Facts About Women's Rights in the 60s

Written by alison j. walkley
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Facts About Women's Rights in the 60s
Without the women's rights movement of the 1960s, women today may not enjoy all the rights they currently have, within and without the workforce. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The fight for women's rights has been ongoing for decades, if not centuries. Some recall the suffragettes of the early 1900s as the first feminists. It wasn't until the 1960s, however, that post-voting-rights women took a real stand to gain what was owed them in the forms of equal pay, employment and political standing.

Commission on the Status of Women

Founded by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1961, the Commission on the Status of Women sought to unearth just how differently women were being treated over a variety of spheres, including education, Social Security, tax laws, the barring of women from occupations and the lack of equal pay women were receiving in the same jobs as their male counterparts. The commission was intended by the late President John F. Kennedy to find compromises that would advance women's rights, especially in the workplace, without angering organised trade unions and the like, as well as protecting the ability of women to continue to work in the home for their families.

Facts About Women's Rights in the 60s
President Kennedy was behind the start of the Commission on the Status of Women in 1961. (Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)


During the 60s, Congress saw more than 400 pieces of legislation that dealt with issues of discrimination and expanding the rights of women nationwide. Court decisions in this decade addressed reproductive rights (the birth control pill was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1960) and whether women could serve on juries (they'd been less likely to be called because they were seen as "needed in the home"). When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, women and minorities alike saw the following protected: freedom of choice to vote; freedom to apply for employment; and freedom to use hotels, restaurants and other public places.

Facts About Women's Rights in the 60s
Women took their plights to the courts in the 60s to seek the rights due them. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

National Organization for Women

A year after the case Griswold v. Connecticut upheld the use of contraception, NOW (National Organization for Women) was formed in 1966, replacing the discontinued Commission on the Status of Women (due to lack of government funding). Written by infamous feminist and author of "The Feminine Mystique" Betty Friedan, NOW's 1966 statement of purpose reads: "The purpose of NOW is to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men." NOW was helped further in 1968 when the Women's Equality Action League was founded in order to investigate faculty pay and promotion inequalities in education.

Facts About Women's Rights in the 60s
One of the many wins for American women was Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which decided that the use of contraception in marriage was protected under our rights to privacy as citizens. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Heading Into the 70s

By 1969, women were using the momentum of the previous nine years or so to continue to make progress. This was the year President Richard Nixon created the Task Force on Women's Rights and Responsibilities in order to attract women to upper-level governmental jobs and provide them with the proper training to do so. Not only were women enjoying more opportunities in the workplace but in the home as well. 1969 was the year California led the nation in the adoption of the "no fault" divorce law, allowing women to divorce their husbands by mutual consent -- it was no longer just in the man's hands any longer. Thus, by the end of the 60s, women were making more money due to the Equal Pay Act of 1963. They could apply for what were previously thought to be "male only" jobs, thanks to 1965's Weeks v. Southern Bell case, and they were given more power in their marriages to boot.

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