“Sisterhood is Powerful” 
–Movement Slogan  


In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a mass movement for women’s liberation exploded into national consciousness. Although rooted in earlier feminist thinking and advocacy, it was propelled by new calls for racial and economic justice and sexual liberation that awakened women to the boundaries of their citizenship. A diverse array of women engaged in evolving justice actions, as the Civil Rights movement spawned Black Power, opposition to the Vietnam War intensified—especially among college students—and activists interrogated the links between racism, capitalism, imperialism, and war. In response to the gendered division of labor and their sidelined contributions in these movements, women organized independently as women. Their differences were both a strength and a source of tension. Associations such as the National Organization for Women, grass-roots “consciousness raising” discussions, and radical alliances used a vast arsenal of tactics to change women’s lives across myriad interrelated issues at the local, national, and global levels. Soon, “feminism” would become a household word. 

Strike for Women’s Equality, New York, 1970
Demonstration against Forced Sterilization, ca. 1970
Women of the Young Lords, New York, ca. 1970
Mary Dore’s 2014 documentary She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry chronicles the complexities of the Women’s Liberation Movement. These clips demonstrate a few of the many issues faced by feminists in the 1970s. Music Box Films 

Selma to Montgomery March, Alabama, 1965. F.I.L.M. Archive 

At the Polls and On the Ticket  

For African American women living in the US South, the promise of the 19th Amendment was fulfilled almost a half-century after its ratification. Incidents of racial brutality along with renewed civil rights activity, such as the Mississippi Freedom Summer voter registration campaign, helped bring national attention to widespread voter discrimination and violence occurring in the South. The 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was specifically named an “act to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution,” outlawed poll taxes, prohibited literacy tests, and allowed Southern Black women, with federal assistance, to freely participate in the voting process. Across the country, women harnessed the skills they had honed in civil rights and women’s organizations to run for office. Fannie Lou Hamer, a leader in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, made bids for seats in the statehouse and Congress, while her colleague Unita Blackwell became the first black woman mayor in the state. Patsy Takemoto Mink, an attorney and political activist from Hawaii, and Shirley Chisholm, a Brooklyn educator and NOW co-founder, had historic campaign victories for seats in Congress. Chisholm also sought the US presidency.

Bob Adelman
Young African American women at the March on Washington, 
©Bob Adelman Estate

Socialist Workers Party, National Campaign Committee
Ratify the E.R.A. in '76. Vote Socialist Workers
ca. 1976
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC

National Organization for Women 
National ERA March sash, 1978  
Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

ERA March on Washington pin-back button,1978
Gift of Beatrice J. Siegel, 2002.70.59   

Ratify the ERA pin-back button, 1977 
Gift of Betty Lerner. 2011.39.60   

ERA YES pin-back button,  ca. 1970–75 
Gift of Norma P. Munn. 2002.68.18   

National Organization for Women, New York 
We Must Ratify by 6/30/82 pin-back button,1982 
Gift of Norma P. Munn, 2006.5.1

"Do we want equality in the man's world, or do we want to make it a new world?" 
Bread and Roses, 1970    

Jack Rottier 
National Welfare Rights Organization Marchers, 1968
Jack Rottier Photograph Collection, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University, 
George Mason University Libraries

Bettye Lane 
Day care demonstration at City Hall, 1974 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. Photo courtesy of Bettye Lane Estate

Battling against ‘all work and no pay’: Wages for HouseworkLife magazine special report, 1976 
New-York Historical Society