Women’s Liberation and Second-Wave Feminism: “The Personal is Political”

  • Van Gosse


Many different activist and intellectual currents fed into the mass women’s movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, which built upon the underground organizing and hard-won legislative successes of the 1950s and early 1960s, but had much greater visibility and influence. The new feminism included everything from lobbying campaigns for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to clinics, battered women’s shelters, and publishing companies. Its constituencies ranged from informal groups of suburban married women to lesbian collectives. Many of its most important victories took place in workplaces and families where women spoke up to change the sexual division of labor, and in personal struggles to enter traditional male preserves, from construction sites and coal mines to law and engineering schools. Ultimately, this new or “second wave” feminism became the largest and longest-lasting of all the movements of the New Left, with an unbroken trajectory that stretches into the twentyfirst century. Perhaps not surprisingly, it has aroused the deepest opposition, even among women themselves.


Black Woman Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Male Supremacy UniTed Auto Worker Radical Feminism 
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A Selected Bibliography

  1. Besides Evans’ Personal Politics, another important early study isGoogle Scholar
  2. Jo Freeman, The Politics of Women’s Liberation: A Case Study of an Emerging Social Movement and Its Relation to the Policy Process (New York: McKay, 1975).Google Scholar
  3. Alice Echols, Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967–1975 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989) is still definitive, though some have noted its geographic focus on the northeast.Google Scholar
  4. Flora Davis, Moving the Mountain: The Women’s Movement in America Since 1960 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999) is lesser-known but especially useful on tracing the broader movement’s engagement with conventional politics. The most recent major historyGoogle Scholar
  5. Ruth Rosen, The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America (New York: Viking, 2000) is strong on the cultural milieus of second-wave feminism. All of these are complimented by the enormous range of documents in Rosalyn Baxandall andGoogle Scholar
  6. Linda Gordon, Linda, eds., Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women’s Liberation Movement (New York: Basic Books, 2000). Finally, I relied onGoogle Scholar
  7. Benita Roth, Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana, and White Feminist Movements in America’s Second Wave (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) to break out of a narrative that centers on the activism of white women.Google Scholar

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© Van Gosse 2005

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  • Van Gosse

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