Women Who Make America, Part I
MAKERS follows the profound impact of Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" on the awakening of the women's movement in America in the 1950s and '60s. The idea that women could do anything a man could do began to take hold of American women. Women like Kathrine Switzer, Judy Blume, Gloria Steinem and more began to challenge traditional gender roles.
Women Who Make America, Part I
Women Who Make America, Part II
Women Who Make America, Part III
- A record field of 601 starters brave chilly winds and a steady drizzle in the 71st Boston Marathon.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): The 1967 Boston Marathon was run in some of the worst conditions in race history. While most of the crowd was focused on the front of the pack, another runner was making a stir far behind.
KATHRINE SWITZER: The idea of running long distance was always considered very questionable for women because, you know, an arduous activity would-- would mean that you're going to get big legs and grow a mustache and hair on your chest and your uterus was going to fall out.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): In 1967, Kathrine Switzer was a junior at Syracuse University. Because Syracuse had no women's track team, she began training with the manager of the men's team, a part time mailman named Arnie Briggs.
KATHRINE SWITZER: It was Arnie who told me about the greatest day in his life every year, which was the Boston Marathon. And we were out running and Arnie began telling me another Boston Marathon story. And I said, oh, Arnie, let's just quit talking about the darned marathon and run it. And my dream then became to prove that I could run 26 miles, 385 yards.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): For 70 years the Boston Marathon had excluded women. But Switzer entered using just her initials.
KATHRINE SWITZER: We walked to the start and the gun went off, and down the street we went. So there we were, Arnie Briggs, the 50-year-old mailman, and me, the 20-year-old college student, and my boyfriend Tom Miller, the ex-All American football player. When other runners would come by they would say, oh, it's a girl! And they were so excited.
And all of a sudden the press truck is in front of us. And they're taking pictures of us. On this truck was the race director, a feisty guy by the name of Jock Semple. He just stopped the bus, jumped off, and ran after me. And he just grabbed me and screamed at me, get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers.
He had the fiercest face of any guy I'd ever seen. And all of a sudden, Big Tom, my boyfriend, came with the streak and gave Jock the most incredible cross body block. He sent Jock flying right through the air and landed on the curb. And all of this happened in front of the press truck.
Journalists got very gross. What are you trying to prove? You know, are you a suffragette? Are you a crusader? Whatever that is, you know.
And I said, what? I'm just trying to run. Then it got very quiet. Snow's coming down. Nobody's saying anything.
And I turned to Arnie and I said, Arnie, I'm going to finish this race on my hands my knees if I have to. If I don't finish this race then everybody's going to believe women can't do it. I've got to finish this race. I finished that race in four hours 20 minutes.
It wasn't until we stopped on the throughway to get an ice cream and some coffee that we see the newspapers and the coverage, front and back, of all the different editions with pictures. I realized that now this was very, very important. And this was going to change my life. And it was probably going to change women's sports.
There is an expression in the marathon that you do go through sort of a lifetime of experience. And I often say that I started the Boston Marathon as a girl and I finished the Boston Marathon as a grown woman.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): For the high school graduates of the 1950s, life looked good. America was booming, creating a prosperous new middle class. For boys, the future held almost limitless possibilities. But society did not see as much promise for girls.
JUDY BLUME: You go to college. You get a degree in education in case god forbid you ever have to go to work. And while you're there, you damn well better meet the man you're going to marry because otherwise where else are you going to meet him?
All the women I know married before we were out of college. We didn't have a chance to grow up. We didn't have a chance to find out what we might have been able to do.
PATRICIA SCHROEDER: There were an awful lot who thought you should get your MRS degree-- you know, I mean. And then you were going to be taken care of. It was like you were carried away on this wonderful barge and life was good from then on.
JUDY BLUME: As each girl got engaged in my class, they would raise their hands like this so that you could see the diamond. That's what it was about-- the ring, the silver pattern, the china. I was pregnant by the time I graduated. And I hung my diploma over the washing machine.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): For middle class American women, the ideal was to get married and then to cheerfully assume their proper place in the home as wives and mothers.
- (SINGING) I wish-- I just wish I had a decent kitchen.
ALIX KATES SHULMAN: I turned 20 in 1952. There was very heavy propaganda everywhere to live the good life, which meant in a small house, with your children and your husband, preferably in the suburbs, and that was it.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Everywhere it seemed the culture was reinforcing the image of the happy homemaker
GLORIA STEINEM: You were supposed to be always perky and pretty and cheerful, never to have moods, and never to be serious either. I don't remember any actual serious smart woman in television or in advertising in those years.
- Wife, I said, pay attention because I'm going to teach you how to make coffee.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): It wasn't always so for American women.
- The girl I left behind has the job I left behind.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): During World War II, many women were working in factories, building the tanks and airplanes vital to the war effort.
- In the United States today, no large business office or store could even hope to function efficiently without women.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): By the early 1950s, female workers had swapped tanks and airplanes for typewriters and mimeograph machines. Though the number of women in the workplace gradually increased throughout the decade, their jobs were almost always low paying and dead end.
LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN: When I first got out of college and applied for jobs, there were pink cards in the employment agencies for women to fill out and blue cards for men to fill out. If you opened The New York Times you saw help wanted men, help wanted women. And you could not apply for a job in the men's column because you wouldn't get through the door. There was absolutely no way of crossing that barrier.
- Your high score on the scholastic aptitude test indicates that you can become a good secretary.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): As dismal as were the jobs held by most white women, they were high paid careers next to those available to African-Americans.
RUTH SIMMONS: I had one goal and that was, if only I could one day work in an office, because every woman that I knew was doing housework. By that I mean they were maids.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Even those women advantaged by the best educations had almost no shot at a high paying professional job.
SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR: At the law school there was a bulletin board. And it had notices on it from many law firms-- Stanford Law graduates, give us a call! I called every phone number on the bulletin board. They said oh, well, we didn't mean women. We don't hire women.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Even if they held jobs for a time most middle class women eventually became homemakers. Tucked behind white picket fences they were supposed to be settled and happy. Some were, but more and more felt like something was missing.
STEPHANIE COONTZ: Here they were. They had better lives than their mothers or their grandmothers. They were living in better homes. And they were thinking to themselves, I ought to be the happiest person in the world. But they weren't.
JUDY BLUME: I lived on a cul-de-sac in suburban New Jersey, maybe 30 houses. And there wasn't one woman in any of those houses who worked. And when I started to do this, when I wanted to write, they laughed at me. They laughed at me. What makes you think you can do this?
ROSE GARRITY: There was something wrong with you if you weren't happy. You weren't normal somehow. You weren't-- you weren't doing what you were supposed to do as a wife and a mother. And if you had four beautiful children like I did, how could you possibly complain about your-- your life? I felt inside very alienated from the world. I felt there was something horrifically wrong with me that I would want anything other than what I had.
- A year ago, this woman heaved a brick through the rose colored picture window of the American suburban bungalow and invited the resident housewife to take a clear look at the outside world. This book has sold more than 50,000 copies in the hardcover edition, and 700,000 have been published in paperback.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): In 1963, a writer named Betty Friedan published "The Feminine Mystique," her scathing expose of the happy homemaker myth.
BETTY FRIEDAN: "The Feminine Mystique" has made us feel it's unfeminine to use our rights, to really want equality, to want to take part in the decisions of the world, in politics. Career woman almost became a dirty word.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Betty Friedan had given up the chance for an academic career to become a homemaker and part time journalist in the 1950s. Feeling there was something missing in her own life, she wondered if other women felt the same way.
SARA M. EVANS: She decided to interview her old classmates at Smith prior to a reunion. In doing that, she surfaced a deep sense of malaise among women who had very fine educations and then felt that they really didn't have choices, that there were no avenues for their talents, and were caught in some profound way.
BETTY FRIEDAN: A woman today has been made to feel freakish and alone and guilty if simply she wants to be more than her husband's wife, her children's mother, if she really wants to use her abilities in society.
ERICA JONG: Everybody read "The Feminine Mystique." And of course we all had mothers who suffered from the problem that has no name. They didn't know what was wrong. Why were they not satisfied by the three children and the perfect house?
MARLO THOMAS: Up until that time, I was thinking that I was just different. A lot of my girlfriends were getting married straight out of college. And I was thinking, I don't want to do that at all. But reading that book let me know that there were masses of women who felt differently. And that-- it was stunning.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): But to the women content with their traditional roles, "The Feminine Mystique" felt like a slap in the face.
CAROLYN GRAGLIA: I first read "The Feminine Mystique" in the winter of 1964. I felt personally judged. All these things that women at home can do which are extremely worthwhile to society were dismissed as dilettantism, and unworthy of any respect.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): However it was received, Betty Friedan's book was certainly timely, as women's rights was beginning to surface as a national issue. In 1963, President Kennedy issued a report finding widespread discrimination against women in the workplace.
- It was an historic occasion, the passage of the civil rights bill.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): The next year. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Title VII of the act barred unequal treatment on the basis of race or religion. In a surprise last minute move, Congress included a ban on gender discrimination as well.
Few took the provision on gender seriously. Even the director of the Equal Opportunity Employment commission, the new agency created to enforce the law, called it a fluke. Aileen Hernandez, who had risen through the ranks of the labor movement, was the only woman on the commission.
AILEEN HERNANDEZ: Some of our commissioners were not taking action because essentially they were dealing with the race issues that they were familiar with. The first case that I remember that we really had a big discussion about sex discrimination was the airlines.
JEAN MONTAGUE: We were the first jet setters. Walking down the street in your uniform, you could turn a head. People would go, mm-hm, mm-hm. I heard that airlines were having an interview in town. Was in a motel and they would call them in one at a time. And it was my turn to go into the bedroom and the first thing he said was, was hold up your skirt. And I said, excuse me? And he said, let me see your legs.
- An important part of this crew is the smiling stewardess. To qualify at most airlines, you must be single and between the ages of 21 and 28. You must be between 5'2 and 5'6 inches of height and of normal weight.
JEAN MONTAGUE: They taught us how to put makeup on and how to do our hair, how to squat down so you didn't show anything if you're going to be in the aisle and you had to kneel down.
DUSTY ROADS: They would give us girdle checks. You had to wear girdles. Everything was checked-- uniform clean, makeup good, everything right down the aisle. It was almost like, open your mouth, let me check your teeth like a horse.
JEAN MONTAGUE: When I started flying, I was 26 at the time. I thought, oh man, I could make a whole career out of this. And then I realized that I can't. They're going to fire me when I'm 32 years old.
DUSTY ROADS: In 1953, anyone who was hired after that date was fired at age 32. That was it. They came on the airplane with the-- with the bundle of roses and said goodbye.
JEAN MONTAGUE: I was called in to the supervisor's office and she said, well, happy birthday. And thank you very much, but you know what that means, don't you? At 32, I was too old to be out in public anymore. You should be home married and having children. You shouldn't be on the airplane. Leave that up to the young pretty girls.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Furious, the stewardesses marched to Washington to file a claim with the Equal Opportunity Employment commission.
DUSTY ROADS: We were the first case. We went down July 1st, 1965, the EEOC in Washington, walked in. They hadn't even unpacked the typewriter.
JEAN MONTAGUE: The EEOC expected mainly black people coming in. And to see two white women coming in there saying, I'm just being discriminated against because of my age-- that was just kind of peculiar.
AILEEN HERNANDEZ: We're getting complaints from every place at this point in time on the issue of race. Nobody had done anything on the issue of discrimination against women, and they suddenly had to do something.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): But in fact, the EEOC did nothing. Under pressure from the airlines they refused to act.
AILEEN HERNANDEZ: I quit. I quit because we were not moving on any of these cases. I had learned a long time ago when, if you do your best to get something done and if it's not moving you don't stay there and keep waiting for it to move. You go out somewhere and start pushing them to move.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Aileen Hernandez joined a small group of female lawyers and politicians who had watched and waited in vain for the EEOC to act.
STEPHANIE COONTZ: These women were extremely frustrated when they discovered that they could not push the EEOC to go further. They had this very exciting meeting at which they decided, we're going to go outside the bounds of the structure. We're going to form our own organization.
AILEEN HERNANDEZ: Betty Friedan came up with the name, National Organization for Women. She and two other people worked on the declaration. And they finally have an organization.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): The National Organization for Women, or NOW, invited Betty Friedan to be its first president.
- What is it you're trying to do?
BETTY FRIEDAN: Well, we are really trying to do something about for instance the conditions that prevent women from easily combining marriage and motherhood and work in the professions.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Like the NAACP, NOW chose a legal strategy, looking for test cases they could use to challenge discriminatory laws. They focused on an obscure case wending its way through the Georgia courts in the fall of 1967. Lorena Weeks was a telephone operator in Wadley, Georgia, struggling to get by with three children. She sued Southern Bell because they had blocked her advancement in the company.
LORENA WEEKS: I worked because I had to. I didn't have any other choice. There was just a lot of jobs that women were not allowed to do-- cable repairman, a toll test, a switchman, it just goes on and on and on. And I was always looking, if-- if there was any way any one of those jobs came open, I would want it because it meant so much more money.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): When an opening for switchman came up, Weeks applied. By Southern Bell's own seniority rules, the job should have been hers.
LORENA WEEKS: It was maintaining the equipment within the central office. And it's just as easy as it could be and just so much phone.
- Weeks' application was turned down. She was told by her superior that the job was reserved for men.
LORENA WEEKS: He says, Lorena, I have nothing against you but you know if you win this position, we'll have to give it to other women. I said, well that's exactly what this is all about. He said, well, you know the man's the breadwinner in the family. I said, oh, no. When I go through the grocery line in the grocery store, they don't push back the loaf of bread and say, you're a nice little lady. You can have this $0.10 cheaper just because I'm a woman.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Weeks sued Southern Bell. In court, the company successfully argued that they were merely protecting women from having to lift equipment weighing as much as 30 pounds.
LORENA WEEKS: Most any woman, if they ever held a baby they could lift 30 pounds. It wasn't a protective thing to keep women out of these jobs. It was keeping them away from making more money.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): The National Organization for Women provided a young lawyer, Sylvia Roberts, to handle Weeks' appeal. During the trial, Roberts arranged for several objects weighing more than 30 pounds to be brought into the courtroom.
SYLVIA ROBERTS: These pieces of equipment were supposed to be beyond Lorraine's capability. And I lifted all of those. And I pointed out that I wasn't even an average sized woman.
LORENA WEEKS: Sylvia was a tiny little woman. She couldn't weigh 100 pounds. She was a little thing.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Even after Roberts' demonstration the case dragged on for nearly two years. But Weeks refused to give up.
LORENA WEEKS: Why'd I fight so long? Because I knew, like myself and my mother, how hard you had to work to make a living. A lone woman has to work and-- and pay debts just like the man does.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Finally, in March 1969, a federal appeals court ruled in Weeks' favor, stating that Title VII rejects this type of romantic paternalism. The promise of Title VII is that women are now to be on equal footing.
SYLVIA ROBERTS: Weeks' case gave momentum to NOW because it showed that we, as women, could use the system, that we could achieve this equality under the law. It wasn't fanciful. It wasn't pie in the sky. It could be done and we did it.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): From the Weeks case, NOW moved on to other important victories, including the end of segregated help wanted ads and male only clubs and restaurants. But the organization and the movement itself were limited, concerned largely with the travails of white middle class women.
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Black women were initially perplexed about how they should respond to the women's movement. Its first face was a white face. They associated white women with white men, that meant white privilege. How are we to respond?
BEVERLY GUY-SHEFTALL: I think feminism was perceived to be white women's work, not black women's work. And I think feminism was perceived to be something that you needed to stay away from because it wasn't going to help African-American community.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): For most black women, the preoccupations of middle class white women seemed a world away.
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Here we were, we who were black women, unable to raise our families if two people didn't get out and work. And what you have among white people are women who have the leisure to sit at home. What do we have in common with those people?
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): For years, black women had been lending their energy to the civil rights movement, excelling as organizers and occasionally assuming highly public leadership roles.
DIANE NASH: Now is the time to be aware of what's going on in the state of Mississippi.
I remember the day that I realized that I could be a principal in my own life. And that was really a revelation thought.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Many college-age white women flocked south to join the struggle, where they were inspired by the example of their black sisters.
SHEILA TOBIAS: My first employment in the civil rights movement had me working for a black woman. She was not only the first black woman I'd ever had as a boss, she was the first woman I'd ever had as a boss. It was the beginning of my own emancipation.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Radicalized by their experiences in civil rights, these younger women began to look at their own lives differently.
DIANE NASH: We were talking about freedom and equality. And some of the women who were in the civil rights movement started applying the principles to themselves as women.
GLORIA STEINEM: Women could not fail but make the comparison with race and understand that just as there needed to be a racial liberation movement, there needed to be a women's liberation movement. Whenever one person stands up and says, wait a minute this is wrong, it helps other people to do the same.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): The civil rights and anti-war movements not only inspired younger women, but also exposed them to deep sexism even within their own ranks.
CHARLOTTE BUNCH: My experience in those movements was suddenly one of discovering that I was a natural leader and yet men were not letting me, and other women, rise as natural leaders.
ROBIN MORGAN: A woman and her man would come home from demonstrations exhausted from being beat up by cops or being busted or whatever. And he would lie down on the sofa and wipe the tear gas out of his eyes and say, wow, that was really hard. And she'd say, yeah, and wipe the tear gas out of her eyes and go and make dinner.
The bad behavior by guys in the left was particularly heartbreaking to us because we were young, idealistic women thinking we were making the revolution together. Out of that context, the first autonomous radical feminist groups began to form.
HEATHER BOOTH: It was a campus meeting of students for a democratic society. And I was talking before the group and one of the guys in the group said, ah, shut up. And I finished speaking, and then went around the room and tapped all the women on the soldier-- who were probably over 50% of the people there-- and said, let's leave and go upstairs and talk on our own.
RUTH ROSEN: These women were angry and they were organized from having been in other movements. They were disciplined. And they knew how to create a movement. They had done it. They'd done it with men. Now they could do it for themselves.
RITA MAE BROWN: All over America, pretty much spontaneously almost, in college communities in big cities, these groups would develop. And what came out of it was similar problems, similar ways of being treated by the world, and often similar desires.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): These young women had a much more sweeping vision of change than their sisters in NOW. They called it women's liberation.
GLORIA STEINEM: It was heady and exciting and naive, imagining that if we just explained it to people, you know, it's so unjust, that surely it would change.
- Marriage is, as I've said, is unpaid labor. I mean, no woman-- it's a free household slave for each man.
- And society itself would have to take major collective responsibility for the care and the rearing of children.
- Every man oppresses women. I mean, they have the-- the chance to oppress the women they marry.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Meeting in small groups, women began to discuss their private experiences for the first time. They called it consciousness raising.
BYLLYE AVERY: Consciousness raising was the thing. That is how we learned about our lives. That is how we learned that we were not alone in what was happening to us.
ROBIN MORGAN: These first small groups began to compare notes. And whenever an oppressed people compare notes, it's just bloody dynamite, you know, because first of all it's the, [GASP] you, too, moment.
LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN: What we discovered was, we all had fathers who browbeat our mothers. We all went out for jobs and only found that we could look in the women jobs wanted column. We all faked orgasms.
- Did I ever fake an orgasm? Oh, you bet I faked an orgasm. Oh! Oh! Oh!
BYLLYE AVERY: You gotta understand, our minds were being blown. Everything was wide open. And it was a very scary, fertile, exciting, exhilarating, time.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): The new ideas of women's liberation, born in consciousness raising groups, jumped from campus to campus and city to city.
It spread very, very fast. I can't believe how fast it spread. So many radical ideas could be passed on. For example, there would be a conference at Berkeley and all these pamphlets about sexuality, about child care, about education-- any item that affected women, all these pamphlets would be sitting on a table. Where did they come from?
LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN: I read my way into feminism. I read "The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm" I read "Housework is a Women's Issue." I read stuff I would never have encountered otherwise that radicalized me.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Women drew from their most intimate personal experiences a whole new world view. They coined a phrase for it-- the personal is political.
ALIX KATES SHULMAN: It was as if a great floodlight had gone on and illuminated not only all of my experience but everything in the world. And I was able to see how everything that I had thought about or cared about was connected. And there was so much to be done.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): In 1968, women's liberationists introduced themselves to the American public with a protest against one of America's most cherished institutions.
ROBIN MORGAN: Girls all over the country would watch the Miss America Pageant and think, ah! That's the model. That's what I've got to be like.
- The winner should have talent, looks, personality, looks, poise, and looks.
ROBIN MORGAN: They were supposed to have a talent, like baton twirling, but not to be an artist. They were supposed to feel comfortable in high heels and bathing suits parading around while men whistled.
- This year's crop seems to be the most beauteous bevy of breathtaking beauties in decades.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): At the time of the Miss America Pageant, Robin Morgan was an anti-war activist.
ROBIN MORGAN: I announced that I was thinking of organizing this thing at Atlantic City. And all of the men couldn't believe it. And they said, but that's just a women's thing. How can you-- you know, I mean, it's just a Miss America. Oh my god.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): On September 7th, Morgan and hundreds of other women gathered on the boardwalk outside the Atlantic City convention center.
ROBIN MORGAN: We did have a sense of humor and we had a certain panache of outrageousness.
- No more pain! No more trying to hold up fat in vain!
ALIX KATES SHULMAN: We had a freedom trash can in which we threw what we called objects of women's oppression, like brooms, and dust pans, and curlers, high-heeled shoes, and bras, and girdles-- oh, those girdles.
JACQUI CEBALLOS: I threw my 16-year-old son's "Playboy" magazines in it. And I said something like, women use your brains!
- --not your bodies.
ROBIN MORGAN: We crowned a live sheep on the boardwalk, because Miss America and the contestants were sheep. I disagreed with this. First of all, it was unfair to the sheep.
ALIX KATES SHULMAN: At a certain point, a small group went inside. They had a huge banner with the words, women's liberation. And when the TV cameras were panning the audience up in the balcony, they unfurled the banner. And all over the country everybody saw those words, women's liberation.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Though few in number, women's liberationists knew how to turn bold public actions into media coverage, expanding the reach of their ideas.
ROBIN MORGAN: 30 seconds on the 6:00 news was more important than leafleting on a corner on the Lower East Side for six years.
ALIX KATES SHULMAN: Somebody would come up with a great idea. Then it would just go like wildfire through this small community of radical feminists. The date would be set and we would just show up.
- Oh, you're the strong silent. Those men, those sex objects.
ALIX KATES SHULMAN: There was the whistling on Wall Street.
- Those pants, they just bring out your best.
ALIX KATES SHULMAN: We all went down there and started pinching the guys who came out of the offices.
- Oh, what a chapeau.
- Oh, those glasses. I like them with glasses.
ALIX KATES SHULMAN: Whispering in their ears and pawing them. They didn't like it at all.
- Look at the legs on that one!
- Women militants, objecting to what they consider male supremacy, have been making themselves heard rather widely recently. Today their target was the male editor of a magazine for women.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Women's magazines provided a particularly rich target for women's liberation.
Read by millions, "Glamour," "Redbook," and especially "The Ladies Home Journal" promoted a stereotype of the happy homemaker loathed by feminists.
LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN: Women's magazines were reporting on how to make potholders into lampshades, 42 ways to make hamburger, how to make your husband happy.
SUSAN BROWNMILLER: I had suggested it would be a really interesting idea to have a sit-in at one of these big slick women's magazines that was run by a man. And then someone in the group said, how about "The Ladies Home Journal?"
ALIX KATES SHULMAN: The day of the takeover, we met outside the building where "The Ladies Home Journal" offices were. We were all dressed like ladies in skirts. We went into the building in very small groups of three or four people so that they wouldn't know anything was going on. Eventually, we got inside the office of the editor in chief and said that we weren't going to leave until he gave us the opportunity to have a whole issue.
- What are you going to do about them? Are you going to negotiate with these girls?
- I'm going to.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): The editor of "The Ladies Home Journal" was a soft spoken southerner named John Mack Carter.
- This tiny man, you know, and he was sitting at this big desk with the little woman who was his assistant helping him, trying to talk to us.
- I think women's liberation is very weak on.
- What do you think of the demand?
- We demand that the magazine cease to further the exploitation of women by publishing ads from companies that exploit women in terms of salary and job discrimination.
- How do you determine that?
- Here's one!
- It's an advertisement for Jell-o pudding tarts. And it shows even a dumb woman who doesn't know what an assistant vise president does can make Jell-o pudding tarts.
SUSAN BROWNMILLER: The emotions were high. Our sit-in lasted 11 hours before we came to a compromise. We were prepared to stay all night.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Exhausted, Carter finally agreed to give the occupiers eight pages in an upcoming issue to write whatever they wanted. Spurred by women's liberationists, the movement looked for a way to make an even splashier public statement.
- Theoretically, August the 26th next could be an awful day for American males. That is the 50th anniversary of women's suffrage and to celebrate it, the women's liberation movement proposes a nationwide strike.
- Come join us in the march tomorrow.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): On August 26th, feminist leaders summoned women all over the country for a show of force.
ALIX KATES SHULMAN: It was to be the first mass demonstration of the movement. We didn't have any idea how mass it would be until it happened.
JACQUI CEBALLOS: I was scared to death that I would get to Fifth Avenue and see only a small group. When I got to 59th Street, I couldn't believe it.
There were thousands and thousands and you couldn't see the end of it.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): In New York and cities across the country, women marched.
ALIX KATES SHULMAN: At first, the police gave us two lanes. But by the time everybody had gotten together it was clear that two lanes wouldn't begin to contain us. So we spilled over and we took over the entire Fifth Avenue.
- It was so joyous. We were running and skipping and jumping. And there were children and there were men. We took the whole street.
GLORIA STEINEM: There were women hanging out of the office building windows, cleaning women and secretaries. And-- and they would come down. Marching on Fifth Avenue for ourselves had a great feeling of exhilaration and freedom and community in a-- community isn't exactly enthusiastic enough-- a contagiousness.
- When do we want it?
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): No sooner had the marches ended, however, than the national media sneered at them.
- Are you going to act like ladies today?
- Well, we are women. We act like women.
- Why do you have such a small turnout here today?
SUSAN J. DOUGLAS: The tone of much of the coverage of the women's movement was dismissive. It undercounted the number of women who were demonstrating. It suggested that the women who were demonstrating were not representative of everyday women.
- The plain truth is that most American men are startled by the idea that American women generally are oppressed. And they've read with relief the Gallup poll showing that two thirds of the women don't think they're oppressed either.
