Women’s second wave movement Race and Class

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The 1960’s was marked by young people’s dissatisfaction of what society expected or wanted from them.  There were many protests signaling their dissatisfaction with the government. Women were amongst those who were dissatisfied with their position in the country and sought for equal rights. To provide more context to the issue of social class and race, an explanation of the situations that brought the unhappiness and the need to protest for all women of the sixties. It is important to know the historical context happening to minority groups in general to make an assessment on class and race in the women’s movement; those happenings were the reason why many of the minorities in the united states were discontent. That dis-contentedness bridged the gate in the women’s all-inclusive second wave feminist movement.

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In the beginning our great country did not offer everyone rights. People who had voting rights were primarily land owners, that later changed. Men were unhappy at their lack of power and inability to vote whilst at the same time African Americans did not have power in voting rights which resulted in the Civil war. The period after the civil war afforded many the right to vote “[a]fter the Civil War, the 14th  amendment granted the right to vote to adult males and the 15th amendment said voting rights could not be denied on account of race. Suffragists were bitterly disappointed that women were excluded from coverage by these amendments […]” (Yeakel). Most were included in having the ability to vote or have some form of power except for women which resulted in the women’s suffrage movement; the movement of women fighting for their right to vote. “With so few rights, many women drew parallels between their social and political state and that of slaves.” (Woman Suffrage). The inability for any woman to vote and men’s outright indifference fueled women to continue to fight for their voting rights. “[W]omen organized, petitioned, and picketed [for the] right to vote, […] [m]ilitant suffragists used tactics such as parades, silent vigils, and hunger strikes.” (Woman Suffrage). This was the first feminist movement.

Image result for women's movement social class boundaries 1960s The suffrage movement started with educated white middle-class women disgruntled with their inequality. The first feminist movement was successful, by the 1920’s it afforded voting rights for white women. Some women were able to work during World War I and World War II when women were asked to join the workforce to help the men win the war.  “Women’s mobility seemed real but threatening” (55, Sternheimer).  Therefore, men continued to promote that “women’s virtue was fragile and easily corrupted if not protected by men and powerful institutions [,]” (61, Sternheimer) this was a result of men being threatened by women moving up in society; albeit this is still construed in the white middle class’ depiction of upward mobility. It is evident here that it was mostly women, white women who were afforded upward mobility. Yet, “[m]ost women still depended on men’s earnings for economic survival, and marriage was still vital for women financially” (71, Sternheimer). Equality was still not existent with women and men. Men were in a higher class than women because of the afforded financial stability that followed.

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There were several precedents that allowed the second wave feminism to take place. “The counterculture movement that emerged in tandem with the student antiwar protest of the era called into question many previously taken for granted assumptions about American life: that the government was trustworthy; that chastity, marriage, and monogamy were ideal; and that consumption of material goods was central to happiness” (172, Sternheimer) Students were protesting with their discontent toward the war in Vietnam. Student protest resulted in the motivation for the Civil Rights movement and the Second Wave Feminist movement. The civil rights movement (and the activists involved) gave women a model for success. The method the civil rights movement. “The rising expectations of equality following WWII helped galvanize the civil rights movement during the 1950s, challenging both the racial order and the meaning of the American Dream.” (178, Sternheimer) African Americans and Latinos were not given the same opportunities as the white middle-class men when the GI bill was introduced, this stagnated minorities from being able to rise from poverty level into the middle class. “Civil rights movement leaders demanded entrée into the middle class. The spoils of the postwar era were not shared equally. In 1959, 18.5 percent of American families lived below the federal poverty line; by 1970 that rate had dropped to 10 percent, but the poverty rate for black families in the 1970 remained stubbornly high nearly 30 percent. “(178, Sternheimer). Motivated by the student protests and tired of being abused and segregated by the Jim Crow laws the Civil rights movement emerged. Although women wanted to be part of the civil rights movement they were not necessarily a primordial concern for people of color in the civil rights movement. “The 1960s Civil Rights movement offered little amount of respect for women.”(Choen) This lack of inclusion afforded women with the courage to start their own movement.

