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Unit 9: Contemporary America

A Survey of the Women’s Liberation Movement, 1968-1982

by Adam Cooper

 

Grade Level: High School, 11th or 12th Grade

Discipline: US History

 

Lesson Abstract:

This three-lesson set on the Women’s Liberation Movement utilizes 1970’s women’s music to explore how self-actualization, political activism, and lesbianism played pivotal roles in helping women  achieve equal status in American society.


Introduction:

The Women’s Liberation Movement, beginning approximately in 1968 and continuing through 1982, was a fundamentally life-changing phenomenon that changed the way women thought about themselves and the way they were treated in all facets of American society. Growing out of the major movements of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the modern women’s movement was a natural development in the wave of societal change that encompassed civil rights causes for multiple minority groups and the activist efforts to end the Vietnam War.

Women were involved in all of these causes, just as they were important participants in the 19th century abolitionist movement. Like those early pioneers of women’s rights of the 19th century, women in the 1960’s found that they were treated as second-class citizens within those high-minded activist communities. Movement women were often relegated to menial tasks while men of the counterculture made most the decisions, did most of the writing, and participated in most of the public actions. Women saw other oppressed peoples in America being liberated, saw parallels with their own lives, and started to wonder what about liberation for themselves.

Betty Friedan’s 1963 ground-breaking tome, The Feminine Mystique, an expose on the dissatisfaction of roles women were largely boxed into in post-war America, planted the initial seeds for a reevaluation of how women saw themselves and how society shaped their sense of self. Activist women gradually separated themselves from the New Left and formed their own Women’s Liberation Movement. Through innovative experiments in consciousness-raising groups and writings about feminist thought, women activists raised a host of new causes that radically altered the way women perceived themselves and the ways society treated them.

Concepts like birth control, abortion, and reproductive rights, normally swept under the proverbial rug, were discussed openly and publicly. Issues that existed but lacked even a name were brought forth and analyzed, including sexism, sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and domestic violence. Using guerilla theatre and other art-based tactics from 1960’s activism, and utilizing the power of the media, the legislature, the courts, and public opinion, women won important gains in areas such as the workplace, the military, education, sports, healthcare, organized religion, and even home life. Women also took the initiative in addressing problems like rape, battery, and child molestation by setting up rape crisis centers, battery shelters, and emergency hotlines that provided safe spaces and information networks that could aid victimized and neglected women. By the 1980’s women had achieved a revolution of the mind and a revolution of societal status that would forever alter how they would live in American society.

Objectives:

The following three lesson plans are designed to explore specific components that shaped the Women’s Liberation Movement, namely the reevaluation of the self, the use of political activism to achieve societal change, and the exploration of lesbian relationships. These lessons utilize key songs from the nascent genre of women’s music, songs written by, about, and for women to help bring the issues and concerns of the period to life.

This small unit of lessons can be used separately or in a contiguous set of classes. Relevant readings should be covered in lessons prior to this unit and an overview of the Women’s Liberation Movement should also be given beforehand. Essential readings from the period might include works by the following authors:  Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Kate Millett, Angela Davis, Susan Brownmiller, Germaine Greer, and Simone de Beauvoir. Selections from the feminist anthology Sisterhood is Powerful might also be useful. After completing one or more the lessons, homework may be given using assignments from the “Extension Activities for Assessment” page.

Below is a listing of learning objectives for the lesson set:

  • Review key aspects of the Women’s Liberation Movement
  • Explore how the movement helped women rediscover and redefine themselves
  • Examine how women fought for social change through movement activism
  • Understand the strategies and tactics activists employed to achieve their objectives
  • Discover how some women opened themselves to lesbianism and how that affected their lives
  • Synthesize how women’s lives were prior to the 1970’s with how the movement changed women’s lives thereafter
  • Experience through feminist songs, readings, and film how art can highlight fundamental concepts of women’s liberation
  • Develop a fuller understanding of how the Women’s Liberation Movement was a logical development in the modern history of liberation causes, originating in the civil rights and anti-war movements
  • Appreciate the myriad of ways the women’s movement changed American society and the ways people in all spheres of daily life changed how they thought about and acted toward women
  • Explore how issues of the movement play a role in today’s world
  • Appreciate how movement issues affect the lives of the students

LESSON #1: Discovering the Self

The Song

“The Woman in Your Life”

Written by Alix Dobkin, 1973

The woman in your life

Will do what she must do

To comfort you, and calm you down, and

Let your rest, now

The woman in your life

She can rest so easily

She knows everything you do because

The woman in your life is you

The woman in your life

Knows simply what is true

She knows the simple way to touch, to

Make you whole, now

The woman in your life

She can touch so easily

She knows everything you do because

The woman in your life is you

And who knows more about your story

About your struggles in the world

And who cares more to bless your

Weary shoulders, than

The woman in your life

She’s trying to come through

A woman’s voice with messages of

Woman’s feelings

The woman in your life

She can feel so easily

She knows everything you do because

The woman in your life is you

And who is sure to give you courage

And who will surely make you strong

And who will bear all the joy

That is coming to you, if not

The woman in your life

She’s someone to pursue

She’s patient and she’s waiting and she’ll

Take your home now

The woman in your life

She can wait so easily

She knows everything you do because

The woman in your life is you


The Recordings

Living with Lavendar Jane       Alix Dobkin                                          

Love & Politics                            Alix Dobkin                                          

Song Background

Alix Dobkin began her singing career as a 1960’s Greenwich Village folk singer. By the arrival of the women’s movement in the 1970’s, Dobkin chose to celebrate women and lesbian relationships with her path-breaking album, Living with Lavender Jane. The album was produced on her own Women’s Wax Works label and was marked by passionate and explicit pro-lesbian and feminist tunes. One song on this album, “The Woman in Your Life,” is a clear example of this. Its lyrics make plain a plethora of strengths women possess and presents women as powerful, independent beings, contradicting many of notions of womanhood that were taught to women throughout American history. It celebrates these qualities in women and lovingly encourages women to embrace these qualities in themselves.

