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The Women's Movement of the 1970s as a catalyst
for feminist action today

Sandra Adickes & Ruth Cowan

The social and political environment and the spirit of the times: The Women's Movement of the 1970s provided the foundation for the Women's Movement of today. Ruth Cowan and I were active in the women's movement from its beginnings in New York City, a critical center of the women's movement then. We propose to describe the social and political environment that was suspicious at best and more usually hostile, and to talk of our successful participation, despite that environment, to organize the women faculty and staff at the college where we taught; to organize the women at City University of new York, of which our college was a part; to press through advocacy and litigation for changes in women's status there; to advance the status of women in our respective disciplines; to build women's studies programs; to elect women to state and national public office, and to initiate an international women's movement.

We propose also to capture the spirit of those times. The excitement of working toward changes in the direction of enhancing dignity and enlarging human possibilities, and the joy of collaborating with so many talented and creative women supplied the energy to succeed.

What was achieved? We propose to identify achievements: barriers removed, election and appointment of women to public office, establishment of commissions to advance women's status, enactment of anti-discrimination and affirmative action laws, establishment of women's studies programs, new scholarship and pedagogy, changed expectations regarding career options and family life, and the birth of an international women's movement.

The brief biographies of men who were killed in the WTC attack reveal, according to the NY Times, that they were "a generation of men who defy cultural stereotypes of absent or work-obsessed fathers largely absent from their children's lives." According to one widow whose husband took their children ice-skating or to the library every weekend even if it meant passing up a golf game, "Men are aware now that that's the deal. There's an expectation of equality."

Sadly, Ruth Cowen has had to withdraw from the conference on health grounds.

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