BARBARA WALTERS: The general perception was, it's a small group of unsatisfied women.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Barbara Walters was one of the few women to fight her way into the exclusive men's club of network news in the 1960s.
BARBARA WALTERS: The so-called women's movement was heating up. And I remember sending a memo to the president then of NBC News saying, shouldn't we do something on the woman's movement? And scrawled on the top of my memo it said, not enough interest.
- With so many feminists in the world today, is a woman's place in the home?
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Sometimes television talk show hosts would book radical feminists just to confront them.
- The feminists who are here tonight do not believe a woman's place is in the home, right?
- Of course not. It's a very oppressive concept. It's being used to oppress women and to make them think they're lucky to be slaves.
- How many women in the home are slaves?
- All women are slaves.
- All of them.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Sure enough, the strident views of radical feminists shocked and repelled many Americans.
CAROLYN GRAGLIA: What I objected to was that they were attacking what I was doing. They weren't talking just about themselves. Their point was that we should all feel that way and that there was something really stupid about us if we didn't. It was the attack on our intellectual capacity, that if we had a brain in our head we couldn't be happy changing that baby's diaper.
BETTY FRIEDAN: The oppression of the blacks--
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Worried about alienating mainstream America, Betty Friedan tried to distance herself, and the movement, from the women's liberationists.
- All that rubbish about slaves, they need to spend three days in a--
BETTY FRIEDAN: They exaggerate, they exaggerate. I'm for motherhood, and I'm for sex, and I'm for men. And two sex society is here to stay. And I deal with the real world!
GLORIA STEINEM: I believe that she was looking to join society as it existed. And the slightly younger parts of the movement were trying to transform society. And those were kind of two different goals.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Friedan was especially wary of lesbians, whom she once referred to as the lavender menace.
SHEILA TOBIAS: She feared our enemies would just disregard us as strange or far out or unnatural. Lesbian women were desperate to join the feminist movement. They were in a way our first feminists, long before we were. And we were not welcoming them.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Like many women, lesbians had found their voices through the women's movement.
CHARLOTTE BUNCH: I grew up in a moment when feminism was about to happen. I was ripe and ready for change.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Charlotte Bunch had married when she was 22 years old. But her world was turned upside down when she met fellow activist Rita Mae Brown.
RITA MAE BROWN: To have somebody like Charlotte in my life-- boom, it was an explosion, you know? It was a dream. I didn't have to explain things to her. She never explained things to me.
CHARLOTTE BUNCH: I came out as a lesbian and was involved in organizing around an understanding of why sexual choice and diversity was such an important issue and why the control of women's sexuality was central to what happened in the women's movement.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): But Bunch and Brown received a cold shoulder from the women's movement itself.
RITA MAE BROWN: Those woman, most of whom were rather privileged and very bright, treated lesbians the way men treated them. That's how it looked to me.
- As long as homosexuals keep their sexual preference in private, the same as adulterers and adulteresses--
CHARLOTTE BUNCH: I think that they were afraid that if we were seen as lesbian it would defeat the whole movement. And what we were trying to say is, you know, that's to give in to the very forces that you're trying to change.
RITA MAE BROWN: Well, the gay women left. What else could they do? If they didn't leave-- leave, they were being thrown out. And when that energy left, the women's movement suddenly became slower, much more-- well, for lack of a better word, tedious.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): It wasn't just lesbians who felt excluded. Women of color also saw little in the movement to move them.
BARBARA SMITH: I was very interested in women's issues because I was experiencing and had experience sexism by that time myself. I just didn't see any place for me in it because it didn't seem to include the concerns and the issues of black women and women of color.
BEVERLY GUY-SHEFTALL: One of the things that women of color and other marginalized women argued is, that then we have to broaden what you consider to be a women's issue. A woman who's living in public housing in urban Atlanta has a very different notion of what constitutes a women's issue than a professional woman trying to break the glass ceiling.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Disaffected African-American women began to talk and write about their own vision of feminism.
- We wanted a feminism that took into account not just gender issues and gender oppression, but racial oppression, class oppression. We just wanted the face we saw in the mirror to be reflected in the organizing we were doing.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): With Betty Friedan unable to bridge the widening rifts in the movement, there was suddenly room for a new leader to emerge.
- Will you welcome, please, Gloria Steinem.
LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN: If we didn't have Gloria, we'd have to send out to central casting for somebody like that, who in her own body and presentation tells you, you can be beautiful and have any man you want and still be critical of men, and still be a little bit angry.
- With all the jokes there are about women's lib and all of that, and then people say yeah, but what have you finally accomplished, really?
GLORIA STEINEM: I think that women are changing the way they're thinking about themselves.
RITA MAE BROWN: She had all these media skills that were so superior to anything anybody else had, plus she's drop dead gorgeous. She transformed the movement. All of a sudden, we had a face. And it wasn't an angry face.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Gloria Steinem grew up in Toledo, Ohio. Her mother had given up a career as a journalist to support her husband's ambitions. Steinem watched her spiral into depression.
GLORIA STEINEM: I can't even emphasize what it's like. It's like giving up being a person. It's giving up your interests, it's giving up what makes you unique, it's giving up what gives you joy, what you love to do, and become an addendum-- a mother of, a wife of.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): As a girl, Steinem saw little hope of avoiding the same fate.
GLORIA STEINEM: The only place I saw female human beings who were doing something different was in the movies. So, I took tap dancing lessons and dancing lessons and I entered contests. Other than that, my ambitions were getting out of Toledo and marrying somebody who had a life I wanted because I didn't think that I could create a life myself.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Steinem arrived in New York in the early '60s hoping to forge her own career in journalism. But she found herself stymied at nearly every turn.
GLORIA STEINEM: I got a few assignments. "The New York Times" assigned me to write about how to put up with an English man. The low point of my life was writing an entire Sunday magazine article about textured stockings for "The New York Times." I tried to write about Mayor Lindsay. They gave me his wife to write about.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): As the women's movement gathered strength, Steinem looked for opportunities to write about it. In 1969 she covered a public hearing on abortion which was interrupted by women wanting to tell their own stories.
- Women are not going to sit quietly any longer! You are murdering us!
GLORIA STEINEM: I had had an abortion when I was newly out of college, and had never told anyone.
- All right, will you please sit down or be removed from the--
- No, we aren't going t sit down. Why don't you give us some solid answers to our questions?
GLORIA STEINEM: I listened to these women testify about all that they had to go through, what it was like to enter into a criminal underground and risk your health and perhaps your life. So I came back and I wrote about it. After I wrote it, my male colleagues on "The New York Magazine" took me aside and they said, look, do not get involved with these crazy women. You know, you've worked hard to be taken seriously. Do not get involved. And I thought, they don't know who I am and it's not their fault because I haven't told them.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Awakened to her own deep anger, Steinem began to speak out in public herself.
GLORIA STEINEM: Two or three years ago, I wouldn't have had the courage to speak before this audience. Now, thanks to the spirit of equality in the air, I no longer accept society's judgment that my group is second class.
I was just caught up in the contagion of it. And it made so much sense of my life and everybody else's life. And I just wanted to say it. I wanted to write it and speak it.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Steinem believed that feminism would never be given a fair hearing in the magazine she wrote for, so she started her own with a group of other successful journalists. They called it, "Ms."
GLORIA STEINEM: Almost all of us had worked for other magazines, especially women's magazines, which we didn't read. They simply didn't say what are the truths of women's lives. And that's basically what we want this to be, a place where women can tell the truth, can read the truth, can get advice.
Welcome to chaos.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): The major media immediately predicted the demise of "Ms."
- They've said it all in the first little issue. I can imagine some stark anti-sexist editorial meeting trying to decide what to do next. After you've gotten marriage contracts, roll exchanging, and the female identity crisis, what do you do? Organic foods for Christmas dinner, I suppose.
LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN: Our first issue sold out in eight days. It was supposed to be on sale for eight weeks. It was the talk of the town. In New York and wherever I went, people were just fascinated because here we were coming along and talking about women who were punched around and fighting back, how to look at your own cervix, how to let your body hair grow because otherwise you're a slave to your tweezers, you know. These were completely astonishing articles. So of course we were the talk of the town.
MEG WHITMAN: When I got to college, "Ms Magazine" and Gloria Steinem made, I think, all women and girls sit up and think, wow. You know, maybe there's-- there's more than meets the eye here. It challenged our own thinking about what we could go and do.
- Who is it you're trying to reach?
GLORIA STEINEM: Everybody. I mean, we-- there is no woman in the country who we are not trying to reach.
SARA M. EVANS: Thousands of women got to know the women's movement through "Ms Magazine," and who would say they felt like they knew Gloria. She created a bridge. And we can know this was true because of the letters that came to "Ms Magazine."
GLORIA STEINEM: They were stories. They were amazing personal responses. I would say the dominant theme was, at last I know I'm not crazy, or at last I know I'm not alone.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): One of the readers of miss was Rose Garrity, a young mother in Binghamton, New York trapped in an abusive marriage.
ROSE GARRITY: There weren't any domestic violence programs back then. Nobody talked about it. It wasn't even whispered any place. I kept hoping it would get better. I kept hoping that it would stop. I'll never forget the "Ms Magazine." That was the first I'd ever heard it mentioned anyplace besides in my own home. And started to have an awareness that this is going on with other people. And it's not so much about me, or us, but that it's a bigger issue.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): Risking the wrath of her husband, Rose smuggled copies of "Ms" and other feminist publications into an old blanket chest in her home.
ROSE GARRITY: If I thought I was going to be alone for an hour, I would slip it out of the blanket, just in-- and read it for a while. "Ms Magazine" was a big lifeline for me because it was my only window into the outside world, a world radically different from where I lived and anything I knew.
- I humbly admit that I was wrong when I predicted that "Ms," the magazine of women's liberation would fold after five or fewer issues. Issue seven is now in the stands. "Ms" has every right to feel proud.
MERYL STREEP (VOICEOVER): As "Ms Magazine" widened the reach of feminism, it helped usher in a new era of the women's movement. In the years to come, the movement would migrate from an outsider's insurgency to the mainstream of American life where it would lay siege to the country's most established institutions, even the relationship between men and women.
[MUSIC PLAYING] NARRATOR: By the 1970s, feminism had taken root spreading from campuses to cities to nearly every household in America. The movement could be felt in every realm of life from politics, to the economy, to the popular culture. Defying old stereotypes, strong, independent women popped up in movies, ads, music, and especially television.
In 1966, a young actress named Marlo Thomas broke a television taboo by playing an unmarried career girl.
MARLO THOMAS: Now, Daddy, just a minute.
NARRATOR: In a new ABC sitcom called "That Girl".
MARLO THOMAS: Yes, Don and I are very fond of each other. But at the moment marriage is the furthest thing from our minds.
- It's time it got a little closer.
MARLO THOMAS: Well, besides, I don't want to get married just yet. I have my career to think about.
I was this young actress, you know, struggling and doing auditions. And I got a call from the head of the network. I said, look, everything I've read that you sent me, the girl is either the daughter of somebody, or the wife of somebody, or the secretary of somebody. Have you ever considered doing a show where the girl is the somebody?
And I took out of my bag a book called The Feminine Mystique, and I put it on his desk. And I said, you really need to read this book. Because this is where it's going.
Today's girls, we don't want to be our mothers. We want something completely different. And the opening night, you know we got a 40 share. A lot of women in those days, like my mother, had given up their dreams. And they were kind of encouraging me to stick with it, kid.
NARRATOR: Following "That Girl", other shows began pushing further into feminist territory. In 1970, CBS broadcast a sitcom about an unmarried news producer in Minneapolis called the "Mary Tyler Moore Show".
- Never married?
MARY TYLER MOORE: No.
MARY TYLER MOORE: Why?
- You type?
MARY TYLER MOORE: Mr. Grant, there's no simple answer to that question.
- Yes there is. How about, no I can't type or yes I can?
- It's a match that's being billed as an epic battle of the sexes.
NARRATOR: Of all the television shows of the early 1970s, one would capture the sheer exhilaration and occasional strangeness of the women's movement better than any other.
The so-called battle of the sexes was a nationally broadcast tennis match pitting former male champion named Bobby Riggs against the best female tennis player in the world, Billie Jean King. King grew up in a working class family, discovering tennis on the public courts in California. As she rose to the top of the women's game, she became converted to feminism by the discrepancy in prize money between male and female players.
BILLIE JEAN KING: 1968 was the first year that we actually got prize money. Rod Laver won Wimbledon, he got 2000 pounds. And I got 750 pounds. It didn't even dawn on me that we would get less.
NARRATOR: In 1970, King started the first women's professional tennis circuit sponsored by cigarette maker, Virginia Slims. As an emerging feminist force King was an irresistible target for Riggs, an unabashed male chauvinist with a gift for self-promotion.
BOBBY RIGGS: The male is king, the male is supreme. I've said it over and over again. I still feel that way. Girls play a nice game of tennis for girls.
BILLIE JEAN KING: Bobby followed me around for three years and I kept telling him no. So he went to Chris Evert, he went to all kinds of players, kept asking them, let's play a match. He asked Margaret Court, she said yes. So she ends up losing, badly.
- There it is. Bobby Riggs wins 6-2, 6-1. Unbelievable.
BILLIE JEAN KING: So I knew I had to play him.
