Was a woman's life in the US easier or harder by the 1970s than it had been?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Everything in life is relative, not the least of which would be the concepts of "easier" and "harder."

In the westernised world, the 1970s was to continue the political revolution that had begun for women's rights in the earlier part of the twentieth century and had intensified in the 1960s. Gender equality was a misunderstood concept then and as women were not used to being paid a lot of attention in business , it became something of a farce from a publicity standpoint. "Women's lib" became a buzzword (phrase) and continues to spark argument and discussion on fairness.  

So women were getting themselves noticed and having a fair amount of success - previously thought to belong only to a few elite women. Nothing, however, can change biology so, whilst men slowly (and very, very slowly) emerged as care givers rather than  sole breadwinners ( only to become a 90s concept actually), women had to fulfil their roles as mother and home maker but were also under increasing pressure to perform in the workplace.

Due to stereotypes,men (and apologies to all the men out there as this answer is obviously- as the question- generalized) waited for women to fail in the workplace but instead of failing, they proved their worth.

Interest in gender and leadership started in the United States in the early 1970s, when women slowly began to seek and gain entry into management.

It did however create tremendous pressure. By the 1980s, women were juggling careers and babies and homemaking and a divide between women themselves had developed as the homemakers were critical of the career women and vice versa.

Life in general by the 1970s - for the westernized world - was definitely "easier" as technology was developing. For women this meant that mechanized appliances (eg, the auto- washing machine) could make other laborious chores less labor-intensive which allowed for time to be spent doing other things.

The TV meant children could be kept occupied in a supervised environment without a mother(or often a female sibling)  chasing around younger children.  

So life for everyone was easier in the 1970s really and women's roles were becoming more complex, less intense in some areas and moreso in others: easier or harder ?

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is, of course, a matter of opinion to some degree.  It is possible to argue this in both ways.

In one way, it seems clear that women’s lives were easier in the 1970s than they had been in the past.  This is partly because there were more modern conveniences than there had been in the past.  This made housework easier than it had once been.  It is partly because of the rising availability of birth control options.  This meant that a woman had much more control over her reproductive life.  It also meant that she generally had fewer children to look after than women in previous generations.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, she had more freedom than ever before.  It was much more acceptable in this time for women to work outside the home.  Women were starting to have real careers.  There was much less of the feeling of being forced into a very narrow life as had once been the case.

On the other hand, it is possible to argue that life was actually harder.  This is because life now came with more choices and, in some ways, more expectations.  While it is constricting to be told what one’s life will be (child rearing and homemaking, in the case of women), it is in a sense a relief because it takes away the necessity of making hard choices.  By the ‘70s, more women had to make choices, which can be emotionally and psychologically difficult.  At the same time, more was expected of women.  They were still expected to do the bulk of housework and child care, but they were simultaneously expected (at least in some cases) to have a career. 

Thus, we can argue this issue both ways.  I tend to believe that it is better to have more choices and more freedom, so I would argue that life for women in the 1970s was better than it had been.