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A Level History: A Deeper Look at Feminism in the 1960s

Date Posted: 08/03/2021 | Posted In: Student News

Our A Level History students have been looking at Feminism in the 1960s and created some outstanding work, which we would like to share with you!

What is Feminism?

Feminism is the belief that there should be social, economical, and political equality of the sexes. Although largely originating from the West, feminism is manifested worldwide and is represented by various institutions committed to activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.

‘The Feminine Mystique’ by Betty Friedan

“When she stopped conforming to the conventional picture of femininity, she finally began to enjoy being a woman.” – B.Friedan

The work below was supplied by First Year A Level History Student, Millie Schofield:

This book, written by Betty Friedan in 1963, is widely accredited for sparking the second wave of feminist movements in the US back in the 1960s and 1970s. Her writing was relatable for thousands of women at the time and spoke volumes regarding the amount of gender inequality. The book itself was deemed rather controversial for its time due to its often salacious and out-spoken tones. Some of the main issues Friedan isolated and focussed on included: 

  • Pushing for the advance of the women’s rights movement
  • Housewives being unsatisfied with their lives but unable to articulate their feelings
  • Advocated for an increased role for women in the political process
  • Encouraged more women to pursue education and employment. 

Friedan made the term ‘the feminine mystique’ to describe the assumption that women could find satisfaction within their lives by carrying out menial tasks expected of an average housewife such as cooking, cleaning, and caring for their children and husband. It is also this unhappiness generated by trying to live up to the feminine mystique that she proposed was the “problem with no name”.

She and other feminist authors like Germaine Greer (author of ‘The Female Eunuch’) felt that women could only enjoy being a woman when they stopped confirming the stereotypes perpetuated by society. They also were heavily against the common opinion at the time that truly feminine women should not have the desire to work, to get an education, or to possess their own political opinions.

Feminism - Betty F

‘The Female Eunuch’ by Germaine Greer

“It takes a great deal of courage and independence to decide to design your own image instead of the one that society rewards, but it gets easier as you go along.” – G. Greer

The work below was supplied by First Year A Level History Student, Georgia Platt:

This book, written by Germaine Greer in 1970 sums up the development of women’s rights in the 1960s. Unlike Friedan, Greer wrote primarily for a British audience and was recognised as a seminal work, that encouraged the development of the feminist movement in this country.

Women had certainly made advances during the sixties and had more opportunities compared to the previous decade when all that was available to a woman was a life of housewifery. The legislation was passed, such as the 1967 Family Planning Act and the 1970 Equal Pay Act, which gave women more autonomy over their bodies and aimed to equal out the playing field in terms of careers. It wasn’t perfect by any means.

Women were shamed for wanting an education and to work, rather than just having children. The establishment of The Open University in 1969, which used off-campus study, allowed housewives to learn at home.

This led to more women attending university, and some women even holding managerial jobs. The 1960s paved the way for future women to be who they wanted to be and not what society told them to be.


A Level History

Are you interested in uncovering the past to understand more about the present? Take a look at our A Level History course for more information HERE.

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