Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Woman’s Estate is a compilation of several essays written by Juliet Mitchell in the late 1960’s and in 1970, combined with new material that both connects the older essays and elaborates upon the implications of Mitchell’s arguments. Mitchell describes the women’s liberation movement (the term she uses to designate the most progressive wing of the women’s movement) as the vanguard of radical political activism in the late 1960’s. She likewise sees it as the key element in a new revolutionary political movement. The text itself is divided into two related sections. Part 1, entitled “The Women’s Liberation Movement,” gives a general description of the background and politics of the movement itself. Part 2 provides a theoretical discussion of a movement grounded in a combination of materialist and feminist theory.

Because the text is obviously a product of the intellectual and social climate of the 1960’s, Mitchell appropriately begins part 1 with a chapter on the background of the 1960’s. She argues that the women’s liberation movement can only be understood in relation to the other major political movements of the period, those of blacks, students, and youth. Of these three movements, Mitchell finds the shift from the Civil Rights movement of the early 1960’s to black radicalism in the late 1960’s to be that most closely analogous to the struggle of women. Women’s liberation, she theorizes, owes less to historical...

(The entire section is 586 words.)