 

Activities

Introductory activity

After introducing the song “The Woman in Your Life,” students should listen to a recording of the song and engage in a class discussion of its lyrics. Students should share their thoughts and feelings about the song and the celebration of womanhood that the song entails. Utilizing topics from “Further Classroom Discussion” and prompted by questions from “The Questions” below, students should engage in analysis of the song’s meaning and interpretation of its lyrics.

 

Central Activity

To set up the following small group exercise, students should experience a brief overview about how women’s lives changed from the 19th century, through the 20th century, and up to the present time. A special emphasis should be placed on conditions women faced in post-war America during the 1950’s and 1960’s, including ways in which a culture of dependency on males was fomented. Students should then be allowed to form their own small groups in preparation for the following exercise: students will engage in a consciousness-raising session with their peers.

After the groups have formed, students should agree by consensus on a topic for discussion. The topics for discussion should be such that they stimulate and elicit personal experiences and/or a personal point of view from every member of the group. A list of questions related to the topic should be created and will be utilized from time to time to stimulate further discussion.

Students should then engage in a discussion of the topic, allowing each participant to share his/her point of view. Students should participate within their comfort zone, though they might be encouraged to take small risks as they feel comfortable doing. Students should make a point of listening to everyone’s input, rather than speak on top of anyone’s commentary. Students should also make a point of taking in what others say and allow that information to shape their thinking and their subsequent observations.

 

Follow up Activity

Growing out of the experience of the consciousness-raising exercise, each student should now complete a short writing on an event where s/he learned about or experienced something that changed the way the student saw him- or herself. In other words, students should write about a personal epiphany, a magic moment when a new way of seeing things occurred and it permanently altered the way the student saw her- or himself and the way the student experienced life. Students may share their writings with the class as they deem appropriate.

 

Further classroom discussion

  • Messages women received about womanhood from trustworthy sources pre-1970s
  • The role that consciousness-raising sessions played in the women’s movement
  • The role that feminist writings played in the women’s movement
  • The challenges of fighting oppression within one’s own mind
  • How Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique sparked a revolution in the re-evaluation of women’s roles
  • The sexism women activists endured in the civil rights and anti-war movements
  • Ways in which society constricted women’s options in home life, in education, and in the workplace

Questions:

  • Who would sing this song? Who is the song’s audience? What is the song’s purpose? What is the style and tone of the song? What kinds of ideas are presented in the lyrics? What is a protest song? Why are songs written as forms of protest? Is this lesson’s song an example of a protest song? Explain.
  • What is “The Woman in Your Life” about? What acts will the woman in the song do? For whom? What is Alix Dobkin saying about women in general? Why is it deemed necessary to reiterate in the song who the woman is? What is the relationship between “the woman” and “you” in the song?
  • What themes emerge from the portrait of a woman painted in the lyrics? How might women respond to Dobkin’s vision in 1973? What effect does having the words “woman” and “she” sung repeatedly in the song have on the listeners? How are this song’s ideas about womanhood different from other messages women have likely received from traditional sources?
  • In what ways did the birth control pill (“The Pill”) change women’s lives? What romantic and family-related issues did women have prior to the availability of the Pill? What were women’s experiences of the 1960’s sexual revolution? What unforeseen issues did usage of the Pill raise in women’s personal and professional lives?
  • How does gender play a role in shaping a person’s identity? What are gender roles? What is gender typing? Have the students been affected by gender typing? If so, how? Have the students ever experienced oppression based on their gender? Describe
  • How have standards of beauty played a role in women’s lives both in the past and present? Through what mediums are messages about beauty channeled to women today? What are the likely effects on women of this continuous stream of signals on body image?
  • What is sexual harassment? date rape? battery? domestic violence? molestation? What are the students’ impressions on how these issues have affected women’s lives both past and present? Why do these aggressive acts against woman happen? What can be done to prevent the reoccurrence of such acts
  • What components of American society play a role in shaping a women’s identity? What are possible effects theses influential entities have on women’s psyches? Who are some strong, independent women in each student’s life? Describe in detail.
  • What is sexism? How did sexism play a role in American society prior to the Women’s Liberation Movement? How does sexism play a role in American society today? How have students’ lives been affected by sexism?
  • What is meant by “Ms”? What titles are traditionally used for women? Why has Ms. been used to replace these traditional titles? What are other examples of sexism imbedded in American English? How might common use of sexist language and imagery affect the thinking and behavior of Americans?
  • What is sex discrimination? How has it affected women’s lives in the working world throughout the 20th century? What kinds of jobs could women hold prior to the 1970’s? What challenges did women face on the job prior to the 1970’s? How were women’s experiences different from men’s experiences in the workplace? How has sex discrimination played a role in women’s learning experiences and educational opportunities?
  • How are men and woman alike? How are they different? How do these similarities and differences affect how people think about and act toward each other?

The Comparative Element: A Magazine article

1) “If Men Could Menstruate,” a 1978 magazine article by Gloria Steinem

As a complement to the analysis of the song “The Woman in Your Life” and the exercises above, students should read, discuss, and analyze the above magazine article as an extension of understanding the challenges women faced in self-actualization. Students should compare the ideas of the song to those of the article. Topics for discussion might include the following:

  • Describe in detail what observations students make of the article
  • What do students feel and think about the article’s arguments
  • How does Steinem use humor to present serious points
  • What are students’ thoughts about the concept of men being able to menstruate
  • How does men’s behavior reflect back onto how women are seen and treated
  • What is Steinem saying about those in power and those who are powerless

Lesson #2: Acting for Social Change

"Testimony" by Ferron

The Recordings

Testimony                                      Ferron                                                   

Impressionistic                             Ferron                                                   

 

Song Background

Ferron is a women’s music singer of Canadian origin and of a working class background. After trying many diverse occupations, Ferron recorded her first two albums out of her basement and began a music career that continues to this day. She writes about issues in her own life and the challenges women face in spare, poetic language and metaphorical imagery. The song “Testimony” comes from her third eponymous album and is a lush and passionate song about the challenges women faced and will continue to face in achieving their rights. Hinting at different angles and experiences of personal and professional struggle, Ferron optimistically encourages women to continue the fight in their ongoing quest to realize full equality and self-actualization.

