Navigation: Home | Universal Suffrage | The World Wars | Feminism | The Pill and Legal Reproductive Control | Equality Legislation


external image feminism.jpeg external image Female_black_symbol.svgexternal image feminism-4.jpg

Three Waves of Feminism:

Historians have divided the women’s movement into three stages, based on their varying focuses of goals and time periods. These types of movements stemmed from left-wing movements within post-war Western communities, such as the anti-Vietnam War movement, student protests, homosexual movements and specifically the civil rights/blacks’ rights within the United States. These movements all share a common theme of people of “oppressed” groups (women, blacks, the working class, homosexuals) gaining more rights. Of these, feminism derived into mainly focusing in attaining gender equity within the society, workplace, and home.

First Wave of Feminism:

The first wave of feminism, which started in the late 1800s and lasted to the early 1900s, was primarily centred on women gaining legal and property rights. Suffrage, the right to vote, was a main focus for the legal equality aspect. Women gained these rights within various dates in various countries. For example, women in Canada started to gain voting rights since 1916 to 1920 (beginning in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta). Some of the main property rights that women were fighting for were the rights to own and inherit property.

Second Wave of Feminism:

The second wave of feminism occurred after the early 1900s to the mid-1900s. Compared to the first wave, this had a wider range of targets in which women fought for equity in workplaces and within the society in general. Equal wages, protection against domestic violence/rape, and sexism portrayed through media and pornography were some of the key issues in which the feminists were concerned with. Abortion was one of the main subjects in question, as women fought for the rights to reproductive choice, such as the rights to obtain knowledge about and have access for birth control. In Canada, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women was created to promote equality and empowerment for women. In New York, a radical feminist organization called the “Redstockings” emerged as a group advocating for women’s rights to empowerment; in 1969, they participated in the protest against the pageant competitions’ degrading portrayal of women, regarding their emphasis on outer appearance. Black feminists in the United States formed organizations, such as the National Black Feminist Organization and the Black Women Organized for Action; the main goal was to bring awareness to race and gender equality, as well as welfare, poverty, and health of the black people.

Third Wave of Feminism:

From mid-1900s to current day, the third wave of feminism was focused on securing the goals that were existent, but still not fully achieved, during the second wave of feminism. This time, these movements attempted to include the voices of women from different races and class, as in previous movements, it was mostly advocated by white, middle-class women. Some activists even denounced the term “feminist,” regarding it as a stereotypical name reflecting gender discrimination. Throughout the world, people are still advocating for rights of women in varying race, class, and age, and in overcoming the traditional female prejudices and values.

Social Self-Awareness

As the emergence of counter culture became prominent in the US and UK from 1960-1973 many movements or rather awakenings began to grow rapidly. This was when new cultural forms emerged which emphasized change and experimentation. Hippie culture was among these new forms, which prospered due to Anti-Vietnam attitudes, media, and musical icons such as John Lennon. As a result, tensions in America were growing regarding race relations, different interpretations of the American Dream, and especially woman’s rights. Woman, with all of these movements, began to question the legal system as to why civil rights do not all apply to woman. A period known as the Second-Wave of feminism was evolving and is highly regarded as the most significant time of growing self-awareness amongst woman

external image housewives.jpg

So, as more woman became aware of their place in society the more they wanted to change it by joining or supporting the feminist movement. Feminist leaders realized in order to achieve equality they would need to change their image by abolishing the stereotypical image of the 1950’s housewife. Woman had previously realized that they too could do so called “man chores” after the workplace deficit in WWI. This meant that they could replace the housewife image with a wide range of progressive roles such as a business executive or government official to attain equality and respect in the workplace.

Another area where feminist’s wanted to alter was the media perception of woman. Or as The icon Betty Friedan said “One project of second wave feminism was to create ‘positive’ images of women, to act as a counterweight to the dominant images circulating in popular culture and to raise women’s consciousness of their oppressions." Feminists viewed pop culture as sexist so they created a pop culture of their own to counteract this. An example of this is Helen Reddy’s hit “I Am Woman” that played a large role as being the feminist anthem.

