Women's rights protests of the 1960s

Written by kaye jones
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Women's rights protests of the 1960s
Many women in the 1960s felt constricted in their role as housewife and mother. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Known as second-wave feminism or the women's liberation movement, an increase in feminist activity and an overwhelming desire for social and economic change for women took place in the 1960s. The publication of the influential feminist books such as "The Feminist Mystique" by Betty Friedan in 1963, influenced by earlier books like "The Second Sex" by Simone de Beauvoir, spurred many women across the country to stand up for their rights in numerous protests and demonstrations.

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Women Strike For Peace - 1961

On November 1, 1961, 50,000 women at home and abroad held a one-day protest against Soviet and American nuclear policies. Mobilised by the women's activist group Women Strike For Peace, the most pubic act of the protest was the 1,500-strong march to the White House and the Soviet Embassy asking the first ladies of both countries, Jacqueline Kennedy and Petrovna Khrushchev, to work towards the aim of world peace. Women Strike For Peace held a further protest against nuclear testing in April 1962.

Vietnam War - 1968

On January 15, 1968, the Jeanette Rankin Brigade marched, 5,000-strong, on Capitol Hill as Congress was about to convene. Led by their founder, the 87-year-old Jeanette Rankin, the women marched in opposition against the ongoing Vietnam War. Later in the day, a small group of younger women broke off from the demonstration headed to Arlington Cemetery to conduct a ceremonial burial of "traditional motherhood."

Miss America - 1968

On September 7, while Judi Ford was crowned Miss America, feminists attracted national media attention for their protest against the pageant on the boardwalk of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Opposed to the "enslavement" of women in such a way, feminists mocked the pageant with the crowing of a sheep and throwing beauty products into a rubbish bin. On the same day, the first Miss Black America contest was held in Atlantic City, in protest to the "white" Miss America.

New York Abortion Law - 1969

In 1969 the New York State Legislature scheduled a panel of one nun and 14 men to testify at a hearing on a proposed abortion law. Feminist Kathie Sarachild objected to the panel, believing that only women who had experienced illegal abortions were qualified to speak on the issue, but was denied the right to speak. Organised as the radical feminist group, the Redstockings, 12 women made public their abortion experiences in front of an audience of 300 people and much of the national media. This protest tactic was repeated numerous times over the next few decades to encourage debate on other taboo issues such as rape and sexual harassment.

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