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Second Wave Feminism

Written by Hallie Farr, Dylan Swift, & Eva Ross

Miller, R. (2021, September 23). How strike for equality propelled women’s liberation struggle in the U.S. World.


What is Second Wave Feminism?


As cited in the Dictionary of Feminist Theory “the fight for reproductive rights entails a fight against sexual and domestic violence, and has profound repercussions for gender identity” (Humm 2003, p. 253). Second Wave Feminism was a movement following the First Wave of Feminism that lasted between the 1960s and 1990s. The Second Wave focused on women’s rights issues such as domestic violence, reproductive rights, female sexuality, pay equality and more. Second Wave Feminist followed in the steps of the First Wave Feminists and utilized the power of the courts and legislation to reach their goals. One difference between First and Second Wave Feminism, is that the Second Wave attempted to include making strides for racial justice, however, if class and race were considered in this movement, it was always seen as of lesser importance than that of gender. While the disparities between white women and white men narrowed, the inequalities of women of color and other groups did not make much progress.


The Equal Pay Act of 1963:

Addressing the disparities in pay experienced by women in the workforce, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 encapsulates a pivotal moment within 2nd wave feminism. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed labor activist Esther Peterson to the Women’s Bureau in the Department of Labor and later to the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women (Equal Pay Act of 1963, 2016). The commission invest gated working conditions and wages for women, uncovering critical disparities between them and their male counterparts. Esther Peterson presented the Equal Pay Act before Congress, making sex-based wage discrimination illegal. The law became an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act and was signed into law by JFK on June 10, 1963.


The 1968 Miss America Protests:

On September 7, 1968 hundreds of women marched down the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  These women were protesting not only the pageant itself, but also the treatment of women in the United States and misogynistic attitudes towards them.  Protesters compared the pageant to a “degrading cattle parade” and argued the pageant dehumanized women, reducing them to objects of beauty (Rampton 2015).  Protesters threw oppressive feminine objects such as “bras girdles, curlers, false eyelashes, wigs, and representative issues of Cosmopolitan” and other magazines into a “freedom trash can” as they marched (Gay 2018).  In addition, the protesters named a sheep as the winner of the Miss America Pageant which would’ve been the only non-white winner of the pageant at that time.  In fact, “a women of color had never won, and there had never been a black contestant” (Gay 2018).


The Equal Rights Amendment:

In Seneca Falls in 1923, Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman introduced The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to codify gender equality in the Constitution. The amendment states, “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 Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article”(Cohen and Codrington III, 2020). Considering that between 1922 and 1970 only 10 women total served in the Senate, the ERA did not find momentum until 1970 when Democrats Rep. Martha Griffiths of Missouri and Shirley Chisholm of New York brought it to the forefront (Cohen and Codrington III, 2020). Due to the work of activists like the League of Women Voters, the ERA passed both houses of Congress in March 1972 and sent to the states for ratification with a 7 year deadline. By 1978, the 3/4ths of states or 38 states had no ratified the amendment so the National Organization of Women organized a march on Washington with 100,000 supporters (History of the Equal Rights Amendment, 2018). After the march, Congress extended the deadline to June 30, 1982. However, Anti-ERA activists like Phyllis Schlafly worked to prevent the last three states from ratifying the ERA. Phyllis Schlafly organized the STOP ERA or (Stop Taking Our Privileges) campaign to prevent the ratification of the ERA. She argued that the ERA would promote gender neutral bathrooms, same-sex marriage, abortion, gay rights, and above all threaten Christian “family values” (Johnson). Schlafly argued that the ERA would strip women of privileges that granted them preference in child custody battles and social security benefits for widows in the “dependent wife” clause (Johnson). Within the context of the Vietnam War, she staunchly opposed the threat to military draft exemptions for women. She promulgated the idea that the ERA would result in drafting women to war. Today, the ERA stands un-ratified, with Virginia being the latest state to ratify it in 2020, leaving the question on whether the ERA still stands 41 years later.


Cunningham , J. M. (n.d.). Phyllis Schlafly. Encyclopædia Britannica.


Works Cited:

Cohen, A., & Codrington, W. U. (2019, October 9). The Equal Rights Amendment explained. Brennan Center for Justice.

Engler, Mark. “The 1968 Miss America Protest – and Its Significance Today.” The 1968 Miss America Protest – and Its Significance Today | Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility, 14 Oct. 2018, 

Equal pay for equal work. DOL. (n.d.).,wage%20discrimination%20based%20on%20sex.&text=The%20Equal%20Pay%20Act%20(EPA)%20protects%20individuals%20of%20all%20sexes.

Gay, Roxane. “Fifty Years Ago, Protesters Took on the Miss America Pageant and Electrified the Feminist Movement.” Smithsonian.Com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Jan. 2018,

Johnson, A. (n.d.). Phyllis Schlafly. National Women’s History Museum.

Rampton, Martha. “Four Waves of Feminism.” Pacific University, 25 June 2015, 

The Equal Rights Amendment. Equal Rights Amendment. (n.d.).

U.S. Department of the Interior. (n.d.). Equal pay act of 1963 (U.S. National Park Service). National Parks Service.,different%20salaries%20for%20similar%20work.


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