Women enthusiastically participated in and led the wave of activism that overtook the United States in the 1960s. As the 1970s began, many of these women started to ask what all the social and political change meant and how it would ultimately affect them.
For many Black women, Indigenous women, and other women of color, women’s liberation came through racial and ethnic solidarity. The women of the Black Panther Party and the Puerto Rican Young Lords fought against masculinity from within their organizations. The Indigenous activist group Women of All Red Nations was born, in part, out of external threats to the male-led Red Power movement.
For some women, individual output was more appealing than collective organizing. Women artists created thought-provoking pieces. Academics churned out philosophical treatises. And athletes demonstrated women’s full physical potential.
Some women brought about change by challenging the government. Women lawyers fought against dangerous and unfair laws in the courts. Women legislators wrote new laws that elevated the visibility of women. When two consecutive presidents—Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter—threw their political weight behind the creation of a National Women’s Conference, many women marveled at just how far America had come.
But at the same time that feminists were celebrating what seemed like a decade of women’s liberation, conservative women were also organizing. As questions about policy change and a constitutional amendment in support of gender equality gained support, so did their concerns about the stability of America. To conservatives, feminism was a threat that needed to be stopped.
As Republicans mobilized for an upcoming presidential election and states debated the ratification of an Equal Rights Amendment, many wondered if the battle for women’s rights was about to end in a victory—or a devastating loss.