During the third wave other celebrities such as Cher and Madonna became icons of female empowerment in an untraditional way. Madonna began empowering women and young girls in a way that is different from most of the feminist before her. She wasn’t encouraging woman to get jobs or fight for equal rights but to embrace themselves as the person they are. Whereas second wave feminist leaders thought the only way for women to achieve equality was to prove themselves as intellectually equal in society like in the workplace. This contrasting opinion of what the image of a woman should be in society is what divides the 2nd wave feminists and 3rd wave feminists.

Political Awareness
1) Achievements and failures

The political achievements and legislation inspired and created by the Women's right movements is outstanding. Feminists focused on creating laws to banish economic inequality in marriage, business, banking, and credit. The movement prompted the groundbreaking Title IX ruling in the 1970s. Women also became politically active for the first time in decades. For example, in the US, National Women's Political Caucus was created. Furthermore, reproductive rights, personal rights, battered women's shelters were issues in which feminists passionately rallied.

2) The National Organization for Women (the NOW)

In the United States, women, energized by Betty Friedan's novel The Feminist Mystique joined with government leaders and union representatives to create the National Organization for Women (NOV). This organization fround consensus on six measures essential to ensuring women's equality: enforcement of laws banning employment discrimination, maternity leave rights, child care centres that could enable mothers to work, tax deduction to child-care expenses, equal and unsegregated education, and equal job-training opportunities for poor women.

The National Organization for Women also demanded immediate passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution to ensure equality of rights, regardless of gender.

3) Feminist Leadership

Feminist leaders in the 1970s were an intriguing array of personalities. Their activism took various roles from organizing strikes and marches, writing books and articles to bring awarenss about women's issues. These women ardently struggled for equal rights and forever influenced future generations with their passion and activisim. Some of the leaders include Flo Kennedy, Kate Millet, Robin Morgan, Gloria Steinam and Bella Abzug.

Rise of Woman Leaders

Ellen Willis

Ellen Willis was a left wing political journalist, activist, and feminist. She spent the majority of her adulthood as a music critic for The New Yorker, Village Voice, The Nation, and Rolling Stone. As a founding member of the radical feminist group, the Redstockings, Willis led protests towards legalizing abortion in the form of street theater. In addition to being a strong supporter of women’s abortion rights, Willis also wrote many essays regarding threat to free speech, sexual puritanism, and moral authoritarianism.

Clara Fraser

As one of the core members of the revolutionary feminist political party, the Freedom Socialist Party, Clara Fraser dedicated her life to end segregation, advocated for women, and led several antiwar and abortion rights protests. As a part of the Radical Women, a grassroots feminist organization, Fraser helped teach women leadership and theoretical skills to further the growing number of women leaders around the United States. As a member of the Freedom Socialist Party, Fraser was the chief editor for their newspaper for twenty years. Some other works include her contributions to get women of color into trades, fighting for childcare, and Native American fishing rights.

Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago is an American feminist artist and writer. Her work is known to examine the role of women in history and culture, especially in the notable piece, The Dinner Party. The Dinner Party consists of 39 place settings, each representing a historical female figure. In her early adulthood, Chicago worked full time at the Fresno State College and taught women skills needed to work in a business environment. She also started the first feminist art program in the United States. In 1972, Fraser created Womanhouse, the first art exhibition to display female points of view in art. More exhibitions were able to be put on after opening the Women’s Building in 1973, which included a Feminist Studio workshop for women to explore artistic abilities.

Ellen Fairclough

Ellen Fairclough was the first female member of the Canadian Cabinet. As a member of Parliament, she worked to advocate women’s rights, like equal pay for equal work. She was appointed to Secretary of State for Canada by Diefenbaker in 1957. She quickly introduced new regulations that eliminated racial discrimination in immigration policy and more liberal policy on refugees. Fairclough was also the first female Acting Prime Minister and formally nominated Kim Campbell for the Conservative Party leadership.

Works Cited: