Timeline of second-wave feminism

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This is a Timeline of second-wave feminism, from its beginning in the mid-twentieth century, to the start of Third-wave feminism in the early 1990s.





  • Enovid is approved for sale in the United States 9 May 1960 as a contraceptive pill by the Food and Drug Administration. (It had been approved three years earlier for menstrual symptoms.) Within three years, 2.3 million women are using "The Pill", as it became known, in the United States. [1] The arrival of the pill ushered in and coincided with the second wave of feminism. [2]



  • The non-fiction book Sex and the Single Girl was released in the U.S. and sold two million copies in three weeks. Author Helen Gurley Brown encouraged women to become financially independent, and to become sexually active before marriage. [5]


Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique Betty Naomi Goldstein Friedan.jpg
Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique



Logo of Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee Logo SNCC.svg
Logo of Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee


  • Twenty-eight women, among them Betty Friedan, founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) to function as a civil rights organization for women. Betty Friedan became its first president. The group is now one of the largest women's groups in the U.S. and pursues its goals through extensive legislative lobbying, litigation, and public demonstrations. [21]
  • Barbara Jordan was elected to the Texas Senate. She was the first African-American woman in the Texas legislature. [22]
  • Flight attendants filed Title VII complaints about being forced to quit when they married, got pregnant or reached age 35. [22]



  • Robin Morgan led members of New York Radical Women to protest the Miss America Pageant of 1968, which they decried as sexist and racist. [4]
  • The first American national gathering of women's liberation activists was held in Lake Villa, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. [39]
  • The EEOC issued revised guidelines on sex discrimination, making it clear that the widespread practice of publishing "help wanted" advertisements that use "male" and "female" column headings violates Title VII. [40]
  • New York feminists buried a dummy of "Traditional Womanhood" at the all-women's Jeannette Rankin Brigade demonstration against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C. [4]
  • For the first time, feminists used the slogan "Sisterhood is Powerful". [41]
  • The first public speakout against abortion laws was held in New York City. [4]
  • Notes from the First Year, a women's liberation theoretical journal, was published by New York Radical Women. [42]
  • NOW celebrated Mother's Day with the slogan "Rights, Not Roses". [43]
  • Mary Daly, professor of theology at Boston College, published a scathing criticism of the Catholic Church's view and treatment of women entitled "The Church and the Second Sex". [44] [45]
  • 850 sewing machinists at Ford in Dagenham, which is in Britain, went on strike for equal pay and against sex discrimination. This ultimately led to the passing of the Equal Pay Act 1970, the first legislation in the United Kingdom aimed at ending pay discrimination between men and women. [23]
  • The term "second-wave feminism" itself was brought into common parlance by journalist Martha Lear in a New York Times Magazine article in March 1968 titled "The Second Feminist Wave: What do These Women Want?" [46] She wrote, "Proponents call it the Second Feminist Wave, the first having ebbed after the glorious victory of suffrage and disappeared, finally, into the great sandbar of Togetherness." [46] :323


  • The case Weeks v. Southern Bell marked a major triumph in the fight against restrictive labor laws and company regulations on the hours and conditions of women's work in the U.S., opening many previously male-only jobs to women. [47]
  • The American radical organization Redstockings organized. [48]
  • Members of Redstockings disrupted a hearing on abortion laws of the New York Legislature when the panel of witnesses turned out to be 14 men and a nun. The group demanded repeal, not reform, of laws restricting abortion. [4]
  • NARAL Pro-Choice America, then called The National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), was founded. [49]
  • California adopted a "no fault" divorce law, allowing couples to divorce by mutual consent. It was the first state to do so; by 2010 every state had adopted a similar law. Legislation was also passed regarding equal division of common property. [41]
A Women's Liberation march in Washington, D.C., 1970 Leffler - WomensLib1970 WashingtonDC.jpg
A Women's Liberation march in Washington, D.C., 1970


Cover of Kate Millett's 1970 book Sexual Politics Cover of Kate Millett's Sexual Politics book - PD-simple.jpg
Cover of Kate Millett's 1970 book Sexual Politics


Photo of feminist Robin Morgan, author of Sisterhood is Powerful RobinMorgan profile.jpg
Photo of feminist Robin Morgan, author of Sisterhood is Powerful


Congresswoman Bella Abzug of New York in the 1970s Bella Savitsky Abzug.jpg
Congresswoman Bella Abzug of New York in the 1970s


Publicity photo of Helen Reddy from The Carol Burnett Show Helen Reddy 1973 (cropped).JPG
Publicity photo of Helen Reddy from The Carol Burnett Show



  • Switzerland allowed women to vote in national elections. However, some cantons did not allow women to vote in local elections until 1994. [23]
  • Jane O'Reilly's article "The Housewife's Moment of Truth" was published in the first edition of Ms. Magazine, which appeared as an insert to New York Magazine. The O'Reilly article introduced the idea of "Click!", which O'Reilly described as the following: "The women in the group looked at her, looked at each other, and ... click! A moment of truth. The shock of recognition. Instant sisterhood... Those clicks are coming faster and faster. They were nearly audible last summer, which was a very angry summer for American women. Not redneck-angry from screaming because we are so frustrated and unfulfilled-angry, but clicking-things-into-place-angry, because we have suddenly and shockingly perceived the basic disorder in what has been believed to be the natural order of things."
  • Linda Nochlin's essay "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" was published in ARTnews. This essay is largely considered a pioneering text of the feminist art history movement.
  • The first women's liberation march in London occurred. [23]
  • In the U.S. Supreme Court Case Reed v Reed , for the first time since the Fourteenth Amendment went into effect in 1868, the Court struck down a state law on the ground that it discriminated against women in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of that amendment. The law in question—enacted in Idaho in 1864—required that when the father and mother of a deceased person both sought appointment as administrator of the estate, the man had to be preferred over the woman. [69]
  • The Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective was founded in New York. It was one of the first feminist theater groups formed to write and produce plays about women's issues and to provide work experience in theatrical professions which had been dominated by men. [70] [71] [72]
  • The song "I Am Woman" was published. It was a popular song performed by Australian singer Helen Reddy, which became an enduring anthem for the women's liberation movement. [73]
  • A Women's Equality Day resolution was passed in 1971 designating August 26 of each year as Women's Equality Day. [74]


Cover of Preview issue of Ms. magazine with a goddess Durga depiction Ms. magazine Cover - Spring 1972.jpg
Cover of Preview issue of Ms. magazine with a goddess Durga depiction
  • Britain's first second-wave feminist magazine, Spare Rib , was launched by Marsha Rowe and Rosie Boycott.
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 did not originally cover executives, administrators, outside salespeople, or professionals. [6] In 1972, Congress enacted the Education Amendments of 1972, which (among other things) amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to expand the coverage of the Equal Pay Act to these employees, by excluding the Equal Pay Act from the professional workers exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Egyptian feminist Nawal El-Saadawi published her book Women and Sex . [23]
  • Ms. magazine began. [75] [76] It was the first national American feminist magazine. [77]
  • In February 1972, the US Government Printing Office approved using Ms. in official government documents. [78]
  • The National Action Committee (NAC) was established to spur action by the Canadian government to implement recommendations made by the Royal Commission on the Status of Women (1970). Funded in part by the federal government and founded as a wide coalition of women's groups, NAC was seen as the voice of Canadian women.
  • The Equal Rights Amendment was sent to the U.S. states for ratification. The amendment reads: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex". [79]
Feminist Movement leader Gloria Steinem Gloria Steinem at news conference, Women's Action Alliance, January 12, 1972.jpg
Feminist Movement leader Gloria Steinem


  • Women were allowed on the floor of the London Stock Exchange for the first time. [23]
  • American tennis player Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match in 1973. This match is remembered for its effect on society and its contribution to the women's movement. [87]
Symbol used for signs and buttons by ERA opponents STOP ERA.gif
Symbol used for signs and buttons by ERA opponents
  • The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Roe v. Wade that laws prohibiting abortion are unconstitutional. States are constitutionally allowed to place regulations on abortion which fall short of prohibition after the first trimester. [88]
  • The U.S. Supreme Court held that sex-segregated help wanted ads are illegal in Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations , 413 U.S. 376. [89]
  • AT&T agreed to end discrimination in women's salaries and to pay retroactive compensation to women employees. [4]
  • The [American] National Black Feminist Organization was formed. [4]
  • The term "sexual harassment" was used in 1973 in "Saturn's Rings", a report authored by Mary Rowe to the then President and Chancellor of MIT about various forms of gender issues. [90] Rowe has stated that she believes she was not the first to use the term, since sexual harassment was being discussed in women's groups in Massachusetts in the early 1970s, but that MIT may have been the first or one of the first large organizations to discuss the topic (in the MIT Academic Council), and to develop relevant policies and procedures. MIT at the time also recognized the injuries caused by racial harassment and the harassment of women of color which may be both racial and sexual.


