1970s Feminist Activities

What Did Feminists Do During the 1970s?

By 1970, second-wave feminists had inspired women and men across the United States. Whether in politics, in the media, in academia or in private households, women’s liberation was a hot topic of the day. But what actually happened during the era of 1970s feminism? What did 1970s feminists do? Here are some feminist activities of the 1970s.

Edited and with additional material by Jone Johnson Lewis.

ERA Yes signes - 2012
ERA Yes: Signs from the 40th anniversary of Congressional passage of the ERA, 2012. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The most intense struggle for many feminists during the 1970s was the fight for the passage and ratification of the ERA.  Although it was eventually defeated (in no large part due to Phyllis Schlafly's adept activism), the idea of equal rights for women began to influence much legislation and many court decisions. More »

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Demonstrators at the Miss America Pageant
Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Feminists marched, lobbied and protested throughout the 1970s, often in clever and creative ways. More »

Women's Strike For Peace-And Equality
The New York Historical Society / Getty Images

On August 26, 1970, the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, women went on “strike” in cities across the United States. More »

Gloria Steinem at 2004 Ms. Magazine event
Gloria Steinem at 2004 Ms. Magazine event. SGranitz/WireImage

Launched in 1972, Ms. bacome a famous part of the feminist movement. It was a publication edited by women that spoke to women’s issues, a voice of the revolution that had wit and spirit, a women’s magazine that eschewed articles about beauty products and exposed the control that many advertisers assert over content in women's magazines. More »

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Save Roe v. Wade - 2005 Demonstration for Women's Rights and Against Appointment of Justice Roberts
Save Roe v. Wade - 2005 Feminist Demonstration for Women's Rights and Against Appointment of Justice Roberts. Getty Images / Alex Wong

This is one of the most famous – if not the most well understood - Supreme Court cases in the United States. Roe v. Wade struck down many state restrictions on abortion. More »

Harriet Tubman, American anti-slavery activist, c1900. Harriet Tubman (c1820-1913) was born into slavery in America. She escaped in 1849, became a leading Abolitionist and was active as a 'conductor' in the Underground Railroad, the network which helped escaped slaves to reach safety.
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A group of black feminists called attention to the need for all women’s voices to be heard, not just the white middle class women who received most of the media’s coverage of feminism. More »

Feminist art had quite an impact during the 1970s, and several feminist art journals were started during that time. More »

Feminists wrote poetry long before the 1970s, but during that decade many feminist poets had unprecedented success and acclaim. More »

The literary canon had long been filled with white male authors, and feminists argued that literary criticism had been filled with white male assumptions. Feminist literary criticism presents new interpretations and tries to unearth what has been marginalized or suppressed. More »

The groundwork and the first women’s studies courses took place during the 1960s; in the 1970s, the new academic discipline grew quickly and was soon found at hundreds of universities. More »

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Defining Rape as a Crime of Violence

 From a 1971 "speak-out" in New York through grassroot groups, Take Back the Night marches, and the organizing of rape crisis centers, the feminist anti-rape campaign made a significant difference.  The National Organization for Women (NOW) created a Rape Task Force in 1973 to push for legal reform at the state level. The American Bar Association also promoted legal reform to create gender-neutral statutes.  The death penalty for rape, which Ruth Bader Ginsburg as an attorney argued was a remnant of patriarchy and treated women as property, fell in 1977.

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Title IX

Title IX, amendments to existing law to promote equal participation by sex in all educational programs and activities receiving federal financial aid, passed in 1972.  This body of law increased participation in sports by women significantly, though there is no specific mention in Title IX of sports programs.  Title IX also led to more attention in educational institutions to ending sexual violence against women, and opened many scholarships formerly directed only to men.