The Activities

Introductory Activity

After introducing the song “Testimony,” students should listen to a recording of the song and engage in a class discussion of its lyrics. Students should share their thoughts and feelings about the song and the writing style Ferron utilizes to address challenges women have faced and will continue to face. Students should engage in analysis of the song’s meaning and interpretation of its lyrics.

Central Activity

Following the analysis of the song, students should experience a discussion on what the actual activist work of the Women’s Liberation Movement was like. Utilizing topics from “Further Classroom Discussion” and prompted by questions from “The Questions” below, students should learn about how movements evolve and how they built. Students should learn about the various tactics employed during the women’s movement and how they compare to tactics used by the civil rights and anti-war movements. Students should offer their opinions on the efficacy of the various tactics and strategies employed.

Students should also learn by discussion about the issues that women were fighting for and the challenges of getting the issues to be taken seriously by both other women and the establishment. Students should learn about the challenges both within and outside the movement in creating momentum behind a cause. Students should then appreciate how issues percolate onto the national agenda and how they get addressed and/or resolved. Finally, students should assess in open discussion how successful the women’s movement was in remedying problems women face in the modern times.

Follow-up Activity

As a follow-up to the discussion about how the women’s movement actually functioned, students will engage in a theater exercise that highlights the challenges women faced before the Women’s Liberation Movement. In the drama exercise, students will group up in pairs and will act out an impromptu scene before the class. In each scene one student plays a character who wants something that s/he cannot easily obtain before the 1970’s. Examples of such hard-to-obtain items include a job, an education, a loan, a raise, equal pay, an abortion, respect, recognition of oppression, and more. The other student plays an authority figure that controls whatever the needing student seeks. Together they play out an “I want” scene where the needing character tries to find ways to achieve the desired goal, while the authority figure presents the sexism of the time that thwarts the needing character from getting what s/he wants. Following each scene, students in the audience should comment on what they saw and the participating students should comment on what they experienced.

Further Classroom discussion

  • Compare and contrast the 1st wave women’s movement of the 19th century with the 2nd wave women of the 20th century
  • Review tactics of the women’s movement used to strategize and actualize social change:  writing, consciousness-raising sessions, guerilla theater, artwork, music, phone networks, public speak-outs on taboo subjects, marches, rallies, protests, filing complaints, utilizing the media, networking with lawyers, suing in court, promoting new legislation, lobbying
  • What are the challenges of protesting the establishment
  • How the Women’s Liberation Movement evolved
  • How the Women’s Liberation Movement was different from the civil rights and anti-war movements
  • What is life like for a radical activist
  • What is necessary to successfully challenge the establishment for social change
  • How did the women’s movement achieve successful reform in the following areas: the workplace, the military, education, sports, healthcare, organized religion, the home, politics, the law, childcare
  • What challenges and foes did women face in their activist work

The Questions

  • Who would sing this song? Who is the song’s audience? What is the song’s purpose? What is the style and tone of the song? What kinds of ideas are presented in the lyrics? What is a protest song? Why are songs written as forms of protest? Is this lesson’s song an example of a protest song? Explain
  • What is “Testimony” about? How does Ferron present ideas in her lyrics? What different kinds of experiences do the lyrics convey? How do the music and Ferron’s singing style contribute to how the listener absorbs the song’s vision?
  • What is Ferron saying about women’s experiences? Who are the “young ones” Ferron refers to? What is her song saying to them? What is she warning about when she sings about possibly falling prey to the “jaded jewel”? What are the lyrics suggesting about the future for women? What are the differences between the two choruses? Why does Ferron employ two choruses and how does this contribute to the song’s meaning? How does this song capture the spirit of the Women’s Liberation Movement?
  • How the did the Women’s Liberation Movement improve the lives of women in the 1970’s? Did the movement improve the lives of all women? If not, whose lives were not improved and why? How did class and race play a role in the activities of the Women’s Liberation Movement? How has the Women’s Liberation Movement shaped the lives of women living today
  • What is feminism? What does it mean to be a feminist? What are some stereotypical notions of what feminism is and what being a feminist means? Do these stereotypes persist today? Explain.
  • Why was the 1968 Miss America Pageant chosen as the first major action of the modern women’s movement? What does the pageant signify in American society?
  • What are issues that affect women’s lives today? Do students see these issues affecting their lives? How?
  • What was the Equal Rights Amendment? What do students think of the ideas it espouses? Why didn’t it become a part of the US Constitution?
  • What is birth control and what are different forms of it? What are reproductive rights? What are Emergency Contraception pills (“Plan B”)? What issues are associated with birth control and reproductive rights? Why do these topics continue to be controversial in American life? In what ways can an unwanted pregnancy affect a woman’s life?
  • What is an abortion? What is Roe v. Wade? What is RU-486? How has legalized abortion in the United States affected people’s lives? Why does this issue remain controversial in American society? What are the arguments of pro-lifers? What are the arguments of the pro-choice contingency? How might recent changes in the personnel of the US Supreme Court affect Roe v. Wade? What could happen in the United States if Roe v. Wade is overturned?
  • What role does pornography play in American life? How might pornography shape the thinking and behavior of men and women? How might pornography affect women and men differently? Why is pornography a multi-billion dollar industry today? What does this suggest about American culture
  • What tactics and strategies did activists use to fight for women’s rights and social change? How did these tactics and strategies develop? What relationship does the Women’s Liberation Movement have with other causes, such as those for civil rights, gay rights, and the anti-war movement? How did the tactics and strategies of the women’s movement differ from other movements? What were the causes that brought the Women’s Liberation Movement into being? What is the women’s movement’s relationship to the New Left of the 1960’s?
  • In what ways did the Women’s Liberation Movement change popular culture? How did the movement affect men in their thinking and behavior? What challenges did men face in response to the demands of the women’s movement? In what ways do men treat women differently now than they did prior to the 1970’s?
  • In what ways has the Women’s Liberation Movement changed the following aspects of American life: romantic relationships, working environments, career aspirations, the military, the media, the academic world, home life, marriages, child rearing, sports, the arts, government entitlements and protections? In what ways has American culture not changed as a result of the women’s movement?
  • What are tactics activists have used to challenge norms and struggle for social change? Would the students be willing to participate in a march, rally, or other form of protest to fight for a cause s/he believes in? What causes are the students concerned about in their world today?

