Explain how the women's movement developed in the 1960's in America.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of factors that caused the women’s movement in the 1960s to come about.  Let us look at some of the most important of these.

The women’s movement in the past.  There had been a women’s movement of sorts since at least the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848.  This movement eventually turned into the suffrage movement which finally won its objective in 1920.  There was, in other words, a history of women fighting for their rights in the US and the 1960s movement can be seen as an extension of that history.

WWII.  During World War II, the role of women in US society changed.  Many women took jobs in areas that had previously been all-male.  This was because so many of the men in the US population were in the military and women were needed to fill jobs that had been left vacant.  This, along with the general absence of so many men during the war, made women get more accustomed to having lives outside of the home and to being more in charge of their own lives.

The Civil Rights Movement.  During the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans conducted a movement in order to win equal rights for themselves.  This inspired many women (and other groups) to want to conduct similar movements.

Birth control.  In part, the women’s movement was made possible by the invention of oral contraceptives.  This made it much easier for women to determine when or if they would get pregnant.  This gave women more time to get involved in things like politics (since they had fewer children).  It also gave them more of a sense of control over their lives.

Disillusionment on the part of women.  After WWII, women were more or less forced back into the roles they had previously played in society.  By the early 1960s, many women, particularly in the middle class, were feeling stifled by these roles.  This feeling was captured in 1963 by Betty Friedan in her book The Feminine Mystique.  Unhappy women who wanted more from their lives helped bring about the women’s rights movement.

The women’s right movement in the 1960s came about due to a mixture of these factors.