Dissent in the Heartland: The Sixties at Indiana University

By Mary Ann Wynkoop | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
The Women’s Movement: An
Idea Whose Time Had Come

The women’s liberation movement of the 1960s grew out of the first coalition of black and white abolitionists, before the Civil War. Those ardent women and men succeeded in abolishing slavery with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment (1865), but women were denied the right to vote that the Fifteenth Amendment (1868) gave to black men. Women organized their own suffrage campaign and succeeded in passing the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave the vote to all Americans regardless of sex, in 1920.

The next coalition of black and white Americans began after World War II with the civil rights movement. The second struggle for racial justice spawned a second wave of the women’s movement—for equal rights for all citizens, regardless of race or sex.

The first evidence that women recognized that they were victims of discrimination came in 1965. Mary King and Casey Hayden, two young women active in SNCC, wrote an essay titled “Sex and Caste: A Kind of Memo” and distributed it at a meeting. It was discussed but not taken seriously. However, the memo made its way into other organizations and was the catalyst of a serious dispute at the 1967 meeting of SDS, where men disparaged women’s criticisms—and women walked out. That was the beginning of the end of SDS.

Civil rights activists succeeded when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, outlawing discrimination based on race or sex in jobs and public accommodations. This act also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which had the power to investigate com

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