Controversy and Coalition: The New Feminist Movement across Three Decades of Change

By Myra Marx Ferree; Beth B. Hess | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Looking toward the New Millennium

After three decades of contemporary feminist activism, it is paradoxical to call these efforts the “New” Feminist Movement, especially as the struggle continues into the next millennium. The term does help us to remember the earlier phases of intense feminist mobilization (before the Civil War and before the passage of women’s suffrage) that American history books still forget to mention (see Flexner 1959; Buechler 1991). But the phrase also obscures the duration, extent, and institutional maturity already achieved by the current wave of feminist organizing efforts. In this chapter, we review the changes in the status of women and the practices of the contemporary feminist mobilization while it could still be described as “New” and then venture a look into the future of feminism, as a changing but continuing struggle to achieve the full equality and self-determination of all women.


Thirty Years of Struggle

Eleanor Flexner titled her classic study of the battle that led to the passage of the women’s suffrage amendment Century of Struggle (1959). The contemporary feminist mobilization is not yet that old, but it already has brought about changes that reach across generations. In the period between 1945 and 1963, higher levels of education and increase in labor force participation of women combined with continuing discrimination and changing family relationships set the stage for

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