During the Second World War women were needed to contribute to the war effort if America were to succeed. Hence, propaganda campaigns were launched to encourage women to play a more active role in helping America succeed in the war. The most famous character used by the government in their propaganda campaign was Rosie the Riveter. She took on jobs that had previously been associated with men, such as riveting, working in ammunition factories and so on. The campaign proved a big success, with women being employed in factories making guns, ammunition, jeeps, aircraft’s etc. They provided soldiers on the front line with ammunition and kept the army supplied with weapons. Other propaganda campaigns were also used such as adverts were used.
Women also benefited from their working position. They experienced financial freedom and had the ability to buy what they wanted without having to ask for money. They also experienced their first taste of economic equality, as several states employed a equal pay system during the war.
However, after the war things went back to normal, as many women thought it is their duty to allow men to have their jobs back and return to household jobs. Despite this, the seeds of the Womens’ were planted.
Directly after the war America experienced a ‘Baby Boom’. It was solely down to this single factor to why the Womens’ Movement had been delayed for over a decade. It was about the beginning of the 60’s when children began to go to high school that (the majority of) women once again had free time. This is why it took so long for the Womens’ movement to develop after laying the foundations during the war.
Some women were inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and began to campaign for rights that became known as the Womens’ Movement. A new drug known as ‘The Pill’ became the most effective method of contraception that could be used by women. This revolutionised the lives of many women as it meant that they put having a child on hold and pursue a career, as it meant not having to rely on men for birth control. In 1963 a feminist called Betty Friedan wrote a book called ‘The Feminine Mystique’. She described a woman living in a 1950’s American home to be in “a comfortable concentration camp”. She also called on women to reject the stereotype set upon them by society.
In 1967 an organisation called NOW (Nation Organisation of Women) was set up. They called for:
* An Equal Rights Amendment to be part of the constitution
* No discrimination against women in employment
* The right to an abortion on demand.
As with Black civil rights, two separate groups arouse; the moderates and the militants. The moderates called for a non-violent approach, such as
while militants systematically declared war on men, who they now viewed as the enemy. There were also extremists who argued that women should become political lesbians and refused to get married. One of these extremist movements were called SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) who supported the use of violence against men.
Other targets of the Movement were to stop the treatment of women as sex objects, as they argued that women were judged on their appearance rather than their abilities. Therefore they disrupted beauty pageants and campaigned against pornography.
Overall, women achieved a great deal of progress in a short amount of time. Many states adopted the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) and an increasing number of women gained equal employment and pay rights. There was an increase in feminist magazines and women made progress in media such as television and radio. In the 1980’s a woman ran for the Democratic vice-presidential election, though we have yet to see a woman President.