1970s Feminist Activities

By 1970, second-wave feminists had inspired women and men across the United States. Whether in politics, the media, academia or private households, women’s liberation was a hot topic of the day. Here are some feminist activities of the 1970s.

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Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)

ERA Yes signs
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 conservative Phyllis Schlafly's adept activism), the idea of equal rights for women began to influence much legislation and many court decisions.

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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. The Ladies' Home Journal sit-in led to changes in how women's magazines, which were still being edited by men and marketed to women as subservient to their husbands, were produced.

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Women’s Strike for Equality

Women's Strike For Peace-And Equality

 The New York Historical Society / Getty Images

On August 26, 1970, the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, women went on “strike” in cities across the United States. Organized by the National Organization for Women (NOW), leadership said the purpose of the rallies was "the unfinished business of equality."

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Ms. Magazine

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.

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Roe v. Wade

Nancy Keenan
36th Anniversary Of Roe V. Wade Luncheon.

 Paul Morigi / Getty Images

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. The court found a 14th Amendment right to privacy in allowing a woman to end a pregnancy in a 7-2 decision.

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Combahee River Collective

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. The Boston-based Combahee River Collective was active from 1974 to 1980.

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Feminist Art Movement

Feminist art had quite an impact during the 1970s, and several feminist art journals were started during that time. Experts have a hard time agreeing on the definitions of feminist art, but not on its legacy.

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Feminist Poetry

Feminists wrote poetry long before the 1970s, but during that decade many feminist poets had unprecedented success and acclaim. Maya Angelou is probably the most well-known feminist poet of the time, though she could be critical, writing, “The sadness of the women’s movement is that they don’t allow the necessity of love.”

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Feminist Literary Criticism

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.

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Women’s Studies Department

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.

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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. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then an attorney, argued that the death penalty for rape was a remnant of patriarchy and treated women as property. The Supreme Court agreed and ruled the practice unconstitutional 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.

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Napikoski, Linda. "1970s Feminist Activities." ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2021, thoughtco.com/1970s-feminist-activities-3529001. Napikoski, Linda. (2021, July 31). 1970s Feminist Activities. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/1970s-feminist-activities-3529001 Napikoski, Linda. "1970s Feminist Activities." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/1970s-feminist-activities-3529001 (accessed March 28, 2023).