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Women were tired of being treated as second class citizen to men and of supporting men’a agendas. Betty Freidan wrote a book called the “Feminine Mystique” written in 1963 “criticized the idea that women could only find fulfillment through child rearing and homemaking.”(History and Theory of Feminism). Post war women were expected to have gone back home and taken care of their families. However, in the 1960’s women had already felt what it was to work, instead of staying home, having more of a fulfilled version of themselves. Along with the youth of the time they became non-conformed and skeptical with what the government and men wanted from them. “For many Americans whose basic economic needs felt secure, other concerns arose, particularly as the conflict in Vietnam expanded.” (171, Sternheimer).  Women were discontent with their roles of housewives and mothers they wanted more, they wanted respect. As Moraga, and Anzaldua explain in the Book  “Bridge called my back” , “When we view liberation as a scarce resource, something only a precious few of us can have, we stifle our potential, our creativity, our genius for living, learning and growing.” Women wanted equal rights with men, and not the ones that were already offered so that they could grow as women. ”

Image result for women's movement social class boundaries 1960sLater, it was noted in “the problem that has no name” which signified that not all women were middle class white and well educated, that not all women were the same or went through the same “house wife syndrome”. The problem with Second wave feminist movement was that it was not equal towards all women and it assumed that all women had the same problem. “It begins with the question of the social construction of gender and the mainstream feminist assumption that ‘woman’ means middle class white woman. The challenge to this assumption is then posed by women of color, poor women, immigrants, lesbians and women in the ’third world.” (Feminism and the Race in the Unites States). Through the feminist movement and their meetings, it was evident that not everyone had struggled with being bored at home wanting more fulfillment. Women, all kinds of  women, wanted equality for all . “A Black feminist presence has evolved most obviously in connection with the second wave of the American women’s movement beginning in the late 1960s. Black, other Third World, and working women have been involved in the feminist movement from its start, but both outside reactionary forces and racism and elitism within the movement itself have served to obscure our participation. “ (Moraga, Anzaldua, Bridge called my back). Due to rascism it was not dully noted that there were colored women who wanted liberation.  There was a misrepresentation of colored and other Third World women,”the African American feminist and intellectual Gloria Jean Watkins (who uses the pseudonym “bell hooks”) who argues that this movement glossed over race and class and thus failed to address “the issues that divided women.” (History and Theory of Feminism) The lack of equality among women led to the women’s movement to bring out different types of women and their own version of feminism; the Anarcha, socialist and Marxist, Radical, Liberal, Black, Postcolonial and third world, Multiracial, Libertarian, to name a few. Each of these feminist movements argued something that they felt the other was missing.  “Given this emphasis on class struggle and class formation, on the totality of social relations that define the position of interacting collectivities in society, materialist critique locates the ground of institutional racism and racially-based inequality in the capitalist division […]”(From Race to Cass Struggle) Because the women’s movement was so emphasized on one type of woman it obscured the overall goal of what the feminist movement should have been.

“I send a warning to you white woman. The women’s movement the feminist movement is not a middle class clique. It is not an elitist class of white women hiding from men. It is a positive ever growing movement of women who believe in the equality of all people. Women who are not willing to settle for token change but insist that the economic and political resources and power of this nation this world be distributed equally. It is women being concerned about women and being willing to place women’s needs and their development first I challenge you brown woman. You, who will not interface the women’s movement. You, who say the movement is separatist, white, lesbian, without glamour. Further, you say you are too liberated and want to be dependent, protected, shackled to the pedestal. “Ain’t you a woman?” Look at yourself, your community, your country, your world and ask yourself, who has the least to lose and the most to gain from economic security, equality, freedom? Who has waited longest, deferred most, worked hardest, lived poorest, nurtured, encouraged, loved more while asking the least in return. Who I ask you? Yes, you are correct. You yourself” (Moraga, Anzaldua, Bridge called my back).

In this excerpt from a “Bridge called my back”, it is explaining the discontent with the middle class white woman’s version of what the feminist movement was and what it should be. It further tells women of color to not negate the women’s movement for they are affected by it as well. Regardless of their discontent with what Betty Freidan assumed, it opened an opportunity for women. The women’s movement failed in the equal rights amendment. However, inclusion of all types of women led to more credibility for the women’s rights.Image result for civil rights movement

Image result for women's movement social class boundaries 1960sWomen also showed their solidarity and unhappiness in large numbers, expressing that their voices mattered. The number of marchers exceeded Friedan’s “wildest dreams.” […]” ‘easily the largest women’s rights rally since the suffrage protests’. As Joyce Antler, a historian who participated in the demonstration [said] many of these women “were veterans of civil rights marches and anti-war protests of the 1960s.” (Cohen, Sasha) When Joyce Antler explains that there were veterans of the civil rights movement it could be a broad term for anyone, men and women  white and colored, who participated in the women’s march. It is important to denote that women of colored highly participated in the civil rights movement compared to white women. “Considering the civil rights movement, we found that white women were much less likely to be activists than black women.”(Stewart)  In the women’s movement, despite their disagreement with semantics, women’s unity prevailed in great numbers.