  • Five all-male colleges at University of Oxford opened admissions to women. [91]
  • Contraception became free for women in the United Kingdom. [23]
  • Virago Press, a British feminist press, was set up by the publisher Carmen Callil. Its first title, Life As We Have Known It, was published in 1975. [23]
  • The Women's Aid Federation was set up to unite battered women's shelters in Britain. [23]
Betty Ford, former First Lady of the United States Betty Ford, official White House photo color, 1974.jpg
Betty Ford, former First Lady of the United States
  • The Equal Credit Opportunity Act became law in the U.S. It prohibits discrimination in consumer credit practices on the basis of sex, race, marital status, religion, national origin, age, or receipt of public assistance. [92]
  • In Corning Glass Works v. Brennan , the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers cannot justify paying women lower wages because that is what they traditionally received under the "going market rate". A wage differential occurring "simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women" is unacceptable. [93]
  • The U.S. First Lady Betty Ford was pro-choice. [94] A moderate Republican, Ford lobbied to ratify the ERA, earning the ire of conservatives, who dub her "No Lady". [94] [95]
  • The Mexican-American Women's National Association was founded. [96]
  • The American Coalition of Labor Union Women was founded. [97]
  • The Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) of 1974 was enacted in 1974 to promote educational equity for American girls and women, including those who suffer multiple discrimination based on gender and on race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, or age, and to provide funds to help education agencies and institutions meet the requirements of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. [98]
  • Dell Williams founded the first feminist sex toy business in the United States, Eve's Garden, in New York City in 1974. [99] [100] Eve's Garden was also the first woman-owned and woman-operated sex toy business in America. [99]


  • The Equal Pay Act 1970 took effect in the UK. [23]
  • The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 became law in the UK, making it illegal to discriminate against women in education, recruitment, and advertising. [23]
  • The Employment Protection Act 1975 became law in the UK, introducing statutory maternity provision and making it illegal to fire a woman because she is pregnant. [23]
  • In Taylor v. Louisiana , the U.S. Supreme Court held that women could not be excluded from a venire, or jury pool, on the basis of having to register for jury duty, thus overturning Hoyt v. Florida , the 1961 case that had allowed such a practice. [101]
  • The U.N. sponsored the First International Conference on Women in Mexico City. [102]
  • U.S. federal employees' salaries could be garnished for child support and alimony. [103]
  • Tish Sommers, chairwoman of NOW's Older Women Task Force, coined the phrase "displaced homemaker". [104]
  • American feminist Susan Brownmiller published the landmark book Against Our Will , about rape. [105] She later became one of TIME's "Women of the Year" (see below). [105] [106]
  • NOW sponsored "Alice Doesn't" Day, asking women across the country to go on strike for one day. [107]
  • Joan Little, who was raped by a guard while in jail, was acquitted of murdering her offender. The case established a precedent in America for killing as self-defense against rape. [108]
  • In New York City, the first women's bank opened. [109]
  • The United States armed forces opened its military academies to women. [101]
  • Time declared: "[F]eminism has transcended the feminist movement. In 1975 the women's drive penetrated every layer of society, matured beyond ideology to a new status of general—and sometimes unconscious—acceptance." The Time Person of the Year award goes to American Women, celebrating the successes of the feminist movement. [106]
  • The Equal Opportunities Commission came into effect in the UK (besides Northern Ireland, where it came into effect in 1976) to oversee the Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Acts. [23]
  • The first "Take Back the Night" march was held. [110] It was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in October 1975, after the murder of a microbiologist, Susan Alexander Speeth, who was stabbed to death while walking home alone. [110]


Barbara Jordan giving keynote address before the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York City Barbara Jordan speaking at the 1976 Democratic National Convention (cropped1).jpg
Barbara Jordan giving keynote address before the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York City


  • The Canadian Human Rights Act was passed, prohibiting discrimination based on characteristics including sex and sexual orientation, and requiring "equal pay for work of equal value". [117]
German poster for International Women's Day, March 8, 1914 Frauentag 1914 Heraus mit dem Frauenwahlrecht.jpg
German poster for International Women's Day, March 8, 1914


