While Gloria Steinem is one of the most famous feminists in American history and is often credited with promoting the women’s liberation movement, she did not work alone.
Throughout the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, women across the country fought for equal rights, abortion rights, and LGBTQ rights. Women who fought on the front lines used politics, organized events, and wrote powerful books in a fight to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which grants equal rights to all Americans regardless of gender, and to give a voice to the female experience. .
This International Women’s Day, here are 10 unsung heroes of the women’s rights movement.
Betty Friedan became one of the most influential leaders of the women’s liberation movement after publishing her book “The Feminine Mystique.”
In 1963 Friedan published “The Feminine Mystique” after interviewing women by the United States for five years. In the book, she described women who feel dissatisfied in their roles as mothers and wives. The book became an instant bestseller, sparking a new wave of battles for women’s rights and launching Friedan as a leader in the movement.
“Every suburban wife struggles with it alone”, Friedan wrote in the book. “As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, combined pillowcase material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her kids, drove Cub Scouts and chauffeured Brownies, lay next to her husband at night, she was afraid to even wonder to herself: ‘Is it all this?'”
Three years later, she helped found the National Organization for Women and became its president. The organization primarily fought for equal employment for men and women.
Friedan continued to fight for women’s rights throughout the liberation movement and into the 1970s.
Pauli Murray co-founded the National Organization for Women and coined the phrase “Jane Crow.”
In 1965, Murray published and co-authored an article, “Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII,” in which she opened up about the discrimination she faced being the only black woman in a classroom full of men at Howard University law school. The term “Jane Crow” stuck and became a guiding principle for her and the women’s liberation movement.
With Betty Friedan, Murray founded the National Organization for Women.
In the midst of the women’s liberation movement, Shirley Chisholm ran for President of the United States.
Chisholm was a schoolteacher who ran for Congress in New York in 1968. When she won the seat, she became the first black woman to be elected to Congress.
At the time, she said, “I don’t intend to just sit quietly and watch. I intend to focus attention on the nation’s problems.”
In 1972, she launched a run for the presidency, which drew national attention as the country was engaged in an open debate about women’s place in the world. Although her candidacy did not go far for her, she ultimately served seven terms in Congress, during which time she fiercely advocated for women and people of color.
Jill Ruckelshaus was a Republican who worked with liberals to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
Ruckelshaus was a republican and a feminist; she was even called “the Gloria Steinem of the Republican Party.” according to Los Angeles Times.
Ruckelshaus fought for women’s abortion rights and for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment throughout the 1970s. It was often used to appeal to the Republican party, as some members wanted to stop ratification of the amendment. In 1980, to protest the party’s position, she led 4,500 supporters of the amendment as they marched past the Republican National Convention in Detroit.
Susan Brownmiller wrote a groundbreaking book on rape that caused a sensation in the 1970s.
In 1971, Brownmiller, a journalist and writer, helped organize a rape-focused conference with radical feminists. At that conference, she decided to do some research on the subject, and in In 1975, he published “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape.” When the book became a bestseller, people learned that rape should be considered a social problem.
She wrote that rape was a “conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.”
Kate Millett became a leading figure in the women’s liberation movement when she published “Sex Politics.”
When Millett finished his doctoral thesis in 1970, he decided to publish it as a book known as “Sexual Politics”. In just two weeks, the book sold 10,000 copies and put Millet in the spotlight. Time called her “the Mao Tse-tung of Women’s Liberation.”
In “Sexual Politics,” Millett criticizes the patriarchal world into which women are unknowingly forced.
“It is interesting that many women do not recognize themselves discriminated against, you could not find a better proof of the totality of their conditioning,” she wrote.
Gloria Watkins was an influential writer during the fight for equal rights. She called for a more inclusive feminism.
Watkins used the pen name “bell hooks” to publish her first book “Ain’t IA Woman,” which took her 10 years to write. according to The New York Times. Published in 1981, the book “remains a radical and relevant work of political theory” as it explores the treatment of black female slaves and how it has affected black women in modern society, and how the white feminist movement excluded them.
“A devaluation of black femininity occurred as a result of the sexual exploitation of black women during slavery that has not changed over the course of hundreds of years,” Watkins wrote in the book.
As Watkins wrote more books throughout her career, she called for a more inclusive women’s movement. Her books focused on the “exclusion of minority women from mainstream feminism, and how black women need to think more about loving and celebrating themselves rather than just surviving and the dominance of men in their lives.” All the women”. wrote the Washington Post in 1999.
During this time, Audre Lorde was a poet who also focused on achieving greater inclusion in the broader women’s movement.
Lorde once described herself as “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” according to the Poetry Foundation. Her collections of essays focused primarily on being a queer black woman and explored the ideas of feminism.
“Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of potentially useful anger against those oppressions, personal and institutional, that gave rise to that anger.” Lorde said at the National Association for Women’s Studies Conference in 1981.
Lorde also joined the Combahee River Collectivewhich was a group of mostly black lesbians who left the larger women’s liberation movement because they felt it was not addressing their needs or interests.
As the first female assistant to the president, Midge Costanza became known as a pioneering feminist and activist for LGBTQ rights.
After becoming good friends with Jimmy Carter, Costanza helped the future president build his presidential campaign In New York. When he was elected to the Oval Office in 1976, Carter appointed her as his presidential assistant, the first woman to hold the title.
While in that position, Costanza challenged Carter on social issues, including equal pay, abortion rights, and LGBTQ rights. Eventually, she was singled out by the press for being a dissenting voice in the White House, and she resigned from her position in 1978.