I do think a woman can beat Bobby Riggs. You know, so I really feel the responsibility is in my corner at this particular moment.
NARRATOR: The match between King and Riggs was promoted like a heavyweight prize fight. Riggs appeared everywhere he could, boasting of his impending victory.
BILLIE JEAN KING: We're only in our third year of women's professional tennis. A lot of people don't think we're going to make it. So this is huge. I knew I had to win.
- What a scene it is. Probably more than 30,000 people are in this arena for an all-time record tennis audience anywhere in the world. And here comes Billy Jean King. And she's got the fans here tonight.
BILLIE JEAN KING: My strategy was hit the ball softly as I could, so he had to generate all the power. I dropped shotted, I lobbed, a floated one, I went to net. And I was going run him into the ground.
- But look at how Billie Jean King has been running him over the court. And that's been her principle tactic. To wear him down.
BILLIE JEAN KING: I was so relieved. I was so happy.
ANNOUNCER 2: The winner of the battle of the sexes, Billy Jean King.
BILLIE JEAN KING: That night wasn't about tennis. It was about history. And it was about social change.
NARRATOR: The battle of the sexes was not confined to the tennis court alone. It also spilled over into ordinary homes across the country, confronting husbands and wives with a terrifying question. Could they go on as before?
More and more often, the answer was no. The divorce rate, which had been climbing steadily throughout the 1960s, exploded in the 70s.
NORA EPHRON: No question, that one of the great political acts many of us committed, it felt like a political act, was our first divorce. At the time, it felt like a huge number of revolutions were happening inside people's apartments and houses.
NARRATOR: Feminism wasn't the sole reason for divorce. But it was a catalyst for many women.
JUDY BLUME: It gave me courage to think about a lot of things. And ultimately, probably, to end my marriage. I realized that I wanted more. I wanted to be free. I wanted to be out on the streets. I wanted to be part of what these brave women were part of. It was my own little feminist movement inside me.
NORA EPHRON: Some of the men whose marriages ended in that period were really stunned. Because they hadn't made the deal. The deal got changed. You know, women suddenly sat up and went, exactly why am I doing this? Why are you not taking your dish to the sink?
NARRATOR: Where men could adjust to change, marriages survived. Burt and Letty Porgrebin were married for years before she discovered feminism.
BERT POGREBIN: Before I got married I actually didn't think very much about what roles should be in marriage.
Letty and I were both working. We both had full time jobs. And I think without any discussion she assumed most of the traditional duties. I mean, she never said how about you taking care of dinner? Or how about you shopping? That, of course, came later.
LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN: There was a period of time when I was quite servile, I think. Amazingly blind to how servile I was.
NARRATOR: As Letty became a feminist, the first things she began to change were in her own home.
LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN: My husband and I would finish dinner and I would say, I am not getting up to clear the table. Because, and then I would give him some track that would explain how outrageous it was that a woman would work all day long, come home, make dinner, clear the table, and her husband would just go and sit and read the paper.
BERT POGREBIN: For me, it was an intellectual process. I just saw the logic and the basic fairness of the principles. I couldn't deny them intellectually, so I adopted them.
NARRATOR: Some women went so far as to present their spouses with an ultimatum in writing.
ALIZ KATES SHULMAN: One of the first things that I did as a feminist was to write a marriage agreement between us, whereby we agreed to use 50/50 as the basis for dividing up all of the domestic chores and pleasures. After we wrote this marriage agreement the basis of our marriage changed. And in some ways, he felt that I had changed the rules on him in the middle. Which in truth, I did. But it was that or I couldn't stay in that marriage. It was not an option anymore.
NARRATOR: Nothing shook up marriage in the 1960s and 70s more than a little round pill. As it gained widespread acceptance, the contraceptive pill changed sex for millions of women.
RUTH WESTHEIMER: When the pill came on the market, It was very important. Because it was now women who could decide if they wanted to be pregnant or not.
LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN: The pill was our liberation, truly. It allowed women to make choices that men have always been able to make, as to whether I want to work for the next five years or when I want to start a family, or how many kids I want. Which you know, was men's prerogative from the beginning of time.
NARRATOR: Before the pill, sex for many women had been fraught with worry.
- Jack, please don't do that.
JACK: Don't act like an iceberg all your life.
ALIZ KATES SHULMAN: You could never just relax and give yourself up to the moment. So much was riding, so much was at stake. You didn't dare ever relax.
JUDY BLUME: It's not romantic. It's not fun. You know, fear of getting pregnant kept most of us virgins.
NARRATOR: Betty Dodson was an ingenue new from Kansas when she moved to New York and got married in 1958.
BETTY DODSON: I married Fred. And I'm thrilled to be having comfort. He made a lot of money. I had a credit card. Oh, I went shopping. You know, he bought furniture. We moved to a big apartment. It was all of the luxuries. And I was miserable. Because there was no sex life. I couldn't talk about sex. I couldn't deal with it and neither could he.
NARRATOR: While Dodson endured a sexless marriage the pill brought on a sexual revolution. When her marriage failed she joined it.
BETTY DODSON: I'm now 35. I had this big stretch of life ahead of me. And I meet this English professor. And we got into bed and we stayed there for a year. For the next five years, I was immersed in America's sexual revolution. It was the best time on the planet.
NARRATOR: Feminist writers encouraged women's sexual liberation. Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying" chronicled one woman's exploration of her own libido.
ERICA JONG: Women hadn't written about these things before because they never would have gotten published. In the process of writing "Fear of Flying" I accepted myself as a woman. I accepted that a woman could be a writer. I accepted that a woman could be honest about Her sexual feelings and all her feelings.
NARRATOR: While the pill may have encouraged women to explore their sexuality, it did nothing for those who became pregnant. Once they crossed that line women lost the ability to control their own bodies.
GLORIA STEINEM: Everything relating to reproduction was and is a focus of the movement because it's the whole ballgame. Whether you can decide to have children is the biggest determinant of your whole life, whether you're free or not, educated or not, healthy or not, how long you live. And it was just a daily concern.
- I'm pregnant.
- That's why I'm running away from home.
NARRATOR: Doctors and public health officials had been campaigning for years to make safe abortions available. But in 1970 abortion was still illegal in most states.
- We;ve got to do something.
- We do. What can we do?
SHEILA TOBIAS: It was criminal. Everybody was criminal the doctor who performed it, and the woman who had an abortion. She was criminal, never the man who might have gotten her pregnant. It was a criminal act. And it was a shameful act.
NARRATOR: With few options, women would quietly whisper to each other about what to do and where to go.
FAITH RINGGOLD: I remember women would come, my mothers friends, wonderful women. And they would come and they'd say, well, you know, I'm pregnant again. And I can't have a baby because Joe is not working, or you know his work is not steady. And we can't afford it. My mother had a doctor who would provide an abortion. And she would give them the doctor's name. However, you had to have the money. And you had to have the connection.
RUTH WESTHEIMER: Only women with money could obtain an abortion. They could fly to Mexico or to Europe. The others resorted to coathangers and to abortionists.
- The facts are astonishing. One out of every five pregnancies in the United States is terminated. 350,000 women a year suffer post-operative complications. 5,000 of these women die.
FAYE WATTELTON: Women would come in perfectly healthy-looking. These were not sick, and wasted, and debilitated. They were perfectly healthy young women who would just simply die from septicaemia, from massive blood infections.
- This young lady came admitting that she had opened out a hairpin, placed it within the cervix, and according to the folklore left it for one day. And it has risen within the uterus beyond our abilities to remove it.
NARRATOR: For years, a curtain of shame and secrecy kept abortion laws from even being discussed, much less changed. But the case of one Arizona woman finally forced the issue into the open. Her name was Sherri Finkbine.
SHERRI CHESSEN FINKBINE: I was a happily married young mother with four small children. I had the dream job doing "Romper Room", five live hours a week on television. And I was pregnant for the fifth time. Well, in my pregnancies, morning sickness was very real. And I remembered some medicine that my husband had secured in England the summer before.
NARRATOR: Unbeknownst to Finkbine, the medication she had taken, thalidomide, caused severe birth defects in children.
SHERRI CHESSEN FINKBINE: My doctor said, Sherri, I'm telling you the same thing I would tell my own wife. Let's terminate the pregnancy and start again next month under better odds.
NARRATOR: Finkbine's doctor arranged for her to have a so-called therapeutic abortion in an Arizona hospital. But she was plagued by the thought that other women might also have taken thalidomide unknowingly.
SHERRI CHESSEN FINKBINE: I started having this overwhelming feeling that I should call the paper and have them do an article.
NARRATOR: The next day the Arizona Republic printed an article about Finkbine's case. Though it did not use her name, there were enough identifying details that she could no longer remain anonymous.
SHERRI CHESSEN FINKBINE: My doctor called us in and he said your operation has been cancelled. I was ultimately thrown out by my doctor, the hospital, Phoenix, the state of Arizona, and the United States of America.
NARRATOR: Finkbine traveled to Sweden to undergo a legal abortion.
SHERRI CHESSEN FINKBINE: I don't want to get back at anybody. I don't feel bitter towards anyone. I don't feel bitter towards people who oppose this religiously. I only hope that they can feel that we're doing what's best in our case. And could feel some of what's in my heart in trying to prevent a tragedy from happening.
I was never allowed to do "Romper Room" again. An NBC official said that I was now unfit to handle children. I would get threats. The FBI had to come in and physically escort my kids to school for about a month and a half.
NARRATOR: But the very public nature of Sherri Finkbine's case helped break the silence about abortion.
FAYE WATTELTON: The Sherri Finkbine experience informed a public conversation. Because here was a white, middle class woman, a television personality, did not fit the mischaracterization of women who have unintended pregnancies. She had a husband. She had means.
NARRATOR: With the silence broken, movement leaders sought to incite a public conversation about abortion.
GLORIA STEINEM: Listen honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.
NARRATOR: In 1972, a group of high profile women, including Billie Jean King, Nora Ephron, and Gloria Steinem signed a petition declaring their own abortions. The next year Ms. Magazine published a shocking photo of a young woman dead on a hotel room floor after trying to end her own pregnancy.
GLORIA STEINEM: felt it was very important to show the cost of illegal, criminal abortion. One in three American women then and now has needed an abortion at some time in her life. Why was this criminal and dangerous?
NARRATOR: Though it was particularly galling, the ban on abortion was far from the only legal obstacle faced by feminists in the early 1970s. As women sought change, they often found that the worst discrimination was enshrined in the law.
ELEN GOODMAN: People remember that women were discriminated against. What people have forgotten is that it was a legal.
SARA M. EVANS: Women couldn't serve on juries in many states.
HILLRY CLINTON: There were colleges I couldn't apply to. There were scholarships I was not entitled to.
GLORIA STEINEM: When I came to New York and tried to get an apartment, I discovered that landlords felt single women couldn't earn enough to pay for the apartment. Then if you could earn enough, you must be a hooker.
- Credit cards. The most convenient substitute for cash mankind has ever devised.
SARAH WEDDINGTON: When I went and applied for a credit card, the guy said, you've got to have your husband's signature. And I thought, I'm putting him through law school. Why should I have to get his signature?
RUTH BADER GINSBURG: The notebooks were riddled with sex-based distinctions.
NARRATOR: A young law professor named Ruth Bader Ginsburg set out to prove that laws treating men and women differently were inherently unfair. After attending Harvard and Columbia Law schools, where she earned top grades, Ginsburg could not get hired by a law firm. And eventually took a job with the American Civil Liberties Union. From there, she would bring a series of cases in the early 1970s.
RUTH BADER GINSBURG: That strategy was the soul of simplicity. It was to go after the stereotypes that were written into law.
NARRATOR: An early case involved a female lieutenant in the Air Force who did not get the same medical and housing benefits for her husband as male officers received for their wives. Ginsburg argued the case in the Supreme Court.
RUTH BADER GINSBURG: These are the most important judges in the United States. They knew nothing about the disadvantages that gender lines in the law meant in the lives of people. I would say first, terribly nervous, and then looked up the justices and thought to myself, I have a captive audience. They have to listen to me. They have no place to go.
RUTH BADER GINSBURG: These distinctions help keep a woman in her place, a place inferior to that occupied by men.
NARRATOR: Ginsburg won the case 8 to 1.
RUTH BADER GINSBURG: Once the court said, this violates equal protection, we knew that the time was right to continue along that path.
NARRATOR: While Ginsburg and other lawyers attacked discriminatory statutes already on the books, feminists decided that the only way to make sure new laws were fair would be to write them themselves.
PATRICIA SCHROEDER: I can tell you that when I started to run, I was the laughingstock of the city.
NARRATOR: In 1972 a Democrat named Patricia Schroeder ran for Congress in a heavily Republican district in Colorado. Part of a vanguard of new, female politicians.
Though she'd been a labor lawyer, an early member of NOW, Schroeder had next to no political experience.
PATRICIA SCHROEDER: The way I came to run for Congress in 1972 was probably the most unplanned thing ever. My husband was on a committee looking for someone to run. So Jim came home one night and said, guess whose name came up at the meeting? I said, I don't know. He said, yours. I said, mine, I haven't even run for a bus. What are you talking about?
