Women’s Liberation Yesterday and Today

learn from the past history or repeat it

Sometimes it feels to me that the young American women of today need a serious history lesson in exactly how much things have changed in the past fifty years. Being age 63, I have a pretty good perspective on these changes. I have witnessed, in my lifespan, gigantic changes in how American women are seen and treated, and I fear the younger women just don’t get that. They only see how far we still need to go, not how far we’ve come in the past 50 years.

Let’s start with something as simple as control over your own body. Here’s an excerpt from my book “Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife”:

Today, it seems normal and natural to limit progeny or choose to remain childless, but boomers are the first generation of Americans to even have this option. With the invention of the birth-control pill in the 1950s and the legalization of abortion in 1973, reproduction rules changed drastically.

Limiting progeny, bettering ourselves through training and education, and then choosing the career that best suits our natural abilities, talents, and character are options not even imagined by our grandparents and great-grandparents. Here’s a summary of women’s prospects in the 1800s from the book In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age by Patricia Cohen:

“For women, adulthood was one long, undifferentiated stretch of mothering with scarcely any leisure time. Mothers gave birth, then gave birth again, and again, and again. In 1800, the average woman had seven children and spent seventeen years either pregnant or breastfeeding, although without antiseptics, anesthesia, or antibiotics, there was barely a parent who escaped burying a child. Giving birth often left women severely weakened or disabled. . .By the time all the children were grown, she was well into her sixth decade—or more likely dead.”

How’s that for thought-provoking? These were the lives of the women who came before us. How many had more children than they wanted and then died without ever doing anything they wanted with their lives? How many brilliant women led lives of quiet desperation because they could not find respect for their unique gifts and talents? Women were seen as entertainment and prizes for wealthy men only decades ago.

1933 Miss America swimsuits


Check out this news report from CBS Sunday Morning on the protests around the Miss America pageant of 1968. It was not so long ago that our beauty was our only way to “get ahead.” I know it is hard to believe, but this is also too true. Women only got the vote in 1920. We can thank the women of the West for being the pioneers in getting us that right!

Now we are faced with a president and Congress who would like to move us back to the good old days (for them!), when women were seen as pretty, but told to keep their mouths shut. Do you value your right to control what happens in your life and your own uterus? Than get active and show it!