A Damsel’s Guide To Second Wave Feminism

“But I think that education, and only education, has saved, and can continue to save, American women from the greater dangers of the feminine mystique.”

– Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique

Major Premise

If first wave feminism can be summed up as the political backbone of women’s rights (getting the right to vote), then second wave feminism can be summed up with the phrase by Carol Hanish: “the personal is political.” This idea, that our personal equalities should be dealt with politically, led to fervent activism for the more personal rights of women. This includes the issues of sexuality, family, reproductive rights, and more.

When Was Second Wave Feminism?


Major Events 

  1. Equal Pay Act (1963)

We often complain about the lack of equality we have in 2017. However, to put things into perspective, in 1963 things were so bad that John Kennedy had to sign a law forbidding employers to discriminate based on gender. However, even though this law was signed and passed, that didn’t completely eliminate the pay gap. Issues such as maternity leave, different career routes, and the promotion rate of men to women still leave a disparity between the sexes at around a ratio of 77/100 to this day.

  1. Publication of the Feminine Mystique (1963)

If you don’t know Betty Friedan, you’re missing out on one of the most influential feminists of the 20th century. Her book, The Feminine Mystique, revolutionized feminism by revealing the underlying dissatisfaction of housewives across America. While she made a multitude of points in her novel, here are the biggest takeaways and questions she poses:

  • Is marriage really all there is? And is that truly enough to be content? (answer: no)
  • Why are women’s magazines being written by men? Doesn’t that seem a little…off?
  • What’s the key to equality? (hint: it’s education)
  • Where do women’s fulfillment come from? (she postulates that it isn’t from housework, their husbands, or {shocker} sex)
  1. Formation of NOW (National Organization for Women) (1965)

Betty Friedan and 15-20 other attendees of Third National Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women founded this amazing organization, after Friedan scribbled the acronym ‘now’ on a paper napkin during the conference. Though the pact began that night, it didn’t actually start officially until 1966. To this day, the National Organization for Women (NOW) is still one of the largest women’s groups in the US.

  1. Women’s Equality Day (1971)

Under the presidency of Nixon, the US Congress officially designated August 26 as the day of “Women’s Equality.” Due to the prior abuse and mistreatment of women, Congress decided that a national day was necessary to remind society of equality between the sexes.

  1. Title IX (1972)

Even though it’s hard to forgive Nixon for the Watergate Scandal, no one can deny that there were some highlights to his presidency (aka the passage of Title XI).

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”


This was absolutely crucial to the liberation of women in society. It affected college sports, clubs, workforces, and so much more. It also allowed women to afford college, due to the inequality of scholarships given to men in comparison to women.

Cool fact: Birch Bayh proposed Title IX to Congress, the senator from Indiana. He was a huge proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment and the only non-Founding Father to author two amendments. This man is my hero.

  1. Roe vs. Wade (1973)

Roe vs. Wade was an incredible victory for the pro-choice movement and Planned Parenthood. This Supreme Court case ruled the prohibition of abortion unconstitutional. Whether or not you agree with the practice of abortion, the fact remains that this court case played a major part in the history of women’s rights.

Important Feminists

  1. Betty Friedan – author of “The Feminine Mystique”
  2. Carol Hanisch – radical feminist, author of famous essay “The Personal is Political”
  3. Gloria Steinem – founder of Ms. Magazine and author of the article “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation”

I hope you wonderful damsels and gents are enjoying this brief summary of how far we’ve come. Make sure to check back to learn more about the next wave of feminism: 3rd wave!

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