The 1960s era gave rise to a powerful movement seeking liberation for women. This movement was about expanding women’s roles towards other areas of the society. It was about looking at a woman not just as a domestic commodity but somebody who could make great contributions to the community. This became the foundation of empowerment and equality for all women in the American society. During this tumultuous period, there were no big movements to unify all the women liberation groups.
For the most part, the women advocates, with their diverse backgrounds, saw and interpret the problems differently. They also offered opposing solutions to problems of equality depending on their social classes and educational attainment, among other factors. Most of those attracted by the movement were normally middle-class and educated women. To acquire a better understanding on the rise of feminism in the 1960s, this paper will analyze the opposing views of historians Elaine Tyler May and Alice Echols regarding the factors that brought about the rise of the women’s liberation movement.
Compare and Contrast In Elaine Tyler May’s Cold War Ideology and the Rise of Feminism (1988), she delved into the effects of political transformation on the American families, particularly how domestic ideology was challenged in the 1960s through Cold War politics. Elaine Tyler May tied political activism of the decade with the rise of feminism. May advocated that the Cold War required American families to conform to the traditional roles of husbands and wives. Alice Echols, on the other hand, attributed the rise of feminism not just to one particular factor but as a result of the American societal changes and the numerous anti-war protests that had been staged during the 1960s. The societal changes Echols meant relate to the idea of providing better lives for the family, a concept that made women seek the labor market, which gave her the necessary experience to question and challenge equality in the workplace.
The two historians’ arguments were similar in the sense that both agreed that political activism of the decade spurred women to analyze and become vocal about their rights. As an example, Echols stated that the women’s movement wouldn’t have happened if America was not experiencing political protests — a statement echoed by May’s argument that political activism was directly responsible for the rise in women’s rights consciousness. Both also agreed that the leaders and participants of the women’s movement belonged to the middle-class and were educated. Conclusion
Based on the accounts presented by the two historians, I’m more inclined to believe Alice Echols’ arguments that combinations of societal changes and political activism have caused the rise in feminism in the 1960s. May presented a good explanation to support her supposition that the Cold War was the major factor for the rise of the women’s movement, but I found that to be too limiting. Echols strengthened her position by including how the concept of good living made women seek employment, and through that, they were able to experience unequal treatment in the workplace giving rise to discontent and later to the feminist movement.
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