Significant Feminist Protests

Activist Moments in the US Women's Liberation Movement

Feminists protest Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, 1969
Woman or Object? Feminists protest Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, 1969.

Santi Visalli Inc/Getty Images

The Women’s Liberation Movement brought together thousands of activists who worked for women’s rights. Several significant feminist protests in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s helped further the cause and pave the way for women and girls in the following decades.

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Miss America Protest, September 1968

New York Radical Women organized a demonstration at the 1968 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. The feminists objected to the commercialization and racism of the pageant, in addition to the way it judged women on "ludicrous standards of beauty." In the decades of its existence, there had never been a Black Miss America.

They also found it offensive that the winner was sent to entertain the troops in Vietnam. Boys were told they could all grow up to be president one day, but not girls, the protesters noted. Girls, instead, were told they could grow up to be Miss America.

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New York Abortion Speakout, March 1969

The radical feminist group Redstockings organized an "abortion speakout" in New York City where women could talk about their experiences with then-illegal abortions. The feminists wanted to respond to government hearings where previously only men had spoken about abortion. After this event, speakouts spread across the nation; Roe v. Wade struck down many restrictions on abortion four years later in 1973.

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Standing Up for the ERA in the Senate, February 1970

Members of the National Organization for Women (NOW) disrupted a U.S. Senate hearing about the proposed amendment to the Constitution to change the voting age to 18. The women stood and displayed posters they had brought, calling for the Senate’s attention to the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) instead.

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Ladies' Home Journal Sit-In, March 1970

Many feminist groups believed that women's magazines, usually run by men, were a commercial enterprise that perpetuated the myth of the happy homemaker and the desire to consume more beauty products. Among their objections was the regular column "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" where women in troubled marriages sought advice. Men would answer, and would typically blame the wives, telling them they should make their husbands happier.

On March 18, 1970, a coalition of feminists from various activist groups marched into the Ladies’ Home Journal building and took over the editor’s office until he agreed to let them produce a portion of an upcoming issue. In 1973 Lenore Hershey became the first female editor-in-chief of the magazine, and all editors-in-chief since have been women.

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Women's Strike for Equality, August 1970

The nationwide Women's Strike for Equality on August 26, 1970, saw women using various creative tactics to draw attention to the ways they were being treated unfairly. In places of business and in the streets, women stood up and demanded equality and fairness. August 26 has since been declared Women's Equality Day. Timed to the 50th anniversary of women's suffrage, the day was organized by the National Organization for Women (NOW). The group's president Betty Friedan called for the strike. Among her slogans: "Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot!"

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Take Back the Night, 1976 and beyond

In multiple countries, feminists gathered to draw attention to violence against women and to “Reclaim the Night” for women. The initial protests turned into annual events of communal demonstration and empowerment that include rallies, speeches, vigils, and other activities. The annual U.S. rallies are now usually known as “Take Back the Night,” a phrase heard at a 1977 gathering in Pittsburgh and used in the title of a 1978 event in San Francisco.

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Napikoski, Linda. "Significant Feminist Protests." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Napikoski, Linda. (2023, April 5). Significant Feminist Protests. Retrieved from Napikoski, Linda. "Significant Feminist Protests." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).