The Comparative Element: Photographs

1) Women’s demonstrations, circa 1970s

2) 19th century feminists

3) Opposition to the suffragist movement in the early 20th century

4) Images from the 1968 and 1968 protest against the Miss America Pageant

 

In addition to analyzing the song “Testimony” and completing the exercises above, students should view and discuss the photographs above (and other important images) from various women’s movements. Students should compare the lyrics of the song to the visuals illustrated in the photographs. Topics for discussion might include the following:

  • Describe in detail what observations students make of the photographs
  • Compare and contrast the photographs’ images
  • How do the images in the photographs relate (or not) to the images of the song
  • What point of view is expressed in each of the photographs
  • What kinds of experiences are conveyed in the photographs
  • How do these images compare with visual coverage of other movements in American history
  • How do these photographs differ from texts or other media in conveying truth about women’s movements
  • Ask students to imagine being the individuals in the photographs and to describe what that would be like

Lesson #3: Exploring Lesbian Relationships

The Song

“Ode to a Gym Teacher”

Written by Meg Christian, 1974

Song Background

Meg Christian was one of the pioneering singer-songwriters in the genre of women’s music. Christian’s first album, I Know You Know, was the first release of the equally pioneering Olivia Records, the first label to be run by and devotedly to music by, for, and about women. Though sounding like mainstream female singers of the 1970’s, Christian wrote and sang songs explicitly about women’s issues and about lesbian relationships in particular. Her songs were often personal and undoubtedly “Ode to a Gym Teacher” is no exception. This humorous nostalgic song celebrates the early feelings a teen has over a crush for her gym teacher. While her peers are into experimenting with heterosexual relationships, the singer plunges into youthful experiences of lust for an older female role model. Though the singer could never realize her passion, she champions this teenage crush as both a valid and joyful experience.

Activities

Introductory Activity

After introducing the song “Ode to a Gym Teacher,” students should listen to a recording of the song and engage in a class discussion of its lyrics. Students should share their thoughts and feelings about the song and the humorous, sentimental, and yet direct manner Meg Christian recalls a lesbian teenage crush on a gym teacher. Students should engage in analysis of the song’s meaning and interpretation of its lyrics.

Central Activity

Following an analysis of the song, students should complete a focused free-writing exercise. For a brief time period approximately 10 minutes or less, students should write endlessly on the following topic: students should write anything that comes to mind on any crushes they had on individuals when they were pre-teens or teenagers. In accordance with the exercise, students should not stop writing during the exercise, nor should they make corrections. Most importantly they should not censor themselves. This exercise will be used later in class but will not be collected.

After the writing exercise, students should be engaged in open, sensitive, and mature discussion on lesbianism, lesbian relationships, and challenges lesbians face in American society. Utilizing topics from “Further Classroom Discussion” and prompted by questions from “The Questions” below, students should, through listening and sharing, come to an appreciation of lesbian culture.

The open group discussion should begin with following activity. Students should write down a question they have about lesbianism, lesbian relationships, and lesbian culture. The questions should be sincere and express a natural curiosity on the part of each student. These questions should be written on little slips of paper and they collected. Students should not write their names on the paper slips. The slips should be placed in a container and then drawn randomly one at a time and read aloud to the class. Through guided discussion, students will explore the issues concerning various aspects of life as a lesbian.

Follow-up Activity

Complementing the song analysis and the discussion of lesbianism, students will now engage in writing a poem. This poem should use the song “Ode to a Gym Teacher” as inspiration. Using their notes on their childhood crushes from the focused free writing exercise, each student should now select one special crush s/he had and write a poem about that person or experiences the student had with that person. Students may share their poems with the class as they deem appropriate.

Further Classroom Discussion

  • Examine what it means to be a lesbian
  • Survey challenges lesbians had (and have) in living in American society
  • Analyze challenges lesbians have given that they cannot get legally married in the United States
  • Compare and contrast homosexual relationships with heterosexual relationships
  • Compare and contrast gay relationships with lesbian relationships
  • Review the history of lesbian activism in American society
  • Present an overview of selected lesbian achievers
  • Discuss aspects of lesbian culture
  • Explore challenges lesbians faced within the Women’s Liberation Movement (“Lavender Menace”)
  • Analyze what homophobia is and why it exists in American society
  • Examine how lesbians are portrayed in popular culture
  • Survey the topic of lesbian separatism and lesbian collectives in the 1970’s

The Questions

  • Who would sing this song? Who is the song’s audience? What is the song’s purpose? What is the style and tone of the song? What kinds of ideas are presented in the lyrics? What is a protest song? Why are songs written as forms of protest? Is this lesson’s song an example of a protest song? Explain.
  • What is “Ode to a Gym Teacher” about? Why did Meg Christian choose to write a song about a gym teacher? How does she describe the gym teacher? What is revealing about this description? What aspects of school appear in the song? What role does sports play in the song? Why is it significant that Christian incorporates sports into a song about a lesbian crush?
  • What aspects of love or lust appear in the lyrics? How does the narrator relate to the gym teacher, both consciously and subconsciously? What challenges does the narrator expose in embracing a crush on the gym teacher? How are these challenges different from typical teenage heterosexual crushes? What does the narrator learn from the gym teacher?
  • How does Meg Christian use humor in her song? Why does she choose to use a humorous tone? What does this song reveal about female-female romance? What imagery does she employ? How does Christian handle stereotypes regarding lesbianism? How might all people relate to this song, regardless of sexual orientation? Why is it significant that a song written in 1974 is explicit about lesbian love? What are the challenges audiences faced in hearing this song in the 1970’s
  • What is lesbianism? What are stereotypical images of what it means to be a lesbian? Why do these stereotypes exist? What effects do such perceptions have regarding how lesbians are viewed and treated by others? What is homophobia? How might homophobia play out differently on male and female targets? Why does homophobia exist? What are ways to counteract homophobia?
  • What are challenges that lesbians face regarding the following aspects of American life: education, marriage, child rearing, health care, the military, politics, the work environment, career goals, job benefits, government entitlements, romance, religion, freedom of expression, media coverage.
  • How might being in a woman-woman romantic relationship be different from being in a man-man or woman-man relationship in American society? What are similarities and differences between homosexual and heterosexual romantic relationships? Can lesbian couples be openly affectionate in ways that heterosexual couples take for granted? Why or why not?
  • How does the entertainment world portray lesbianism? What examples are there of lesbianism in the following art venues: television, film, radio, painting, photography, music, dance, sculpture, theater? What are examples of lesbian literature? What makes lesbian art unique? What purposes do lesbian art serve currently in American society?
  • What role did lesbianism play in the Women’s Liberation Movement? What challenges did they face working with heterosexual female activists? What were lesbians’ lives like in America prior to the 1970’s? How have lesbians’ lives changed as a result of the Women’s Liberation Movement?

