SoSe 14: Can We Do It? The 20th Century Women's Movement in the United States
This seminar aims at enabling a key understanding of the post-suffragette women's movement in the United States from the early 1920s to the Second World War, the Women's Liberation Movement, Roe v. ... read more
This seminar aims at enabling a key understanding of the post-suffragette women's movement in the United States from the early 1920s to the Second World War, the Women's Liberation Movement, Roe v. Wade, and, finally, the vice-presidential run of Sarah Palin. After the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 and the decline of Victorianism, US women's rights and gendered roles continued to be embattled. Although women had achieved the right to vote and the Roaring Twenties saw the rise of the Flappers' new model of womanhood, the Equal Rights Amendment was soundly defeated and remains unratified by several US states until this day. Women activists, nonetheless, played a crucial role in the New Deal and its establishment of welfare state provisions, and the Second World War led to seminal changes in US women's participation in the workforce. The decade of anticommunist, domestic containment of the 1950s, which emphasized traditional gender roles within the nuclear family in suburbia and the separation of the spheres, was eventually countered by the public political activism of women in the African American Civil Rights Movement and an eventual surge of international feminist activism in the Women's Liberation Movement; partially sparked in the United States by Betty Friedan's publication of The Feminine Mystique in 1963. The women's movement's challenges to discriminatory practices and fundamental gender roles and ideals, among them its success in Roe v. Wade in 1973, however, also led to an increasing political and social backlash by New Conservatism and the Religious Right. Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" rhetoric catapulted Women of Color to the frontlines of political factional disputes. Moreover, inner frictions and conflicts substantially affected the women's movement, as especially Women of Color, working class women and LGBT activists criticized its universality claim.In this seminar, we will critically examine the variety of goals, participants, social capital, rhetoric, actions, successes and failures of the 20th century women's movement in the United States. We will put a special focus on intersectional aspects: who was and continues to be included in the movement's (or movements'?) definition of "women" and "feminism?" Is the popular "waves" model an adequate representation of the 20th century (US) women's movement? How can marginalized and (ultra-)conservative women activists be positioned towards the movement?