  • Marilyn Loden invented the phrase "glass ceiling", during a 1978 speech. [123] [124] [125] [126]
  • The Oregon v. Rideout jury decision, in which Rideout was acquitted of raping his wife, led many American states to allow prosecution for marital and cohabitation rape. [127]
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act banned employment discrimination against pregnant women in the U.S., stating a woman cannot be fired or denied a job or a promotion because she is or may become pregnant, nor can she be forced to take a pregnancy leave if she is willing and able to work. [128]
  • The Equal Rights Amendment’s deadline arrived with the ERA still three states short of ratification; there was a successful bill to extend the ERA's deadline to 1982, but it was still not ratified by then. [79]


  • The feminist art piece The Dinner Party , by American feminist artist Judy Chicago, was first put on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. [23]
  • Duren v. Missouri , 439 U.S. 357 (1979), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the court ruled that the exemption on request of women from jury service under Missouri law, resulting in an average of less than 15% women on jury venires in the forum county, violated the "fair-cross-section" requirement of the Sixth Amendment as made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth.


Yvette Roudy, former French Minister of Women's Rights Yvette Roudy.jpg
Yvette Roudy, former French Minister of Women's Rights


  • The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted by the Canada Act of 1982, and it declares (among other things), "15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. (2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.... 28. Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons." [132]


  • In 1983, the women's minister of France, Yvette Roudy, passed a law obliging all companies with more than 50 employees to carry out a comparative salary survey between men and women. [133]


  • The Japanese Equal Employment Opportunity Law of 1985, effective in April 1986, prohibits gender discrimination with respect to recruitment, hiring, promotion, training, and job assignment. [134]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Equal Rights Amendment</span> Proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would, if added, explicitly prohibit sex discrimination. It was written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman and introduced in Congress in December 1923 as a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution. The purpose of the ERA is to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. Proponents assert it would end legal distinctions between men and women in matters of divorce, property, employment, and other matters. Opponents originally argued it would remove protections that women needed. In the 21st century, opponents argue it is no longer needed and some fear it would be extended to abortion and transgender rights.

Liberal feminism, also called mainstream feminism, is a main branch of feminism defined by its focus on achieving gender equality through political and legal reform within the framework of liberal democracy and informed by a human rights perspective. It is often considered culturally progressive and economically center-right to center-left. As the oldest of the "Big Three" schools of feminist thought, liberal feminism has its roots in 19th century first-wave feminism seeking recognition of women as equal citizens, focusing particularly on women's suffrage and access to education, the effort associated with 19th century liberalism and progressivism. Liberal feminism "works within the structure of mainstream society to integrate women into that structure." Liberal feminism places great emphasis on the public world, especially laws, political institutions, education and working life, and considers the denial of equal legal and political rights as the main obstacle to equality. As such liberal feminists have worked to bring women into the political mainstream. Liberal feminism is inclusive and socially progressive, while broadly supporting existing institutions of power in liberal democratic societies, and is associated with centrism and reformism. Liberal feminism tends to be adopted by white middle-class women who do not disagree with the current social structure; Zhang and Rios found that liberal feminism with its focus on equality is viewed as the dominant and "default" form of feminism. Liberal feminism actively supports men's involvement in feminism and both women and men have always been active participants in the movement; progressive men had an important role alongside women in the struggle for equal political rights since the movement was launched in the 19th century.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Third-wave feminism</span> Feminist movement, 1990s–2020s

Third-wave feminism is a feminist movement that began in the early 1990s, prominent in the decades prior to the fourth wave. Grounded in the civil-rights advances of the second wave, Gen X third-wave feminists born in the 1960s and 1970s embraced diversity and individualism in women, and sought to redefine what it meant to be a feminist. The third wave saw the emergence of new feminist currents and theories, such as intersectionality, sex positivity, vegetarian ecofeminism, transfeminism, and postmodern feminism. According to feminist scholar Elizabeth Evans, the "confusion surrounding what constitutes third-wave feminism is in some respects its defining feature."

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Feminist movement</span> Series of political campaigns for reforms on feminist issues

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Labor feminism was a women's movement in the United States that emerged in the 1920s, focused on gaining rights in the workplace and unions. Labor feminists advocated for protectionist legislation and special benefits for women, a variant of social feminism. They helped pass state laws regulating working conditions for women, expanded women's participation in unions, and organized to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment.


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