Part of our being able to operate differently is my being a woman. When I announced, one of the papers said Denver housewife announces for Congress. No one would have anything to do with me except the local people in Denver. And that's all I needed. Next thing I know is, we've won this thing. When
- When the 93rd Congress begins its work in January, it will have more women members than ever before. 14. Some of the new congresswomen have arrived in Washington with their husbands. And that is causing some confusion.
PATRICIA SCHROEDER: When I got to Washington, everybody one to swear in my husband Jim. They'd tell him to raise his right hand and he'd say, it's her.
NARRATOR: When Pat Schroeder was sworn in to the 93rd Congress she brought the number of female representatives to 14 out of 435.
SARAH WEDDINGTON: Do I say Mrs. Congressman? Or Miss Congresswoman? Or--
SHIRLEY CHISHOLM: No, just say congresswoman.
SHIRLEY CHISHOLM: Yeah.
NARRATOR: Brooklyn-born Shirley Chisholm had defied party bosses to run in 1969 becoming the first African-American woman in Congress.
SHIRLEY CHISHOLM: Racism and anti-feminism are two of the prime traditions of this country.
NARRATOR: Though she never received a major party nomination, Chisholm became the first African-American woman to run for president. She helped bridge an old divide between African-American women and the women's movement.
SHIRLEY CHISHOLM: In the field of politics I have much more discrimination against women than being black.
LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN: She said, I've been discriminated against more often as a woman than as an African-American. That was a very big admission. It helped the women's movement integrate in ways that seemed organic.
NARRATOR: Another important Congresswoman from New York was the pugnacious and outspoken Bella Abzug.
BELLA ABZUG: We're going to have to fight the entrenched male political bureaucracies. We might even have to be pushing.
PATRICIA SCHROEDER: Men run and no one questions what they want. Women run and they say, what do they want? And you say, human priorities. You know, that's all I want.
NARRATOR: These pioneering female politicians faced withering sexism. Exasperated, Pat Schroeder once called Congress an overaged frat house.
PATRICIA SCHROEDER: I often felt that I was triggering some gut reaction in men that I didn't know what it was. The question was asked, how can you be a mother and a Congresswoman? I said, I have a brain, I have a uterus, and they both work.
NARRATOR: When Schroeder arrived in office Congress had just passed one of the most important pieces of feminist legislation in its history, Title IX.
- The ruling means most universities will have to greatly expand their intercollegiate sports programs for women if they wish to continue to receive federal funds.
NARRATOR: Title IX compelled colleges and universities that received federal grants to offer women the same opportunities as men. Most notably, in their sports programs.
MEG WHITMAN: I think sports made a huge difference to women my age.
NARRATOR: Meg Whitman, the future head of Hewlett Packard was in the first generation to benefit from Title IX.
MEG WHITMAN: I played every sport that could be played. And I loved every moment of it. And I learned some things that have stood me in really good stead in my career. How do you relate to your teammates? How do you play your position? One for all, all for one. And I think it was very helpful to a whole generation of women.
KATHERINE SWITZER: It was profound. There isn't a girl in this country who should grow up with a sense of limitation with Title IX behind her.
NARRATOR: Title IX's impact was not limited to college athletics.
SUSAN LOVE: Everybody thinks about Title IX in relation to sports. But the first things that went down with Title IX were actually the medical schools and the law schools.
NARRATOR: When Susan Love enrolled in medical school in 1970 there was virtually no prospect of her one day becoming one of the leading breast cancer researchers in America.
SUSAN LOVE: Those were still the days of quotas in medical schools for women. Medical schools took 5% women. And that was it. I went to NYU, Columbia, they said, we already took our 5%, sorry. One year, in '72, it went from 5% to 30%.
NARRATOR: As the '70s progressed the movement continued to stack up victories as more laws were passed to redress longstanding inequities.
ALL: Hell no, hell no!
NARRATOR: The movement seemed unstoppable.
- What unites women as the majority is the refusal to be manipulated any longer.
- It was like a tsunami. Something is boiling under the earth. And we could bring it up.
BARBARA SMITH: We were so idealistic we were so energetically were so in your face. And there were so many of.
NARRATOR: Now don't forget that there are men voting every day against the interests of women in this country. And you have a vote against these men to show the effect of women's political power.
HILLARY CLINTON: It was exhilarating. It was also somewhat torturing because we were breaking new ground.
NARRATOR: Suddenly nothing seemed beyond the reach of the women's movement.
LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN: Women's health, women should have access to their own medical records. Birth should be something more natural. Questions about the pill, was it safe? All of that was happening in the women's health movement.
NARRATOR: The focus on women's health inevitably included abortion rights. There, too, the movement was making headway as some states began to loosen their restrictions.
ALL: Free abortions on demand. Free abortions on demand. It's not only going to be New York it's going to be every state. Much to our surprise, we've already begun winning.
NARRATOR: Hoping to establish a right to abortion in the Constitution, movement leaders looked for a case to bring to the Supreme Court. They decided to back one in Texas called Roe v. Wade.
Sarah Weddington was a young Texas lawyer representing the plaintiff in Roe, an unmarried woman in Dallas who had been denied an abortion.
SARAH WEDDINGTON: I had done uncontested divorces, wills for people with no money and one adoption for my uncle. Roe v. Wade was my first contested case.
NARRATOR: On October 11th, 1972 Weddington argued the case before the Supreme Court of the United States.
SARAH WEDDINGTON: I was 26. They think I was the youngest person ever to argue before the US Supreme Court. I was very conscious of how the fate of many women for many years would be resting in part on my argument. Justice Burger, then Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court said Miss Weddington, if you're ready you may begin.
SARAH WEDDINGTON: We are not here to advocate abortion. We do not ask this court to rule that abortion is good, or desirable in any particular situation. We are here to advocate that the decision as to whether or not a particular woman will continue to carry or will terminate a pregnancy is a decision that should be made by that individual. That in fact, she has a constitutional right to make that decision for herself.
It was January 22nd, 1973. A reporter from The New York Times called. And my assistant answered the phone. And the reporter said, does Miss Weddington have a comment today about Roe v. Wade?
And my assistant said, should she? And the New York Times reporter said, it was decided today. She won it, 7-2.
- Good evening. In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court today legalized abortions. The majority in cases from Texas and Georgia said that the decision to end the pregnancy during the first three months belongs to the woman and her doctor, not the government.
NARRATOR: Roe v. Wade gave the women's movement a jolt of momentum.
LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN: It was the first of what we thought was going to be an avalanche of victories through the courts and in the legislatures. It just felt inevitable and right.
NARRATOR: In the midst of this success, feminists began dreaming of the ultimate victory. To sweep away nearly all remaining discriminatory laws in one grand gesture by passing the equal rights amendment.
GLORIA STEINEM: There were hundreds and hundreds of laws that were based on sex. To go one by one by one, we figured out it would take 485 years. So clearly it needed to be a constitutional principle.
We've been hearing a lot about the equal rights amendment. And it's about time. After all, it's been half a century since women began fighting for this amendment. It would make the Constitution apply fully to women for the first time.
NARRATOR: Just 24 words long, the ERA had had a long and tortured legislative history. First proposed in 1923, it was reintroduced in every Congress since but rarely even reached the floor for a vote.
But in 1972, with the help of women's new found political strength, the ERA finally won overwhelming passage in both houses of Congress. Like any constitutional amendment, the ERA still needed one more step. The approval of two-thirds of the states.
- In order for the Equal Rights Amendment to become the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, 38 states must ratified by March 1979.
NARRATOR: Feminists from every walk of life mobilized to convince each state legislature to pass the amendment. - Let the Congress listen. We are here. We are Americans. And we will not be denied.
- Help pass ERA.
- Help pass ERA.
NARRATOR: After 30 states ratified the amendment within a year, feminists were certain that victory was inevitable.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: There is absolutely nothing that ERA will do for women.
NARRATOR: But the fight to ratify the ERA was about to come up against a changing political climate. And one of the most canny and effective opponents feminists had ever faced.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: Discriminate against women.
The main trouble with the feminist movement is that it teaches women to be victims. that they are victims of the patriarchy. And I think that's ridiculous. I think American women are the most fortunate class of people who ever lived on the face of the earth.
NARRATOR: The daughter of rock-ribbed Republicans in Missouri, Phyllis Schlafly worked her way through college during World War II by testing guns at a munitions factory. She earned a master's degree in political science from Harvard before settling down to raise six children.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: I spent 25 years as a full-time homemaker. But full-time homemakers have got time for hobbies. And politics was my hobby.
NARRATOR: Schlafly ran twice for Congress unsuccessfully and became an effective activist for conservative causes within the Republican Party. But it was with the emergence of the women's movement that she found a focus for her keen intellect.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: I think it's rational and good that we have some differences. The feminists want a society of the interchangeability of the sexes. To pretend there aren't any differences. And there are differences.
NARRATOR: With the passage of the ERA in Congress, Schlafly organized Stop ERA, group of women to fight against its ratification in the States.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: In the early years of fighting ERA, I started out with my Republican women friends from various states. But then I realized we needed reinforcements.
NARRATOR: Schlafly brought in hundreds of volunteers from the ranks of religious conservatives of every faith. Shirley Curry was a minister's wife from Tennessee.
SHIRLEY CURRY: The fight against the Equal Rights Amendment had to be led and won by women. They had to show that we don't need this. That we respect our role as mothers and housewives. And we want to keep that role above every other role.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: Now I thought what I might do is to run through the arguments that we present against the Equal Rights Amendment.
SHIRLEY CURRY: Phyllis would bring us all in and we would spend all day on Saturday making speeches. You had to be able to tell what you wanted to tell in three minutes, and hush, and sit down, and get your idea across. And you had to dress properly. She told us what kind of earrings to wear, how to go about down the legislatures. Don't take your Bible and go down and be pounding the Bible all the time.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: What your task is to convince them that you speak for the majority. And I'm convinced that you do.
SHIRLEY CURRY: She was the one that could inspire people and encourage you to do more you thought you could do. And she never was negative. She always had a smile. And that was what she trained us to do. Always keep a smile on your face.
PATRICIA SCHROEDER: I think Phyllis Schlafly tapped into the feeling that many women had. Things were changing too fast, what was going to happen? Where they going to be taken care of?
- I want my children to look up to their daddy. I want them to know that he is the head of the house, that he can take care of me and them. That he can protect us. That's what we've got him for. That's why I married him, to be protected.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: I would like to thank my husband Fred for letting me come today. I love to say that because it irritates the women's libbers more than anything that I say.
NARRATOR: To many feminists, Schlafly was at best a contradiction and at worst a hypocrite.
DIANE ENGLISH: She didn't know she was a feminist. You know, she ran a movement. She was rarely home. She was on the road all the time. And she had the support of other women who helped raise her children, and an understanding husband, and yet she railed against women wanting that for themselves.
PATRICIA SCHROEDER: I used to say to her, I think I've fixed more dinners at home than you have.
NARRATOR: Focusing on the most controversial aspects of the ERA, like the possibility of exposing women to the military draft, Schlafly's campaign began to make headway.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: It might be the fundamental difference between those who are for ERA and those who are against it. You think my daughter should serve, I think women should have the choice not to serve.
NARRATOR: Momentum behind the amendment slowed with only a few states left to ratify.
SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR: There was a great furor in many states. People who were very worried about it. Oh, if you pass that, we'd have to have same-sex bathrooms in schools and public places.
CAROL BURNETT: It was a threat to a lot of people and to a lot of women. They thought, well then my husband won't open a door for me.
SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR: I had initially thought it probably would pass without a big fuss. But it became a big fuss.
ALL: Two, four, six, eight, rattify in every state.
NARRATOR: As the deadline for passage approached feminists readied for the final push at an historic conference in Houston, Texas.
ALL: Two, four, six, eight. Rattify in every state.
RUTH ROSEN: The conference brings delegates from all over the country to Houston. And it brings them with real drama, someone carrying a torch just like the Olympics, all the way from Seneca Falls where the first women's conference was held, all the way to Texas.
SHEILA TOBIAS: There were three first ladies, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Ford, and Mrs. Johnson. No generation before us since the suffragettes had had a national conference of women's equality. And that's when we began to feel the power of Phyllis Schlafly's Stop ERA movement.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: There are many differences between this meeting and the one in that other hall today.
NARRATOR: Not to be outdone, Schlafly staged her own rally, also in Houston at the same time.
SHIRLEY CURRY: We filled that arena so full that the fire marshals made us stop and they had to stand outside.
- I'm opposed to the equal rights amendment. I'm opposed to abortion. I'm opposed to the granting of so-called civil rights to homosexuals that would allow them to, say, teach in our schools.
NARRATOR: The dueling rallies brought droves of reporters to Houston. Feminists wanted to take advantage of the national spotlight by presenting a broad agenda. Including a plank to end discrimination based on sexual preference.
CHARLOTTE BUNCH: That lesbians have been in the closet too long.
NARRATOR: Even Betty Friedan, who had once called lesbians a menace, welcomed it.
CHARLOTTE BUNCH: I believe that we must help women who are lesbians be protected in their own civil rights.
NARRATOR: But the gesture, long overdue as far as lesbians were concerned, backfired on the movement.
BOB DORNAN: I watched this morning the corruption of young people in Albert Thomas Hall.
NARRATOR: At Schlafly's convention across town, conservative congressman Bob Dornan pounced.
BOB DORNAN: And the greatest tragedy of all was to see three former first ladies of this nation approving of sexual perversion and the murder of young people in their mother's wombs. What a disgrace.