The Comparative Element: Film

1) Information on the 2002 independent film Radical Harmonies

In addition to analyzing the song “Ode to a Gym Teacher” and completing the exercises above, students should see and discuss the film Radical Harmonies to aid in their appreciation of links between the evolution of the genre of women’s music and the Women’s Liberation Movement. Topics for discussion might include the following:

  • What observations do students make of the film images
  • How do the film images relate (or not) to the images of the song’s lyrics
  • How does adding visual imagery alter the experience of hearing women’s music
  • What similarities and differences are established between the different vocal artists
  • How does the film connect women’s music with the women’s movement
  • What women’s issues does the film examine
  • How does this film compare with other documentaries about vocal artists
  • What similarities or differences does the film reveal between women’s music and other music genres

Extension Activities for Assessment

Research Papers

  • Write a short biography on the life of one of the women on the “Women Achievers” page
  • Watch a film from the “Media Resources on Women” page and write a critical essay about the work
  • Write an analytical essay on one of the books listed on “Media Resources on Women” page
  • Write a survey paper on how the Women’s Liberation Movement affected 1970’s popular culture
  • Write an analytical essay on the “Declaration of Sentiments” presented at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention
  • Write a historical paper on the 1969 Stonewall Riots and what role it played in the lesbian movements
  • Write an expository essay on either of the landmark court cases, Roe v. Wade or Griswold v. Connecticut
  • Write an analytical essay on the role Anita Hill played in the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
  • Write a historical paper on the evolution of rape crisis centers, battery shelters, and emergency hotlines
  • Write a comparative essay on the women’s music songs “Ode to a Gym Teacher,” “The Woman in Your Life,” and “Testimony”
  • Write a personal essay on what it means to be a woman
  • Write an analytical essay on the causes that led to the need for the Women’s Liberation Movement
  • Write a persuasive essay on the forces that challenged women’s rights activists and the subsequent backlash in the 1980’s
  • Write an essay on the history of lesbian activism in the United States
  • Write an expository essay on the history of the Equal Rights Amendment
  • Write a historical paper on the role misogyny has played in American society.

Oral Presentations

  • Give a presentation on the role that feminist art (theater, music, dance, literature, painting) played in the Women’s Liberation Movement
  • Give a talk on what roles the alternative feminist media played in the movement
  • Give a presentation on pioneering feminists from the 19th century and on the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention
  • Offer a detailed account of the late 19th and early 20th century suffragist movement and the passage of the 19th amendment to the US Constitution
  • Give an in-depth description of the role women play in industry during World War II
  • Give a presentation on key women figures in the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960’s
  • Present a talk on myths about feminists and the Women’s Liberation Movement
  • Present a mini-lesson on some aspect of women’s rights using a piece of feminist literature as a primary source document
  • Describe how women’s music played a role in the Women’s Liberation Movement
  • Give a presentation on how women have been utilized in advertising during the 20th century
  • Offer a detailed summary of how men’s lives were changed by the women’s movement
  • Give a detailed presentation on the current state of one of the following issues that concerns women: reproductive rights, sex discrimination, sexual harassment, domestic violence, date rape, misogyny, battery, molestation, pornography, incest, childcare, healthcare, equal pay, the glass ceiling, sexism

Artwork and Performances

  • Use video and film footage to create a collage of images that reveal how women were portrayed in film and television either before the 1970’s or since the Women’s Liberation Movement
  • Sing songs from the women’s music genre, including works by Meg Christian, Cris Williamson, Alix Dobkin, Holly Near, Ferron, Margie Adam, among others, and analyze the songs’ content and relevancy towards women’s issues
  • Write and perform a dramatic scene which exposes ways which women faced oppression
  • Create a mosaic of historical photographs that reveal different aspects of the fight for women’s rights
  • Perform scenes from plays by female playwrights, including Ntozake Shange, Susan Glaspell, Lorraine Hansberry, Caryl Churchill, Marsha Norman, Lillian Hellman, Adrienne Kennedy, among others
  • Make a collage of images expressing what it means to be a woman
  • Create a painting of yourself with the opposite gender
  • Craft a performance art piece on how women face oppression today
  • Write and present a poem about strong women who have played a critical role in your life
  • Write and perform a song about issues women face today

Women Achievers

Activists

Elizabeth Cady Stanton            1800’s Women’s Movement

Susan B. Anthony                    1800’s Women’s Movement

Lucretia Mott                          1800’s Women’s Movement

Dian Fossey                             1970’s Animal Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt                    1940’s Human Rights

Angela Davis                            1970’s Black Feminist Movement

Kathleen Cleaver                     1970’s Black Feminist Movement

Abigail Adams                          1700’s Women’s Rights

Sojourner Truth                       1800’s Abolition Movement

Harriet Tubman                       1800’s Abolition Movement

Rosa Parks                               1950’s Civil Rights Movement

Linda Chavez-Thompson         1970’s Labor Rights

Mary Church Terrell                1890’s Women’s Rights, Civil Rights

Ida B. Wells                             1800’s Women’s Movement

Gloria Steinem                         1970’s Feminist Movement

Lucy Stone                               1800’s Women’s Movement

Fannie Lou Hamer                   1960’s Civil Rights Movement

Ella Baker                                1960’s Civil Rights Movement

Margaret Sanger                       1910’s Reproductive Rights

Alice Paul                                1910’s Women’s Suffrage Movement

Mother Jones                           1800’s Labor Movement

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn             1910’s Labor Movement

