Knowing What We Know: African American Women's Experiences of Violence and Violation

By Gail Garfield | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 4

The Worlds of Women

My anger has meant pain to me but it has also meant
survival, and before I give it up I’m going to be sure
that there is something at least as powerful to replace
it on the road to clarity.

“Sister Outsider,” Audré Lorde

As the 1970s approached, the women were no longer in search of an adult identity. However, as they settled into particular patterns of life, they were still searching: some were seeking to fulfill dreams; others were pursuing hopes; but all were looking to develop their human potential. The decade of the 1970s held possibilities. Women with diverse and sometimes divergent political agendas were stepping up organized efforts in their campaigns for social and cultural equality. Through their actions, women decided that the 1970s would be the “decade of the woman.”

The critical question moving to the forefront of mainstream political debate in America was: What do women want? Women gave different answers to this question, depending on their cultural and social position in society, depending on the nature of their lives, and depending on the interpretation of their needs, interests, and aspirations at the time.

The “women’s liberation movement,” as it was popularly known, was composed of broad-based national campaigns that included efforts to get three-fourths of the states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), legalize abortion, stop violence against women, and end pay discrimination and other forms of gender inequities in the workplace. Simultaneously, there were important women-led efforts during this period that were not necessarily associated with the broader women’s movement. These campaigns were more local or grass-roots based, but they too had national implications for women’s lives. The local campaigns included

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