- We oppose the ratification of the equal rights amendment to the Constitution. All in favor say aye.
NARRATOR: Coming out of Houston, it was the anti-ERA forces that had captured the momentum.
SHIRLEY CURRY: The big turnout in Houston, really, said to makers in Washington and the powers that be, this group of women in America do not want the equal rights amendment. And we feel like that was the turning point.
NARRATOR: With the deadline looming, the remaining states needed to ratify the ERA. One by one turned against it. The deciding vote came in Illinois.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: It was very exciting. The capital was crowded. And the national media were all there. We didn't know if we had the votes. We had done all we could. But I tell people, God brought us two votes from Chicago we had never had before.
- Time ran out for the equal rights amendment today. The 24 word statement pledging equality for women under the Constitution fell three states short of ratification.
MARLO THOMAS: I was brokenhearted that the equal rights amendment didn't pass. I couldn't believe that it wouldn't.
CAROL BURNETT: The fact that it didn't pass just astounded me. In the eyes of the law, why shouldn't we be treated equally?
NARRATOR: Though many discriminatory laws had already been struck down, the ERA's defeat meant that there was no blanket Constitutional protection against such laws now or in the future. It also meant that the pendulum of public opinion had swung back against the women's movement.
- You better stop reading that bid-brained Gloria Steinem way too much. You're going to pay more attention to that nice little woman that's running around who always puts her duty ahead of her brains, that Mrs. Phyllis Shoe-Fly.
NARRATOR: Now it was the right that was energized.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: I think one of the big things we did was to teach Conservatives that it was possible to win. Then, of course, the next year we came along and elected Ronald Reagan.
NARRATOR: Ronald Reagan's election would mark a decisive turning point for the women's movement.
SHEILA TOBIAS: It was the end of an era of winning most of the victories we didn't even think were possible, feeling the strength of the size of our movement. And what became a 25 year slide off the pinnacle of our power.
NARRATOR: The issue of abortion would become the leading edge of the conservative backlash. For Conservatives like Reagan, Roe v. Wade had been a black mark on American jurisprudence. And they were determined to undo its effects.
RONALD REAGAN: This nation cannot continue turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the taking of some 4,000 unborn children's lives every day. That's one every 21 seconds.
CAROLYN GRAGLIA: What happened was a fantastic increase in the number of abortions. It became used as a form of birth control. Part of what has happened, I think, is this removing inhibitions against destroying life considered unworthy of life. Once you remove those inhibitions we have created a much more dangerous and much less humane society.
NARRATOR: Suddenly feminists faced the prospect of losing their most tangible and cherished victory.
FAYE WATTELTON: After Roe there was an effort to simply overturn. Those efforts being unsuccessful, the strategy then was to erode.
CATHIE ADAMS: We began to chip away at Roe v. Wade. And chipping away means, should parents be notified? Should that mother have at least a period of time that she has to think about this? Should this woman be given information as she is given an every other surgical procedure so that she is informed before giving consent about an abortion?
NARRATOR: The fight was not contained to the courts. Faye Wattleton was the head of the reproductive health care provider Planned Parenthood.
FAYE WATTELTON: When I came to the presidency in 1978, one of our clinics had been burned to the ground the year earlier. They were regularly being bombed. We were encountering the first violent reaction to Roe v. Wade. It was very clear that reproductive rights were not settled and that there was a great deal of contention about all aspects of reproductive rights.
NARRATOR: The fight over abortion spread across the country, drawing in communities large and small. Fargo, North Dakota was typical.
JANE BOVARD: There was a doctor in Grand Forks, which is 70 miles away. Another doctor in Jamestown which is about 100 miles away. And they were performing abortions but there was nothing in Fargo.
NARRATOR: Jane Bovard was a mother of four who had undergone an abortion rather than have a fifth child. Eager to help other women, she opened the first abortion clinic in Fargo in 1981.
JANE BOVARD: From day one there was picketing.
ALL: Life yes, abortion no. Life yes, abortion no.
- Please, don't let them kill your baby this morning.
JANE BOVARD: The protesters would stand at the edge of the driveway. They would knock on the car windows and they would yell at the patients. It was very unnerving for the patients. Many of them would come in shaking because they were so distressed.
- Murderer! Murderer!
NARRATOR: One of the picketers was a nurse named Pat Larson, who had never concerned herself with abortion before.
PAT LARSON: A shift took place for me when rumor came out in the community that an abortion facility was opening. I thought about it and I was appalled at the thought of it. Then I started thinking about well, what could I do? People's lives were affected. And I said, I think I need to be out here.
- Stop the killing now, nurse.
NARRATOR: Over time, the fight in Fargo escalated, as it did in many communities across the country.
JANE BOVARD: All of these people showed up in front of my house with signs. That was the first time anybody had come to my house. Wasn't the last time. They picketed my house for 10 or more years.
PAT LARSON: I thought, all right, if she's proud of what she's doing then this shouldn't be an issue. We're just informing the community that that is her business.
- They're killing children--
NARRATOR: Larson personally opposed violence, but the protests in Fargo attracted outside groups that were not peaceful.
JANE BOVARD: A group who called themselves the Lambs of Christ come in.
ALL: Lambs of Christ! Lambs of Christ!
JANE BOVARD: The clinic was firebombed. A Molotov cocktail had been thrown in the back of the building. We did have federal marshals stationed at the building 24 hours a day.
- Hallelujah, Lord Jesus!
NARRATOR: Though they could not close the Fargo clinic the protesters succeeded in discouraging doctors from working there.
JANE BOVARD: We have never in Fargo, and this has been 30 some years, we have never been able to get a local physician to work at the clinic in Fargo.
NARRATOR: All over the country, the tactic worked. The number of abortion providers has fallen by some 40% over the last two decades. Today there are less than 2000 in the entire United States.
The fight over abortion was just one of the defensive battles weakening the women's movement in the 1980s as conservative forces sought to roll back victories won by feminists over the previous 20 years. But if the women's movement lost momentum in the 1980s, women themselves continued to push ahead. From the boardroom, to the bedroom they upended tradition, enlarging the possibilities for their own lives.
[MUSIC PLAYING] - By the 1980s, most of the demonstrations and sit-ins were over. But women were not done upsetting old ideas about what they could do with their lives.
SUSAN DOUGLAS: The women's movement changed in the 1980s. Women were no longer in the streets. But slowly but surely, they were getting into college presidencies, into university boardrooms, into corporate boardrooms. They were Sally Ride, the first female astronaut.
LINDA ALVARADO: During that time, there was just rapid growth of what women were doing. Even when I saw a woman's byline in the newspaper, it gave me an adrenaline rush.
BRENDA BERKMAN: In 1982, we opened up the New York City Fire Department to women firefighters. And in the big scheme of things, I felt like I was doing something that was important. That if I could convince little girls and the general public that women had the capability to be firefighters, then women could be anything.
GERALDINE FERRARO: I proudly accept your nomination for Vice President of the United States.
- Of all the doors being opened by women, none was a more stirring symbol than Geraldine Ferraro's historic run for the vice presidency in 1984.
NANCY PELOSI: When we learned that she was going to be the nominee, it was something quite spectacular, but nothing as spectacular as the night that it happened-- thunderous. In a room packed and jammed, delegates giving their tickets to their wives or spouses or friends so women could be on the floor-- that was a moment.
GERALDINE FERRARO: The issue is not what America can do for women, but what women can do for America.
- Feminism had given millions of women the key to locked doors in the world outside and in themselves.
HILLARY CLINTON: It reaffirmed my very fundamental sense of independence and my identity that I was certainly no better but no worse than anybody else. It had to be a meritocracy. But the women-not-wanted signs should come down.
- In the 1980s, as women entered the ranks of formerly all-male professions, they faced questions about how to look and how to act.
MEG WHITMAN: There were not many women role models. So you'd find guys that you admired how they conducted themselves or how they approached the job. And you said OK, I can try some of what they're doing.
- When she was hired in 1979, Meg Whitman was among the first female executives at Procter & Gamble.
MEG WHITMAN: We used to dress in suits with a skirt and a jacket, with button down shirts and a little bow tie because that was sort of our interpretation of the man's tie. I look back at those pictures today, and I think, what were we thinking? But it was our attempt to be feminine but fit into what was then a male world.
LINDA ALVARADO: And in order to succeed, we had to try to look the part. So I put on my pinstriped suit, my white shirt. And then of course we had to have the tie.
- Linda Alvarado was typical of the pioneering generation of female executives in the 1980s. A Latina from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alvarado began working on construction sites when she was still in college.
LINDA ALVARADO: Inside the San-o-let, outdoor toilet, there would be pictures of me drawn in various stages of undress or invitations to do things or just discouragement. And quite frankly, I did think about quitting. But over time, for as many men that were drawing pictures of me, there were other men beginning to wash them off, men who realized that their own daughters and their wives were trying to pursue careers.
- In 1976, Alvarado founded a construction business of her own, with a $2,500 loan from her parents. One of her first commissions was a series of 10 small bus shelters.
LINDA ALVARADO: They asked us to come in for a meeting. So I went in with one of my other employees who was a guy. The project manager came in and says, I'm running a little bit late. I need coffee. And he pointed to me, and he said, could you go get me some coffee? So I got up, and I got the coffee. And the reason I got the coffee is that I wanted to get to the table.
- As she brought in projects on time and on budget, Alvarado's company grew.
LINDA ALVARADO: I started having these visions that I could build a high rise. And so we bid on a renovation of a hotel. People were saying, just wait till she fails. She'll be out of business soon. And in reality, the project was so high profile, it worked for us not against us. People could see that a woman had built this project. What women were looking for is not that guarantee that they would succeed, but at least the opportunity to try.
- Women desegregated the workforce not only in white collar careers, but in tough blue-collar jobs as well.
BARBARA BURNS: My dad worked in mines, as did his dad and his brothers.
- Barbara Burns grew up in the coalfields of West Virginia, far from the hotbeds of feminism.
BARBARA BURNS: I noticed early on that women were sort of submissive. And I thought that is not for me. I'm not going to be like them and not have any money, not be able to buy anything or go anywhere. I want to be my own person, and I will do what I want to do.
When I first went to work in the mines, I had my own bath house. And I came in one morning, and there were these pictures of naked men everywhere, plus the book was there, "Playgirl." And I peeked out, and I could see them lined up, you know, watching.
So I just took the book and was walking down like I was reading it. And when I got down there, I just said, thanks, guys. I don't know who ever bought this for me, but I've never seen one before. And I'll expect one every month. When I come in the next morning, everything was gone-- all the pictures, nothing. It was never mentioned again.
JOHNNY CARSON: This is a good night for a young comedienne to appear because you're all in a great mood.
- Even in areas of show business traditionally off limits, women were making inroads.
ELLEN DEGENERES: Wouldn't it be great if we could just pick up the phone and call up God and ask him these things?
- Ellen DeGeneres was a struggling comedian in 1986 when she first appeared on "The Tonight Show," where a sure sign of success was to be invited to talk to Johnny Carson.
ELLEN DEGENERES: It was my intention to be called over to sit down because he had never asked a woman to sit down, especially on a first appearance. That's a big deal. He'd only asked four men to sit down on the first appearance.
Listen, if you aren't too bu-- sure, I'll hold on.
Somebody's at the gate.
I was just too scared to look at him. And then I finally looked over, and he was just, like.
JOHNNY CARSON: That's really good.
ELLEN DEGENERES: Thank you. Thank you.
JOHNNY CARSON: Yeah. That's very-- that's very clever and very fresh and--
ELLEN DEGENERES: Well, that's wonderful hearing that from you.
JOHNNY CARSON: No, I mean it. It's good material.
ELLEN DEGENERES: Once I sat down with Johnny Carson, everything changed. That was the beginning of a whole different chapter of my career.
- For all their progress in the 1980s, many women discovered that getting a man's job didn't always mean getting a man's pay.
OPRAH WINFREY: Everybody, welcome to "People Are Talking." I'm Oprah with--
- At 24, Oprah Winfrey was hired to co-anchor the Baltimore television show, "People Are Talking."
OPRAH WINFREY: I was getting paid $22,000. And the guy who I was co-anchoring with was getting paid $50,000. So I went into my boss, and I said, he's getting paid a lot more money than I'm getting paid. And we're doing the same job. And you know what my boss said? And this is in 1980.
He said, why should you make that much money? In 1980, he said, why should you make that much money? He said, he has kids. Do you have kids? And I said, no.
He said, he has to put his kids through college. He has insurance. He has a house payment. Do you have a house? And I said, no. [LAUGHS] And he said, so tell me why you need the same amount of money? And I said, well, because we're doing the same job.
I knew that if I filed a lawsuit, if I complained, that I would have been blackballed. And I would have never gotten another job. And so I thought, mm, I'll show you.
- The news is I'm going to be on television.
- As women remade the workplace in the 1980s, they began to see themselves reflected back in the popular culture. Sitcoms started featuring working mothers, stay-at-home dads, female cops, and female bosses.
- I went over to a widow's house and put up a spice rack.
- (TOGETHER) You're hired.
- In 1988, Diane English, one of TV's first female executives, created the character Murphy Brown for CBS.
DIANE ENGLISH: We came along, following in the footsteps of Marlo Thomas and Mary Tyler Moore. We were the natural next step. She stood up for what she believed in. She didn't feel that she had to be polite or liked. She was in many ways my and Candice Bergen's alter ego. We would say, god, we wish we could say what she just said or do what she just did.