Women in the 1960’s emerged because of many inequalities. The movement started because women were being pushed aside from the work force after WWII, when they were no longer needed. Prior to the second wave movement there was the suffrage movement which resulted in the 19th amendment that was meant to give women equal rights for work and voting, however it was clear that the 19th amendment only allowed women the rights to vote and no other rights were afforded to them. Women were frustrated with inequality of the workforce and mainly men led labor unions. This view was expressed in Betty Friedan’s book named “Mystique Fulfillment” where she exposes the frustration that women feel at lack of fulfillment as to what society wanted from them. Women of the sixties found that they agreed with this idea and the second wave movement began. The women’s movement piggy backed the civil rights movement when women were offered little to no respect.. “The problem that has no name” assumes it only affected a small minority of white well educated women.  Later they amended their movement to be inclusive to all women because of the backlash and obvious inequality among all types of women. The feminist movement originally included white middle class educated women. Later it was evident that the true inclusion of all women was detrimental in forging credibility for women during the 60’s when minorities where fighting for equal rights.

The women’s rights movement Equal Rights was not successful in amending the Equal Amendment bill, but they were successful in being included in the Civil rights Act. “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination based on sex, as well as race and national origin, […]” (Faville). The feminist equal rights received credibility with their march and inclusion of all women. Later, Through the civil rights movement they accomplished equal rights comparable to that of white men.



Womans liberation movement and Betty Freidan explaining where the women’s movement should head towards after seeing the diversity in great numbers.




Anzaldua, Gloria. Moraga, Cherrie.  This Bridge Called My Back Writings By Radical Women of Color. 1986 Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press Edition 2. https://monoskop.org/images/e/e2/Moraga_Cherrie_Anzaldual_Gloria_eds_This_Bridge_Called_My_Back_Writings_by_Radical_Women_of_Color-Kitchen_Table_Women_of_Color_Press.pdf

explanation of women of color in the sixties and their views.

Blakemore, Erin. “The Brutal History of Anti-Latino Discrimination in America”   https://www.history.com/news/the-brutal-history-of-anti-latino-discrimination-in-america

Choen, Jerri.Women during The 1960s Civil Rights Movement. WordPress. https://genderraceclassblog.wordpress.com/popular-culture/women-during-the-1960s-civil-rights-movement/

Cohen, Sasha. “The Day Women Went on Strike”. Time Magazine. http://time.com/4008060/women-strike-equality-1970/

how women were treated with the civil rights

Faville, Andrea. “A Civil Rights History: The Women’s Movement”

used to explain what happened after the the women’s movement.

“History and Theory of Feminism”. http://www.gender.cawater-info.net/knowledge_base/rubricator/feminism_e.htm

was used to explain and describe the “Feminine Mystique” and white middle class women. and the inequality of representation for colored women.

LumenCivil rights, American Government.”  https://courses.lumenlearning.com/amgovernment/chapter/the-african-american-struggle-for-equality/

to help with the explanation of the civil rights for african americans.

Sternheimer, Karen. “Celebrity Culture and the American Dream: Stardom and Social Mobility”. 2nd edition. Routledge 2015

Stewart, Abigail. Settles, Isis, Winter Nicholas..Women and the Social Movements of the1960s: Activists, Engaged Observers, and Nonparticipants. Political Psychology, Vol. 19, No. 1, 1998 


help with historical context

Woman Suffrage: History and Time Line

explaining the suffrage movement

Yeakel ,Lynn  Struggle for Women’s Rights and Civil Rights Linked

Civil war and the resulting amendments.


woman holding up equal rights sign.


image of women holding up sign for women’s rights


African american holding a sign :Ivory towers.


We can do it


advertisement of degradation of women


Women’s liberation sign with african american women


Womens right with all inclusive women


Feminism unfinished



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