Marian Wright Edelman           1970’s Civil Rights, Children’s Rights

Loreta Janeta Velazquez           1860’s US Civil War

Emma Goldman                       1910’s Feminism, Labor Rights, Anarchism

Jane Addams                            1890’s Social and Labor Reform

Sarah Bagley                            1800’s Labor Movement

Sarah Winnemucca                   1800’s Native American Activism

Dorothea Dix                           1800’s Mental Health Advocacy

Writers

Toni Morrison                         1980’s Novelist

Maya Angelou                          1970’s Nonfiction Writer, Poet

Alice Walker                            1980’s Novelist, Poet, Essayist

Zora Neale Hurston                  1930’s Novelist

Gwendolyn Brooks                   1940’s Poet

Susan Brownmiller                    1970’s Feminist Writer

Betty Friedan                           1960’s Feminist Writer

Harriet Jacobs                          1860’s Abolitionist Writer

Harriet Beacher Stowe              1850’s Abolitionist Novelist

Phillis Wheatley                      1700’s Poet

Rita Dove                                1980’s Poet

Lorraine Hansberry                  1950’s Playwright

Ann Petry                                1940’s Novelist

Julia Ward Howe                      1800’s Poet

Kate Chopin                            1800’s Fiction Writer

Virginia Hamilton                    1970’s Writer of Children’s Books

Emily Dickenson                     1800’s Poet

Louisa May Alcott                   1800’s Novelist

Ida Tarbell                               1900’s Journalist

Nellie Bly                                 1800’s Journalist

Audre Lorde                             1970’s Poet

Ntozake Shange                       1970’s Playwright

Sandra Cisneros                        1980’s Poet, Novelist

Performance Artists

Lena Horne                              1940’s Singer, Actress

Mahalia Jackson                       1940’s Gospel Singer

Marian Anderson                     1940’s Opera Singer

Josephine Baker                       1920’s Dancer

Hattie McDaniel                      1930’s Actress

Ma Rainey                               1920’s Blues Singer

Bessie Smith                             1920’s Blues Singer

Dorothy Dandridge                  1930’s Actress

Aretha Franklin                       1960’s Soul Singer

Ella Fitzgerald                          1940’s Jazz Singer

Katherine Dunham                   1930’s Dancer, Choreographer

Sarah Vaughan                          1950’s Jazz Singer

Billie Holiday                           1940’s Jazz Singer

Mary Pickford                         1920’s Actress

Katherine Hepburn                   1940’s Actress

Odetta                                      1960’s Folk Singer

Joan Baez                                 1960’s Folk Singer

Beverly Sills                             1960’s Opera Singer

Maria Tallchief                        1950’s Ballerina

Dolores Del Rio                       1930’s Actress

Rita Hayworth                         1940’s Actress

Visual Arists

Dorothea Lange                       1930’s Photographer

Harriet Hosmer                        1800’s Sculptor

Vinnie Ream                            1800’s Sculptor

Augusta Savage                         1930’s Sculptor

Mary Cassatt                            1800’s Painter

Georgia O’Keefe                      1920’s Painter

Margaret Bourke-White           1930’s Photojournalist

Lois Mailou Jones                    1930’s Painter

Edmonia Lewis                         1800’s Sculptor

Helen Frankenthaler                1950’s Painter

Athletes

Althea Gibson                          1950’s Tennis Player

Alice Coachman                       1940’s Olympic Athlete (High Jump)

Babe Didrikson Zaharias           1930’s Olympic Athlete, Golfer

Donna Adamek                        1970’s Bowler

Rebecca Lobo                           1990’s Basketball Player

Billie Jean King                        1970’s Tennis Player

Ethelda Bleibtrey                     1920’s Olympic Athlete (Swimming)

Wilma Rudolph                        1960’s Olympic Athlete (Track)

Flo Hyman                               1980’s Olympic Athlete (Volleyball)

Serena & Venus Williams         2000’s Tennis Players

Nancy Lopez                           1970’s Golfer

Peggy Fleming                         1960’s Olympic Athlete (Figure Skating)

