

- On the other hand, the commission also promoted special
training for young women for marriage and motherhood

- The message was clear – women were first and foremost wives
and mothers

- Feminists were disappointed

- This was to some extent further emphasised by Kennedy’s
refusal to respond to the pressure from Margaret Sanger to
recognise the need for the provision of birth control to be the
responsibility of government


Impact of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the
basis of gender

- Howard W. Smith had added ‘sex’ into the employment
provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act at the request of the
Virginia branch of the National Women’s party so that white
women would be protected by the Civil Rights Act

- But further disappointment followed when the Equal
Employment Opportunities Commission, set up to enforce its
terms, failed to satisfy sufficiently the demand of feminists for


Radical feminists

- Developed after further disappointment followed when the Equal
Employment Opportunities Commission, set up to enforce the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 failed to satisfy sufficiently the demands of
feminists for equality

- Radical feminists (for the most part young, educated women) began
to campaign more forcefully for women’s rights.

- One of the most notable characteristics of the emerging ‘new’
feminism in the 1960s was its total rejection of the protection of
home and family as its ‘raison detre’ for action

- It was more aggressive in the methods it used and, in the closing
decades of the century, its demands were radical, controversial and
became inextricably bound up with national politics and policy


Explain the impacts of radical feminism

- The momentum gained by the feminist movement in the late
1960s and continued undiminished into the early 1970s and
become more radical in the rights it demanded as well as the
methods of protests that it used

- For example, by the mid-1970s, at the far edge of the spectrum,
‘The Feminists’, a group of women in New York, called for the
abolition of marriage: radical feminist splinter group of NOW, that
existed in New York between 1968 and 1973, its alternative title
was a Political Organisation to Annihilate Sex Roles

- The Feminists promoted the view that to be truly liberated,
women needed to separate themselves from men in every
aspect of their lives

- To liberate themselves from such oppressive roles, the Feminists
held that the feminist movement must be entirely autonomous
from men and eventually came to hold that women should be
free of men in their personal lives


National Organization for Women (NOW)

- Involvement in the civil rights protest and the anti-Vietnam
campaigns meant that they gained popularity and support

- However, they were also ambivalent in that they refused to
accept the ‘contraceptive pill’ in the late 1960s partly because it
was seen as a danger to women

- By 1968 NOW had become more aggressive and passionate of
its objectives – its members extended their protest to publicly
throwing away their high-heeled shoes, bras and curlers

- A strike was set up by NOW in August 1970 called the ‘Women’s
Strike for Equality’ which saw thousands of women protesting in
New York for safe abortions and more equal rights. They
received mass media coverage but achieved very little.

- NOW brought legal actions against employers who broke the 1967 executive order against sex discrimination by
companies with federal contracts


National Organization for the Repeal of the Abortion Laws

- Set up in 1969

- Encouraged radical feminism and its increasing demands for the
rights of women

- Needless to say, anti-feminism developed a result during the
1970s which was to be a potent force later on


What two main organisations existed in this era

National Organization for Women (NOW)

National Organization for the Repeal of the Abortion Laws