- I think it went well, don't you?
- (SINGING) There's a fragrance that's here today, and they call it Charlie.
- The independent career woman was a staple in commercials too, as advertisers spotted a new market, women with their own money and a desire to spend it. But side by side with this new empowered woman was an old stereotype, the objectified woman. Though portrayals of female sexuality were as old as advertising itself, the 1980s saw a shift toward an explicit deconstruction of the female body.
JEAN KILBOURNE: I was simply interested in what these images were all about.
- After a brief career in modeling, Jean Kilbourne became one of the first feminist critics to take on advertising's portrayal of women.
JEAN KILBOURNE: I began to see patterns, certain themes, for example, that women's bodies were often dismembered in ads. There'd just be one part of the body that was focused upon. And I began to think about it in a way that I never had before.
- To Kilbourne and other feminists, reducing women to sexual objects stripped them of their humanity, thereby removing the barriers to violence.
JEAN KILBOURNE: The big argument was always, oh, advertising's trivial. It doesn't influence us. Whereas my theory was that when you turn people into objects, and you trivialize them, that makes violence more likely. So far from being trivial, it actually plays a huge role in encouraging violence against women.
SUSAN DOUGLAS: Research shows that repeated depictions of women being dominated, being violated, being overpowered by men naturalizes the notion that that's what should happen. It's OK. It's the natural order of things.
- Images of violence against women were nothing new. As early as the 1950s, violence was so common it was the stuff of jokes on primetime television.
- Oh, bang, zoom.
- In the confines of a man's home, custom decreed his wife's body belonged to him.
GLORIA STEINEM: There was no word for battered women, domestic violence. There's no word for it because it's called life.
- Mark Wynn was a police officer who had grown up in a violent home.
MARK WYNN: I knew what violence against women was because I watched my mother being abused by my step father. But it wasn't defined until the mid '70s. There were no laws that defined violence against women. There were no police policies that instructed officers to-- to investigate these crimes.
- Many women knew from experience that reporting their battery to law enforcement would be futile. Tracey Thurman's story was typical of the time. She was 21 years old and living in Connecticut with her husband, Buck. For eight months, he threatened and beat her. Each time she called the police, they did nothing.
TRACEY THURMAN: Oh, even laugh because, ha, ha, you know, the police ain't doing nothing about it. One police officer says, well, if you weren't married, it'd be a lot easier, you know. And I was like, well, I am married. And what do I do about it?
- After Buck threatened her again, Thurman called the police one last time.
MARK WYNN: It took them about 25 minutes to respond because the responding officers stopped off at the station to use the bathroom.
- By the time the police arrived, Buck had stabbed Tracy 13 times. They did not arrest him. When the officers returned to their patrol car, Buck broke Tracy's neck.
TRACEY THURMAN: He stepped on my head, left me partially paralyzed.
MARK WYNN: Paralyzed They finally arrested him when he was climbing on top of her body in the ambulance on the gurney. It was a horrific case of unbelievable police misconduct.
- Even in cases of rape, law enforcement often looked the other way, blaming violence on the victims themselves.
LINDA FAIRSTEIN: Rape, unlike other crimes, has always been viewed as a victim-precipitated crime. She must have done something to ask for this. Was it that she dressed provocatively? Was it that she drank too much? Was it that she flirted with the man who ended up attacking her?
- Linda Fairstein was named director of the country's first sex crimes prosecution unit in New York.
LINDA FAIRSTEIN: The year before I joined the office, more than 1,000 men were arrested in New York City for sexual assault. 18 of them were convicted. That's how bad the laws were.
- Gradually, however, feminists began redefining the very nature of violence against women. Domestic violence and rape were not about anger or lust. They were about power.
SUSAN BROWNMILLER: Rape is nothing, more or less, than a process of conscious intimidation to keep women in a state of fear. The average rapist was not an unusual person. He was a young man who wanted his way, who considered sexual aggression to be part of masculinity, and who got away with it.
- No more rape! No more rape!
- Female activists pushed back hard against violence. They marched in Take Back the Night rallies. They published articles, books, and they successfully pressed for laws, making it easier to prosecute rapists.
SUSAN BROWNMILLER: Corroboration was eliminated in most states. So you had a woman being able to testify based on her own credibility about a sexual assault. Rape shield laws were instituted, which meant that the victim could take the stand and not be cross-examined about her entire sexual history.
- Emboldened, victims of violence also began to stand up for themselves. In 1984, Tracey Thurman sued the police department for gross negligence on the day of her attack and the many days leading up to it. In a landmark verdict, the jury awarded her a multimillion dollar settlement.
LISA MYERS: Largely because of Tracey Thurman, Connecticut recently enacted what many consider the toughest family violence law in the country.
- Known as the Thurman Law, Connecticut's statute became a model for other states.
Though epidemic levels of violence would continue, women became less afraid to leave their abusers or accuse them in court. And battered women's shelters and rape crisis centers finally gave them the place to escape.
MARK WYNN: It wasn't strong leadership in politicians. It wasn't police leaders or judges. It was the women's movement which forced lawmakers and police executives to stand up and say, enough is enough.
- If you mess with women, you're going to have to deal with the women's movement.
- Having fought back against violence in the 1980s, women began expressing ownership of their own bodies in new and sometimes provocative ways. When Madonna Louise Ciccone exploded out of the New York club scene in the 1980s, she was not only heralding her own sexual freedom, but that of her generation.
SARA EVANS: Madonna was such a powerful figure in the popular culture. And I think there were a number of feminists who were a little bit horrified about her choice of self presentation as a very sexual being.
MADONNA: To the feminists, I would like to point out that they're missing a couple of things. Because, you know, I may be dressing like the typical bimbo, whatever, but I'm in charge. And isn't that what feminism is all about?
DIANE VON FURSTENBURG: Women should use their sexuality. We have lots of advantages-- I mean, makeup, clothes. We could show our legs. We could charm. I mean, lots of things that we can do.
SUSAN DOUGLAS: Madonna was very important to young women in giving them some chutzpah and ownership over their sexuality. She staked a claim to girls and women having sexual agency that they could own.
- The idea that women owned their own sexuality flew in the face of traditional male prerogatives.
For decades, as they poured into the workforce, women had endured a culture of male sexual aggressiveness so common there wasn't even a name for it.
- What we call today sexual harassment was, you know, people commenting on your shirt, your legs, your butt. You had to laugh it off. Because if you weren't cooperative and cheery about all of this, you couldn't survive.
DOLORES HUERTA: I remember working and having to run around the desk every night. How can I get out of here without the boss trying to, you know, make a pass at me?
- But by the 1980s, many women had had enough.
Coal miner Barbara Burns was one such woman. In 1984, her dream job had turned into a nightmare when she was recruited to work for Smoot Coal by company president Paul Fazenbaker.
BARBARA BURNS: One day he said that he was the king, and that was his kingdom. And we were the serfs. And if he wanted to hug us or kiss us, he would. And I told him, I said, nobody kisses me unless I want them to. He started stalking me, calling every evening to make sure I was home just to keep track of me and just really making my life miserable.
- After months of sexual harassment, Burns contacted attorney Betty Jean Hall.
BARBARA BURNS: Smoot Coal Company had four maybe five lawyers. They said that I had pursued Mr. Fazenbaker and, in fact, had seduced him. Then they offered to settle with us. And I told Betty Jean, I said, I don't think I should settle. I said, there was no affair. If there was, I didn't remember it.
- Burns won her suit after a long legal battle, one of the significant early victories in the history of sexual harassment law.
BARBARA BURNS: Well, the day that the order came down from the Supreme Court, [LAUGHING] it was about the happiest day in our lives. We were-- I mean, it was just unbelievable, you know. We just feel like celebrating.
- As sexual harassment surfaced as a real issue in the workplace, one case would raise it to the level of national melodrama.
GEORGE HW BUSH: I am very pleased to announce that I will nominate Judge Clarence Thomas to serve as Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
- In 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to consider the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas. As they wrapped up their confirmation hearings, the committee got word about a former employee of Thomas, who had privately accused him of sexually harassing her years before. Initially the all-male committee refused to hear from the woman, whose name was Anita Hill.
PATRICIA SCHROEDER: This is a hearing for a Supreme Court Justice. It's going to be there for life. And you would think that if someone who worked with them had important things to say, they would want to hear it, wouldn't you?
- A group of congresswomen, including Pat Schroeder and Eleanor Holmes Norton, refused to accept the committee's decision.
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: We decided that some of us had better get over to the Senate, where this was going to be a done deal.
I do not believe that Professor Anita Hill should be left to stand alone without being heard.
PATRICIA SCHROEDER: We marched to the Senate and knocked on the door. And they said, we don't let strangers in here, which all of us, our hair almost stood on end. And we said, we are not strangers. We're your colleagues from the other side of the Hill, thank you very much. And furthermore, the entire media corps is out here. And do you want us to go tell them what happened?
- Under growing pressure, the Judiciary Committee conceded. Hearings were reopened. And Anita Hill was called to testify.
- Can you tell the committee what was the most embarrassing of all the incidences that you have alleged?
ANITA HILL: I think the one that was the most embarrassing was his discussion of-- of pornography involving women with large breasts and-- and engaged in variety of sex with different people or animals. That was the thing that embarrassed me the most and made me feel the most humiliated.
- Thomas vigorously denied the allegations.
CLARENCE THOMAS: This is a circus. It's a national disgrace. And from my standpoint as a black American, as far as I'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves.
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: I did not expect what Anita Hill had to say. And if I was stunned by what she had to say, I was even more stunned by the reaction of the Senate.
- All we heard for 103 days is about a most remarkable man. And nobody but you has come forward.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: Their treatment of Anita Hill felt as though she were once again being sexually harassed and this time in front of the whole country.
ANITA HILL: There is nothing in my background, nothing in my statement, there is no motivation that would show that I would make up something like this. And I guess one really does have to understand something about the nature of sexual harassment.
- Broadcast live over three days, the hearings riveted and divided the nation.
- Y'all watching?
- Mary Jo, we have a big rehearsal tonight. And if we stay mad about Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, we'll never remember our lines.
- Initially the senator's obvious sympathy for Thomas seemed to sway a majority of Americans.
- Oh, puh-lease.
- I, Clarence Thomas.
SARA EVANS: The committee went ahead and confirmed Clarence Thomas. But that national conversation that erupted had political implications.
- Gloria, did we as women lose anything because of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill?
GLORIA STEINEM: Yeah, we lost a lot, like faith in the Senate, for instance, OK? But I think we gained slightly more than we lost because the education on sexual harassment was enormous. And now the complaints are up 500% in the states.
- The Anita Hill case made sexual harassment a household phrase.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: At the time I was in college. So my household was 14 African-American women. Here we were empowered young women off at college. And the notion that we might go into a workforce that would treat us in this way was truly eye opening.
SARA EVANS: Millions of women found themselves sitting down the men that they know and love and saying, this really happens. Let me tell you about it.
- One year after the hearings, as more women came forward to corroborate Thomas's behavior, polls showed that a majority of Americans believed Anita Hill.
ANITA HILL: I was trying to do my duty as an ordinary American citizen. And I simply told the Senate investigators the truth.
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: There's no question Anita Hill inspired others to come forward. But Anita Hill did something even larger for women.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: Immediately after those hearings in the next election cycle, it was the year of the woman. And it was the year in which a record number of women were elected to the US House of Representatives.
- A record 24 women were elected to the House. Five new female senators more than doubled their number in the Senate. These victories in the wake of the Anita Hill hearings gave the women's movement a new jolt of energy.
To many feminists, it looked like the decade of backlash might finally be over. But as the '90s progressed, new fights about the role of women in society would again roil the country. In 1992, a single storyline on TV's "Murphy Brown" would trigger a heated debate during the presidential election season.
DIANE ENGLISH: Season We made a decision to give Murphy a child. She had gotten pregnant by accident with her ex-husband. She elected to have the baby. And it never even occurred to me, never occurred to any of us that there would be an issue with it.
DAN QUAYLE: It doesn't help matters when primetime TV has Murphy Brown, a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid professional woman, mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice.
[? DIANE ENGLISH: ?] I was sort of gobsmacked, you know. I was like, wow, she's not real. She's not a real person. Hello.
SAM DONALDSON: Good evening. We begin tonight with family values and the make-believe woman and her make believe baby.
DIANE ENGLISH: A debate began in the country, really, that went on for the whole summer following the airing of that episode.
- But if a fictional TV character could become a controversial issue in the presidential campaign, it was a real woman who would split the country in two.
Hillary Clinton, wife of Democratic nominee Bill Clinton, was unlike any prospective First Lady in history. An accomplished lawyer, she was not content to play the traditional political wife.
HILLARY CLINTON: When I was the First Lady of Arkansas, I had been my husband's partner on really significant policy efforts on education and health care and children's welfare and the like.
TED KOPPEL: Never in a presidential campaign has the candidate's wife becomes such a strong symbol of the campaign's strengths and weakness.
- During the campaign, Mrs. Clinton's professional ambition and occasional slips of the tongue alienated large parts of the country. At one point, questioned about possible conflicts of interest between her career and her husband's, she seemed to belittle stay-at-home mothers.
HILLARY CLINTON: I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas. But what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.
