Feminism in 1960s Sitcoms

Finding Feminism on TV in the 1960s

Was there any feminism in 1960s sitcoms? The decade was a time of growing self awareness in much of U.S. society. A “second wave” of feminism exploded into public consciousness. You may not get explicit references to the burgeoning women’s liberation movement, but 1960s television is filled with proto-feminist portrayals of women’s lives. You can find emerging feminism in 1960s sitcoms in the conventional and unconventional ways women revealed their power, success, grace, humor….and even just their presence!

Here are five 1960s sitcoms worth watching with a feminist eye, plus a couple of offbeat honorable mentions:

01
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The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)

Dick Van Dyke Show cast
Dick Van Dyke Show cast, about 1965. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Under the surface of The Dick Van Dyke show were subtle questions about women's talents and their "roles" at work and at home.

02
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The Lucy Show (1962–1968)

William Frawley, Vivian Vance, Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz out golfing in the television series 'I Love Lucy', 1951
William Frawley, Vivian Vance, Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz out golfing in the television series 'I Love Lucy', 1951. CBS/Getty Images

The Lucy Show featured Lucille Ball as a strong female character who did not rely on a husband.

03
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Bewitched (1964–1972)

Sandra Gould, Marion Lorne, Lillian Hokum, and Elizabeth Montgomery off camera from the television series 'Bewitched', 1966
Sandra Gould, Marion Lorne, Lillian Hokum, and Elizabeth Montgomery off camera from the television series 'Bewitched', 1966. Screen Gems/Getty Images

There was no doubt about it: Bewitched featured a housewife who had more power(s) than her husband.

04
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That Girl (1966–1971)

Marlo Thomas as That Girl; circa 1970; New York
Marlo Thomas as That Girl; circa 1970; New York. Art Zelin/Getty Images

Marlo Thomas starred as That Girl, a groundbreaking independent career woman.

05
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Julia (1968–1971)

Diahann Carroll as 'Julia'
Diahann Carroll as 'Julia'. Archive Photos/Getty Images

Julia was the first sitcom to revolve around a single African-American leading actress.

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Honorable Mention: The Brady Bunch

The Brady Bunch
The Brady Bunch. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Straddling the 1960s and 1970s - when the show first aired - TV’s quintessential blended family made a fierce effort to play fair between boys and girls.

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Honorable Mention: Monsters!

The Addams Family
The Addams Family. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The monster mamas on The Addams Family and The Munsters were strong matriarchs who injected hints of counterculture thinking and individuality into the TV sitcom family.