The Women's Liberation Movement

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The Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM) has shaped the changing rights and freedom of women in Australia since the late 1960’s. The Movement aimed to overturn the idea that women were inferior to men and to make society see women as people who could control their own lives. The Women’s movement sought to bring about change for women in a society that called for long overdue change. In Australia, the 1960s was an era characterised by questioning of the political, economic, and social status quo.

It was a decade of protest and many people demanded changes to society’s organisation and priorities.

Women became more aware of the different ways in which society limited their freedom and ignored their rights. They are denied basic rights, trapped in the home for life, and discriminated against in the workplace. They started getting together in small groups and discussed ways of re-educating and recognizing women’s rights and put and end to the barriers of segregation and discrimination based on sex.

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The peak of this movement occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Women’s Liberation Movement was recognized as an organized effort to gain equality of women.

The women’s liberation movement grew very rapidly spreading across the globe in a short space of time. An aim in which women came up with in hope to achieve was to overturn the idea that women were inferior to men. Women had been convinced that they were only important for reproducing and had no purpose in life.

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An example of how this was shown in society was through education. Women were denied of a tertiary education because society implied that women become mothers once they left school.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, girls’ education involved the teachings of traditional female skills like sewing and cooking. Women sought to improve the education at schools particularly by changing what was being taught. Women also aspired to encourage girls to aim higher in their career choices by allowing women to women to enter universities to continue their education and to further their academic skills. They sought to open up career paths for girls that had previously been seen as exclusively male areas, such as sport and science.

The WLM was successful in their attempt to overturn the idea that women were inferior to men. It promoted for the broadening of their educational opportunities to study ‘male’ subjects such as carpentry or pursue a ‘male career’ such as working as a pilot on a commercial airline. A major long-term achievement of this aim was the introduction of specialist courses in women’s studies at universities throughout Australia. In 1975, at the instigation of Treasurer Bill Hayden, the government also provided financial assistance to ‘Elsie’, the first women’s refugee in NSW.

This group was created to specifically accommodate women who were desperate to leave their husbands and had no money to support them selves. The WLM sought to seek political change in Australia through their aim of equality. The 1907 Harvester Case had preserved the idea that all men should receive enough pay to support a wife at home and three children, and that women in the paid workforce should earn lower wages than those earned by men. This decision initiated the unimportance of women being breadwinners and it became a difficulty for women to become financially independent.

As a result of this woman fought for equal pay. During WWII, women filled traditional male jobs. They received an improved rate of 60-100% of the male wage. After the war, they returned to their lower-paid jobs, earning between 56-60% of the male wage. To an extent, equal pay for women had been achieved. The principle of equal pay for equal work was recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Women still continued to fight for their rights and following this came the two equal pay cases, 1969 and 1972.

These cases were very beneficial to women. In 1969 The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration granted the equal pay for equal work concept meaning that women who were doing the same work as men were paid the same. Figures showed that only 18% of women benefitted the 1969 decision. This was then subsequently improved as The Whitlam Labor Government met the needs of women who worked in female-dominated industries and advocated recognition of the Equal Pay Principle. In conclusion, the Women’s Liberation Movement aimed at recognising women’s rights.

It was an attempt to eliminate discrimination towards women in terms of unequal pay, as well as overturning the idea that women were inferior to men. The WLM was to an extent, successful in their attempt to gain equality in society. Because of them, women were receiving equal pay although discrimination still continues in the workforce today. They were also successful in overturning the idea that women were inferior to men and women in Australia today have many more opportunities in relation to their education and future.

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The Women's Liberation Movement. (2016, Oct 19). Retrieved from

The Women's Liberation Movement
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