Government Officials

Bella Abzug                              1970’s NY Congresswoman

Jeannette Rankin                     1910’s MT Congresswoman

Hattie Wyatt Caraway             1930’s AR Senator

Shirley Chisholm                      1970’s NY Congresswoman

Barbara Jordan                         1970’s TX Congresswoman

Sandra Day O’Connor              1980’s Supreme Court Judge

Nancy Pelosi                            1990’s CA Congresswoman

Mary McLeod Bethune            1930’s Presidential Advisor

Frances Perkins                        1930’s Presidential Advisor

Edith Nourse Rogers                 1940’s MA Congresswoman

Inventors/Innovators

Mary Anderson                        Windshield Wiper

Grace Hopper                           Computer Engineering

Patricia Billings                        Fireproofing

Josephine Cochran                   Dishwasher

Clara Barton                            American Red Cross, Founder

Bette Nesmith Graham             Liquid Paper

Gertrude Belle Elion                 Leukemia Drug

Marion Donovan                     Disposable Diaper

Margaret Knight                      Paper Bag

Patsy Sherman                         Scotchgard

Mother Hale                            Child Care Advocate

Amelia Earhart                        Aviator

Bessie Coleman                        Aviator, Stunt Flyer

Madam C.J. Walker                  Cosmetics and Hair Care Products

Myra Bradwell                          Lawyer

Juliette Gordon Low                 Girl Scouts

Annie Oakley                           Markswoman

Scientists

Ellen Swallow Richards             Chemist

Shannon Lucid                         Astronaut

Mae Jemison                            Astronaut

Maria Goeppert Mayer             Physicist

Rachel Carson                          Biologist

Adriana Ocampo                      NASA Research Scientist

Elizabeth Britton                     Botanist

Elizabeth Blackwell                  Medical Doctor

Maria Mitchell                         Astronomer

Fanny Bullock Workman         Geographer

Mary Walker                           Surgeon

Chien-Shiung Wu                     Physicist

Lydia Villa-Komaroff               Molecular Biologist

Margaret Mead                         Anthropologist


Media Resources on Women

Films

‘night Mother

9 to 5

A Doll’s House

A Handmaid’s Tale

A League of Their Own

A Star is Born

A Streetcar Named Desire

Accused, The

Adam’s Rib

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

All About Eve

All About My Mother

An Angel at My Table

Antonia’s Line

Babette’s Feast

Bandit Queen

Bonnie and Clyde

Born Yesterday

Boys Don’t Cry

Boys on the Side

Camille Claudel

Children’s Hour, The

Coal Miner’s Daughter

Color Purple, The

Crimes of the Heart

Daughters of the Dust

Diary of a Mad Housewife

Dogfight

Entre Nous

Erin Brockovich

Family Life

Fried Green Tomatoes

Funny Girl

Gas Food Lodging

Girls Town

Gloria

Go Fish

Gorillas in the Mist

Heart Like a Wheel

Heavenly Creatures

Henry and June

I Shot Andy Warhol

I Want to Live

If These Walls Could Talk

Insect Woman, The

Jezebel

Johnny Guitar

Joy Luck Club, The

Julia

Lady Eve, The

Lady Sings the Blues

Ladybird, Ladybird

Little Women

Madame Curie

Marianne and Juliane

Mary of Scotland

Marie

Member of the Wedding, The

Mildred Pierce

Miracle Worker, The

Mrs. Dalloway

My Brilliant Career

Norma Rae

Not For Ourselves Alone

Oleanna

Once Were Warriors

Orlando

Out of Africa

Personal Best

Piano, The

Places in the Heart

Portrait of a Lady, The

Postcards from the Edge

Private Benjamin

Raise the Red Lantern

Rambling Rose

Reds

Rosa Luxembourg

Rose, The

Ruby in Paradise

Scarlet Letter, The

Secrets and Lies

Silkwood

Sisters, or the Balance of Happiness

Some Like it Hot

Sophie’s Choice

Steel Magnolias

Stella Dallas

Stepford Wives, The

Taming of the Shrew, The

Terms of Endearment

Thelma and Louise

To Kill a Mockingbird

Tootsie

Turning Point, The

Wish You Were Here

Waiting to Exhale

Welcome to the Dollhouse

Woman of the Year

Working Girl

World According to Garp, The

Yentl

Books

A Century of Women by Sheila Rothbowam

A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller

Antigone by Sophocles

Awakening, The by Kate Chopin

Backlash by Susan Faludi

Beauty Myth, The by Naomi Wolf

Bell Jar, The by Sylvia Plath

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Collected Stories of Eudora Welty, The by Eudora Welty

Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, The by Emily Dickinson

Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley

Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

Fear of Flying by Erica Jong

Female Eunuch, The by Germaine Greer

Feminine Mystique, The by Betty Friedan

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide… by Ntozake Shange

Freedom’s Daughters by Lynne Olson

Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen

Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology ed. Barbara Smith

House on Mango Street, The by Sandra Cisneros

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg

In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Joy Luck Club, The by Amy Tan

Listen Up ed. Barbara Findlen

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane

Medea by Euripides

Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers

No Turning Back by Estelle Freedman

Of Woman Born by Adrienne Rich

Our Bodies, Our Selves ed. Boston Women’s Collective

Outrageous Acts & Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem

Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

SCUM Manifesto, The by Valerie Solanas

Second Sex, The by Simone de Beauvoir

Sexual Politics by Kate Millett

Sisterhood is Powerful ed. Robin Morgan

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Trifles by Susan Glaspell

Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

Woman Warrior, The by Maxine Hong Kingston

Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right by Linda Gordon

Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis

Yellow Wallpaper, The by Charlotte Gilman

Zami by Audre Lorde

Websites about Women's Issues

Extensive Women’s History Month Resources

General American Women’s History

Women Who Made History

National Women’s Hall of Fame

National Women’s History Project

National Women’s History Museum

Women’s International Center

Women’s History Website Listing

Extensive Internet Resources about Women

Women’s International News Source

1800’s Black Women Writers

Women in World History                                                                                

Women in Sports                                              

History of Women in Sports Timeline

Extensive Listing of Websites about Women

General American Women’s History

NARAL, Reproductive Rights Activism

Planned Parenthood’s Website

National Organization for Women

Ms. Magazine

Women’s History Month on the History Channel

Women’s History Hotlist

Yahoo Websites on Women’s History

Women’s Intellectual Contributions

Women Inventors Index 1790 – 1895

New York Times Articles on Women

19th Century Science and Women

Women Writers

Lesbian History

Listing of Lesbian-Related Websites

Vast Database of Women’s Studies Programs

Women and Gender Studies Websites

Information Database on Women’s Colleges

Women Noble Prize Winners

Women Mathematicians

Women in Science                                                  

Women in Computing and Mathematics

Extensive Websites on Women’s Issues

Websites on Worldwide Women’s History

Historical Women Philosophers

Distinguished Women of Past and Present

Feminist Resource Website

Feminist Majority Foundation

Extensive Information on Women’s Health Issues

Feminist Theory Website

Documents of the Women’s Liberation Movement

History of Women’s Suffrage

History of the American Suffrage Movement

Women’s Rights Movement 1848-1998

Women and Social Movements

Speeches by Women

Women and the Civil War

Women and Politics

Women’s Labor History

1690’s Salem Witch Hunt

Women Composers

Woman and the Military

Websites on Women in the Arts and Humanities                                                                 

Women of NASA


Women's History Timeline

1848        The first women's rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. After 2 days of discussion and debate, 68 women and 32 men sign a Declaration of Sentiments, which outlines grievances and sets the agenda for the women's rights movement. A set of 12 resolutions is adopted calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights for women.

1850        The first National Women's Rights Convention takes place in Worcester, Mass., attracting more than 1,000 participants. National conventions are held yearly (except for 1857) through 1860.

1869        Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association. The primary goal of the organization is to achieve voting rights for women by means of a Congressional amendment to the Constitution.

1869        Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and others form the American Woman Suffrage Association. This group focuses exclusively on gaining voting rights for women through amendments to individual state constitutions.

