Megan Erickson On September 7,about four hundred women activists converged on the Atlantic City boardwalk outside the hall hosting the Miss America Pageant. Some had traveled to New Jersey from as far away as Florida and Michigan. Women gathered on the boardwalk under the hot autumn sun, picketed in an oval, and remained there from midday through midnight. Over the following decades, feminists would go on to create a dense, well-funded liberal apparatus that focused on eliminating gender discrimination in public policy, the law, and the workplace.
While pinning down an exact starting date is a controversial endeavor, several major events in the late s heralded the birth of what is often called second-wave feminism.
The year saw the establishment of the National Organization of Women, or NOW, while featured both the introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment into the Senate and groundbreaking pickets at the New York Times opposing sex-segregated job ads. It also announced the existence of radical feminism, a branch of the movement with an agenda and attitude distinct from the organizing of liberal groups such as NOW.
In the decades since, our society has been transformed by feminism. Changes wrought by the movement have afforded new generations the freedom to transgress once-rigid gender roles, and they have provided hundreds of millions of women with opportunities for personal fulfillment, degrees of independence, and professional accomplishment that were routinely denied their forebears.
That said, the vision of equality and liberation promoted by radical feminism is still far from being fully realized. What will be significant in facing the horrors of the Trump administration will be whether this dismay can be channeled into a revitalized grassroots movement to confront the sexism and racism that Trump embodies, the newly emboldened threat to reproductive rights, and the coming attacks on the social safety net.
Those organizing this base should draw lessons from the upheaval of 50 years ago — the history of which is too little known, even among progressives. Looking back at this period of revolt, we can ask: How did it erupt? Why did it end? And what did it accomplish? Judith Ford, the former Miss Illinois — who had performed on a trampoline earlier in the competition — was being crowned the new Miss America.
Just as she began giving her acceptance speech, the action started. The banner drop was broadcast into homes nationwide on live network television. Following the Miss America protest, feminists unleashed a series of high-profile demonstrations and guerrilla theater stunts with lasting implications.
Interestingly, this period of unusually high-profile public action often goes unrecognized.
As civil resistance scholar April Carter notesdirect action protest is not often associated with second-wave feminism, especially in comparison with the racial justice and anti-war movements of the same era. Instead of prioritizing direct action or mass mobilization, different branches of second-wave feminism focused on other forms of social movement activity — namely, lobbying and lawsuits on the part of more mainstream groups, and consciousness-raising on the part of many radicals.
By the early s, these established themselves as the dominant forms of organizing in the movement, and they contributed to securing significant social and legal advances.
While much social movement theory stresses the importance of long-term organizing, scholar Frances Fox Piven has highlighted the critical role of disruptive protest.
She argues that relatively short-lived moments of concentrated upheaval have been vital in producing transformative change in U. These, in turn, create the potential for new triggers. The period of intensive public protest that commenced in can be seen as just such a whirlwind.
Putting feminism on the national agenda in a way it had not been before, it expanded the range of issues around which mainstream groups were willing to campaign.
And it fueled a generative moment in which dozens of new groups, publications and collectives emerged. While liberal advocacy organizations were important in securing some of the landmark legal and political victories of second-wave feminism, and radical consciousness-raising groups and alternative spaces solidified the social and cultural legacy of the movement, each of these approaches benefited in important ways from the surge in protest activity at the end of the s.
Theatrical protest did much to bring this perspective to a wide audience, successfully capitalizing on media interest in the new wave.
While previous meetings, on average, had around 35 participants, attendance rose to around people. The latter aimed to take up where the anti-war Yippies left off, launching a series of feminist street theater stunts. Faced with boisterous protest, the hearing quickly adjourned.
Redstockings proceeded to organize its own abortion speakout the next month in the West Village, where a dozen women testified with actual expertise about their abortions before an audience of Writer and activist Ellen Willis compared the speakout to the teach-ins that had effectively mobilized public opinion against the Vietnam War.
Activists scattered hair and nails around a building at the University of Chicago to protest the firing of a feminist professor, heckled politicians in Washington, D. On January 7,60 women at the University of California-Berkeley assembled to denounce the fact that karate classes on the campus were open only to men.
Other high-profile actions in the Bay Area took place around the same time. Sitting in the Senate chamber, the feminists became incensed as one male expert after another was called to testify, without a single woman being asked to share her experience on the pill.United States Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford calls 24, military reserves to action for 2 year commitments, and announces a new troop ceiling of , American soldiers in Vietnam.
The total number of Americans "in country" will peak at some , in August this year, and decline to .
The women’s movement, like the African American civil rights movement, took to the streets in the s to demonstrate for their goals.
One of these demonstrations, in Atlantic City, New Jersey in , protested that year’s Miss America pageant. The Miss America protest was a demonstration held at the Miss America contest on September 7, , attended by about feminists and separately, by civil rights advocates.
With the launch of Sputnik, America realized that the Soviet Union was ahead in satellite and space research; thus, it challenged America's own belief in its superiority. Many believed that the satellite was a spy satellite that could see into American homes and take pictures of their everyday activities.
attheheels.com — Fifty years ago—on September 7, —more than women launched a protest at the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. The action made national headlines, announcing the arrival of a militant and creative new wave of feminist organizing. The youth-oriented party (whose members were commonly called "Yippies") was an anti-establishment and countercultural revolutionary group whose views were inspired by the free speech and anti-war movements of the s, mainly the opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War.