The times were tough. Uninspired, unequal, unrepresented; if you were a women, these words would likely relate to you. In the early half of the 1900’s, there was no ladder for women to climb. In 1940, only 26% of women had had the opportunity to finish college. However in 1970, this number nearly doubled to 55% (Baxandall, Gordon 708). This 30 year difference may sound like a lot of time, however it is not. In history, it usually takes a significant amount of time for changes of this magnitude to occur. So what happened?
To emphasize: inequality between the sexes was astonishingly high a century ago. Women had no control over their own reproductive rights, especially when it came to abortion and contraceptives. Girls were constantly told that their greatest achievement would consist of being the role of a mother. Everything from the clothes on their back to the property in their hands was dictated by a sex other than their own. However, during WWII everything changed. As men left to fight in the war, women took over a large portion of factory jobs on the homefront. This sense of ambition and purpose struck a chord with the millions of female workers. And as the dust from the war settled and men returned home to take back their jobs, women began to unite in opposition to the return of the injustice that they had faced in the past. Throughout the 1950’s women pushed arduously to obtain more jobs in the work force. The constant oppression that they had seen in the past was to be no more. As the next few decades arrived this snowball continued to roll gaining momentum with each passing year. Everything from the Civil Rights Movement to Rock and Roll inspired millions to push for equality.
Today, we stand in retrospect, seeing how far this movement has come. There is so much that has been accomplished by the millions of dedicated and righteous people. Women stand on a more equal ground with men politically, socially, and even economically. Feminism is no longer a topic discussed in hushed whispers outside of the public eye. It is discussed constantly in schools and even by the media, with each added opinion contributing to the movement’s own overall development. Contraceptives are now widely dispersed, abortion is more of a choice, and the clothes that a woman wears doesn’t have to appeal the social expectation. Gender terminology is now more equally considered and we have arrived to the point where feminism can focus on men’s issues as well.
However, the movement is far from over. While the gaps from the past are far slimmer there is still much progress needed to be made. While women can now achieve the more prestigious jobs that men have had in the past, it is still an unreasonably tough pursuit. Basically, men take an escalator while women take the stairs. And even if women obtain such jobs, their is still no certainty that they will be paid to an equal degree. While women make up half of the population, they still hold a minority of positions in politics. And many other issues have yet to be addressed. Overall however, I feel that the Women’s Liberation Movement has been a success, and whether it be a decade or a century, I have hope for true gender equality in the future.
Kerber, Linda, et.al. Women’s America. 8th edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.