Evolution of women's history in America
Published: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 13, 2013 23:10
The second installment in the “Makers: Women Who Make America” series called “Changing the World” took place Friday afternoon in the Women’s Center.
This installment is set in the 1970s when the women’s equality movement took the shape we recognize today. The documentary series follows the development of the women’s rights movement throughout American history and is narrated by Meryl Streep. The first installment, “Awakening,” focuses on the birth of feminism in the United States, with the publication of books such as Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique.”
The film illustrated the major catalysts and events of the women’s equality movement and interviewed key players. Hilary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem were a few of the notable women who contributed to the film.
During the 1970s, divorce rates spiked and the relationships between men and women began to change. Women began to see the disparity in income, household chores and control over health care and were prompted to unify and change their lives.
This change was also visible in the media. Ads, movies, television shows and music all started to feature strong, independent females. In the music industry, Joni Mitchell became popular with her empowering songs, while female actresses like Marlo Thomas and Mary Tyler-Moore portrayed single, working women on network television.
Women such as Letty Cottin Pogrebin, the co-founder of Ms. Magazine, spoke of how their marriages changed when they became feminists. Pogrebin and her husband changed the way they ran their household to make it more equitable.
While the step towards recognizing the independence of women was important, the film also commented that a key event in the women’s movement was the 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis match. Billie Jean King took on Bobby Riggs in a symbolic match that would prove the strength of women as being on par with that of men.
The film also explored the issue that remains critical to the women’s movement today: abortion and the right to health care. Interviewing women who needed medical abortions in the 70s and who were denied them brought a unique perspective to the issues. The film also made the point that the number of women who died because of unsafe and illegal abortions was large during the 70s.
While the film explored issues faced by women in the 70s, it provided a solid foundation for a discussion on the progress the movement has made today.
“If we don’t know our history,” said the event host Kathy Fischer, “we are doomed to make the same mistakes.”