1869        The territory of Wyoming passes the first women's suffrage law. The following year, women begin serving on juries in the territory.

1890        The National Women Suffrage Association and the American Women Suffrage Association merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). As the movement's mainstream organization, NAWSA wages state-by-state campaigns to obtain voting rights for women.

1893        Colorado is the first state to adopt an amendment granting women the right to vote. Utah and Idaho follow suit in 1896, Washington State in 1910, California in 1911, Oregon, Kansas, and Arizona in 1912, Alaska and Illinois in 1913, Montana and Nevada in 1914, New York in 1917; Michigan, South Dakota, and Oklahoma in 1918.

1896        The National Association of Colored Women is formed, bringing together more than 100 black women's clubs. Leaders in the black women's club movement include Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Mary Church Terrell, and Anna Julia Cooper.

1903        The National Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) is established to advocate for improved wages and working conditions for women.

1913        Alice Paul and Lucy Burns form the Congressional Union to work toward the passage of a federal amendment to give women the vote. The group is later renamed the National Women's Party. Members picket the White House and practice other forms of civil disobedience.

1916        Margaret Sanger opens the first U.S. birth-control clinic in Brooklyn, N.Y. Although the clinic is shut down 10 days later and Sanger is arrested, she eventually wins support through the courts and opens another clinic in New York City in 1923.

1919        The federal woman suffrage amendment, originally written by Susan B. Anthony and introduced in Congress in 1878, is passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is then sent to the states for ratification.

1920        The Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor is formed to collect information about women in the workforce and safeguard good working conditions for women.

1920        The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, is signed into law by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby.

1921        Margaret Sanger founds the American Birth Control League, which evolves into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942.

1935        Mary McLeod Bethune organizes the National Council of Negro Women, a coalition of black women's groups that lobbies against job discrimination, racism, and sexism.

1936        The federal law prohibiting the dissemination of contraceptive information through the mail is modified and birth control information is no longer classified as obscene. Throughout the 1940s and 50s, birth control advocates are engaged in numerous legal suits.

1955        The Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first lesbian organization in the United States, is founded. Although DOB originated as a social group, it later developed into a political organization to win basic acceptance for lesbians in the United States.

1960        The Food and Drug Administration approves birth control pills.

1961        President John Kennedy establishes the President's Commission on the Status of Women and appoints Eleanor Roosevelt as chairwoman. The report issued by the Commission in 1963 documents substantial discrimination against women in the workplace and makes specific recommendations for improvement, including fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave, and affordable child care.

1963        Betty Friedan publishes her highly influential book The Feminine Mystique, which describes the dissatisfaction felt by middle-class American housewives with the narrow role imposed on them by society. The book becomes a best-seller and galvanizes the modern women's rights movement.

1963        Congress passes the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for employers to pay a woman less than what a man would receive for the same job.

1964        Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars discrimination in employment on the basis of race and sex. At the same time it establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate complaints and impose penalties.

1965        In Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court strikes down the one remaining state law prohibiting the use of contraceptives by married couples.

1966        The National Organization for Women (NOW) is founded by a group of feminists including Betty Friedan. The largest women's rights group in the U.S., NOW seeks to end sexual discrimination, especially in the workplace, by means of legislative lobbying, litigation, and public demonstrations.

1967        Executive Order 11375 expands President Lyndon Johnson's affirmative action policy of 1965 to cover discrimination based on gender. As a result, federal agencies and contractors must take active measures to ensure that women as well as minorities enjoy the same educational and employment opportunities as white males.

1968        The EEOC rules that sex-segregated help wanted ads in newspapers are illegal. This ruling is upheld in 1973 by the Supreme Court, opening the way for women to apply for higher-paying jobs hitherto open only to men.

1969        California becomes the first state to adopt a "no fault" divorce law, which allows couples to divorce by mutual consent. By 1985 every state has adopted a similar law. Laws are also passed regarding the equal division of common property.

1970        In Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co., a U.S. Court of Appeals rules that jobs held by men and women need to be "substantially equal" but not "identical" to fall under the protection of the Equal Pay Act. An employer cannot, for example, change the job titles of women workers in order to pay them less than men.

1971        Ms. Magazine is first published as a sample insert in New York magazine; 300,000 copies are sold out in 8 days. The first regular issue is published in July 1972. The magazine becomes the major forum for feminist voices, and cofounder and editor Gloria Steinem is launched as an icon of the modern feminist movement.

1972        The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. Originally drafted by Alice Paul in 1923, the amendment reads: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." The amendment died in 1982 when it failed to achieve ratification by a minimum of 38 states.

1972        In Eisenstadt v. Baird the Supreme Court rules that the right to privacy includes an unmarried person's right to use contraceptives.

1972        Title IX of the Education Amendments bans sex discrimination in schools. It states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." As a result of Title IX, the enrollment of women in athletics programs and professional schools increases dramatically.

1973        As a result of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court establishes a woman's right to safe and legal abortion, overriding the anti-abortion laws of many states.

1974        The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination in consumer credit practices on the basis of sex, race, marital status, religion, national origin, age, or receipt of public assistance.

1974        In Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that employers cannot justify paying women lower wages because that is what they traditionally received under the "going market rate." A wage differential occurring "simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women" is unacceptable.

1976        The first marital rape law is enacted in Nebraska, making it illegal for a husband to rape his wife.

1978        The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination against pregnant women. Under the Act, a woman cannot be fired or denied a job or a promotion because she is or may become pregnant, nor can she be forced to take a pregnancy leave if she is willing and able to work.

1984        EMILY's List (Early Money Is Like Yeast) is established as a financial network for pro-choice Democratic women running for national political office. The organization makes a significant impact on the increasing numbers of women elected to Congress.

1986        Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, the Supreme Court finds that sexual harassment is a form of illegal job discrimination.

1992        In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the validity of a woman's right to abortion under Roe v. Wade. The case successfully challenged Pennsylvania's 1989 Abortion Control Act, which sought to reinstate restrictions previously ruled unconstitutional.

1994        The Violence Against Women Act tightens federal penalties for sex offenders, funds services for victims of rape and domestic violence, and provides for special training of police officers.