SHIRLEY CURRY: I was not impressed with her at all. I felt like she rather put down women when she said, well, I'm not going to stay home and cook cookies.
MARIE WILSON: She did not fill the cultural ideal of wife and mother, even though she was one. If you look at any of the presidents' wives, the First Lady is still supposed to be the wife, the mother. Boy, when Hillary would step over that line, she got hammered more than probably any woman in this country ever has.
- Bill Clinton went on to win the election. But Hillary remained a polarizing figure as First Lady, particularly when her husband asked her to spearhead his administration's health care initiative.
HILLARY CLINTON: When Bill asked me if I would work on health care, I said, of course, because it was one of his highest priorities. It was certainly something near and dear to my heart. Oh, my goodness, it was just such a firestorm.
- Socialized medicine makes me sick.
HILLARY CLINTON: I really understood that to some extent it was because there were different expectations about the first family of the nation. There were greater concerns about the influence that the First Lady might exercise on policy. And I think that, you know, it was a great lesson for me.
- In the months after the defeat of her health care bill, Hillary retreated from her very public role, adopting many of the traditional duties of first Lady. But in a less overt way, often while traveling abroad, Mrs. Clinton continued to advocate for women's issues.
In September 1995, at an International Women's Conference in Beijing she confronted repressive regimes all over the world by asserting the basic justice of women's rights.
HILLARY CLINTON: That human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights once and for all.
MARIE WILSON: When she stood up and said that women have all the rights that accrue to men in this world, it changed the language of human rights and women's rights all over the world in one fell swoop.
- In Hillary's careful balancing of her image and her ambition, she was accommodating the country's deep ambivalence towards feminism. It was an uneasiness felt not just by men, but by a new generation of women, too. By the mid '90s, young women who had grown up with the movement had come of age, starting families and careers of their own. For many of them, the old battles seemed far removed from their lives.
Abigail Progrebin is the daughter of "MS" magazine co-founder Letty Cottin Progrebin.
ABIGAIL PROGREBIN: I think my mother was angry about a lot of things and turned that anger into action. I don't feel that anger. And sometimes I'm ashamed to admit it.
- (SINGING) There's a land that I see where the children are fee.
- Progrebin grew up at the very epicenter of the women's movement. At age seven, she appeared in the popular feminist TV special "Free to Be You and Me" with actress Marlo Thomas.
MARLO THOMAS: Is it ever, like, really a terrific thing to have a twin sister?
ABIGAIL PROGREBIN: Oh, yes.
MARLO THOMAS: Like when?
ABIGAIL PROGREBIN: "Free to Be You and Me" was the highlight of my career at seven years old. And it's really all been downhill. It had a very simple message, you can be anything you want to be.
- (SINGING) Some mommies are doctors--
- Some daddies are bakers--
- --or welders--
- --or painters or funny joke makers.
ABIGAIL PROGREBIN: I think that the reality of adulthood as a woman and as a woman who wants to have a family is not that simple. I'm free to be a mother. And I'm free to have a career. But how do I reconcile both?
- Women like Progrebin were the beneficiaries of their mother's hard-won victories. They had good educations, marriages of equality, and well-paying, satisfying jobs, in Pogrebin's case, a career as a television journalist.
ABIGAIL PROGREBIN: If you could just read that again. We need it a little picked up.
- Though grateful, she and others like her also felt let down by their mothers' feminism.
ABIGAIL PROGREBIN: I don't think I was prepared for the ambivalence of motherhood and career. I don't think my mother really ever laid out how complicated that was going to be or could become. So when I hit it, and pretty much every friend in my life did, I felt a little bit like I was hit by a truck and that I hadn't been given the tools to respond.
- Pogrebin's job required her to travel, frequently abroad. After the birth of her first child in 1997, she reached her breaking point when assigned to a story in Africa.
ABIGAIL PROGREBIN: I got to the tarmac and sat on that plane. I just burst into tears. And I just said, this isn't right. Nobody told me that that could actually hit me that hard.
- Progrebin quit her all-consuming television job. Instead, she worked shorter hours from home as a writer, relying more on her husband to support the family.
- [INAUDIBLE] and Mom.
ABIGAIL PROGREBIN: I think, if my mother was honest, she probably wasn't thrilled with that choice when I made it. And I think part of why she wasn't thrilled was because she wanted to believe I could do both.
- (SINGING) I can bring home the bacon--
- --fry it up in a pan.
- And never let you forget you're a man.
- Throughout much of the '80s and '90s, women were told incessantly that they could do both, build a thriving career and still be a wife and mother.
- For your 24-hour woman.
- At a time when 65% of mothers were in the workforce, many because they needed the paycheck, popular culture packaged a new icon, the superwoman.
ARLIE HOCHSCHILD: There was an image and a lot of ads. I call it the woman with flying hair. She was just always on the go, going fast, on her way, child in hand, you know, a briefcase in another, as if she embodied the two quite separate worlds just by being super. Well, that's crazy making.
- In 1988, sociologist Arlie Hochschild completed a series of landmark studies examining how ordinary middle-class couples were handling the strain of two full-time jobs. She published her findings in a widely read book called "The Second Shift."
ARLIE HOCHSCHILD: I actually got the title for the book from an interview with a woman who said, well, I go to work. I'm on. I come home. I'm on. I sleep a little and go back to work. And I'm on. And I feel like life at home is a second shift.
- Hochschild found that while most families needed two incomes to survive, neither husbands nor companies had adjusted to the needs of full-time working mothers.
ARLIE HOCHSCHILD: Women were changing. But the jobs they went out to and the men they came home to didn't change. So it was like a stalled revolution.
- It wasn't that the movement had completely ignored the problems of working mothers. In the 1970s, women helped win passage of a bill providing a national system of daycare, only to have it vetoed by President Nixon. After that, Congress never again dealt seriously with the issue.
SARA EVANS: They never helped families rework the relationship between family life and work outside the home. And the result is that we still have a structure of jobs and professions that assumes workers are men, and that men have wives.
- Some women have managed to have it all by staggering their work and home lives. Maria Shriver was a successful television journalist in the 1980s before returning to full-time parenting.
MARIA SHRIVER: My mother used to always say to me, you can have it all over a lifetime. Look at it as a marathon. So if I looked at my 20s as a great time in my career, my 30s and 40s were a great time to build my family. And then now I'm in my 50s, and I'm kind of re-imagining all over again.
- But in her advocacy work for the poor, Shriver has come to believe that the dream of having it all is unattainable for many.
MARIA SHRIVER: There's so many working class women for who the "can you have it all" debate is like, are you kidding? I'm working two jobs. I'm single parenting. Or you know, my husband and I are working, and we can't get by. We can't make it. So let's not talk about having it all. Let's talk about reality.
- In fact, in the last two decades, the burden on working women has only increased, as wages have stagnated, hours have lengthened, and more and more women are raising their children alone. By 2010, working women, especially single women, were more likely to be poor than men. According to labor leader Karen Nussbaum, the women's movement itself is partly to blame.
KAREN NUSSBAUM: I do think there was a failure of the women's movement to focus more on the economic issues of working people. It should have been about creating an alternative that worked for most women. And that alternative would have included child care. It would have included community services.
It would have included after-school care, where your kids could get cared for by adults. None of that happened. And I think that's the great failure of the women's movement.
- As long as so many women are falling through the cracks, some argue, the feminist revolution will remain unfinished.
RUTH SIMMONS: I do think that the movement has not focused enough on all of those women at the poverty line trying to support families. The social problems that arise from the fact that those women are held back goes to their children, their grandchildren, and it continues a kind of hopelessness.
- With the superwoman ideal unattainable, working women have had to look for help where they can find it, especially from men.
But while men have taken on more of the domestic duties, change has been slow.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: It is stunning how much the realities of home life still feel like something from the 1950s. Even with a wonderful husband, even with a great partner, even if you're married to a man who is himself a feminist, somehow you end up doing all the laundry and 90% of the grocery shopping.
SHERYL SANDBERG: My husband is an amazing partner but doesn't feel guilty. I feel guilty.
- Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and a mother of two. She has publicly urged men to take a stronger role in the home.
SHERYL SANDBERG: My brother-in-law once said to me that he was babysitting. I was like, dude, you're not babysitting. You're the father. That's called fathering, parenting. It's not babysitting. We need to live in a world where men do half, women let them do half, and being a parent's not a full-time job for a woman and a part-time job for a man.
- The continuing imbalance between men and women at home is only one measure of how the women's movement has fallen short of its own aspirations. Nearly 50 years after the battle for equal pay began, women still only make $0.77 for every dollar earned by a man. On Capitol Hill, there are more female senators than ever, but they are still just a 1/5 of the total.
ELIZABETH WARREN: And despite the odds, you elected the first woman senator to the state of Massachusetts.
- Perhaps most insidiously for feminists, pro-life forces have intensified their push to roll back access to abortion and even contraception.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Suddenly contraception, reproductive rights, birth control has roared its way forward into a national issue.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: To the extent that there is an unfinished feminist revolution, I'm shocked that it's not even finished on the issues from 1974. I can't believe we are talking about the birth control pill.
- In the face of these retrenchments, older feminists have openly questioned why their daughter's generation is not marching in the streets.
ARLIE HOCHSCHILD: I think what happened is that a generation of women told themselves we're already there. Thank you very much, you older women. You did a nice job. And now it's done.
LETTY COTTIN PROGREBIN: I don't see that urge toward activism, the passion. And that's what makes me fear that they'll have to lose almost everything before they realize they have to fight back.
- Indeed, many younger women actively disassociate themselves from the very word feminism.
MARISSA MAYER: I don't think that I consider myself a feminist. I certainly believe in equal rights. I believe that women are just as capable if not-- if not more so in a lot of different dimensions. But I don't, I think, have the militant drive and sort of the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that.
MICHELLE RHEE: In some ways, I'm still very traditional. I packed my husband's lunch this morning before I came here to work. And I'm the one who does all the laundry. I don't feel like I have to do those things. I just, you know-- but I think that's part of what feminism is now. It's not that your eschewing all of the traditional roles. It's knowing that as a woman, you know, you can be whatever way you want.
MONICA CROWLEY: I think modern feminism now has sort of come full circle, where a lot of women are saying, I don't need a movement. I don't need female leaders to tell me what I'm going to get out of my life. I know what I want. And to me, that's the great victory-- victory of so-called feminism is now we are here to say, I can reject the feminist movement, or I can go out on TV and have a differing opinion from these so-called feminist leaders, and it's OK.
- Many younger women argue that while their generation may do things differently, they are no less feminist than those who have come before them.
AMY RICHARDS: I think that young women have their own versions of what women of another generation experienced. I see a lot of the work that's happening around the environment, a lot of work that's happening around immigration reform, a lot of work that's happening with living wage campaigns, and part-time leave for sick workers is all being led by young feminist women.
SHELBY KNOX: I love the word feminist. It describes my work. It describes the history that I feel like I come from. But I don't care if a woman calls herself a turtle and she's doing pro-equality work. The work is still being done.
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: These women know who they are. [LAUGHS] And they are not about to march back. They insist upon expansions of their own limits that never crossed our minds. And even when they slow down, the trajectory is so clear that I'm not the least bit worried.
In recent years, younger members of the movement have refocused their energy on a new front, abroad, where many women suffer in a state of servitude.
Sheryl Wudunn is a writer who has chronicled the plight of oppressed women all over the world.
SHERYL WUDUNN: Yes, there still is discrimination in the US. We still have problems, and we need to solve them. But the brutality that goes on against women in the developing world and other parts of the world is an order of magnitude more brutal than what we see here. And if you just see it for yourself with your own eyes examples of what goes on there, you just can't turn away.
HILLARY CLINTON: If the 19th century was about ending slavery, and the 20th century was about ending totalitarianism, the 21st century is about ending the pervasive discrimination and degradation of women and fulfilling their full rights.
- As the movement for women's rights spreads to new countries, those who inspired it can today look back on the successful if still unfinished revolution.
- Honey, when was the last time you baked a cake?
- Over my lifetime, there have been enormous changes. We have vastly more working women in professions and good jobs than we ever had in the past. So it's just been a revolution for women in this country.
- We learned that we have the power to change.
- How can one not marvel at what has been accomplished for women by women? And can you ever think that that could be reversed? The answer is no.
- The women's movement has become an indestructible part of American life.
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Every burst of energy for a new group has a moment which is legitimately called a revolution. Once that burst breaks through, that revolutionary moment may be gone, but the notions, the movement, the energy continues.
- Social change is, by definition, never complete. But there is a huge number of women whose assumptions about what they can be and do have changed unalterably.
- We changed the way people think about women and how women think about themselves.
KATY COURIC: Feminism really impacted how I saw myself and how I went into the world and fought for equality and fought for a seat at the table.
Hi, everyone. I'm very happy to be with you tonight.
- It gave me courage. It gave me courage to do a lot of things, to think about a lot of things. I'm a part of the women's movement, even if nobody ever knew it but me.
- The women united can never be defeated.
- The women's movement is the biggest social movement in the history of the planet Earth because it affected everybody-- children, men, women. Everybody was affected by it.
NANCY PELOSI: The House will come to order.
OPRAH WINFREY: Women began to understand that in order to get people's attention, you got to blow a loud trumpet. You got to beat the drum loudly. And nobody listens to you when you go quietly into the night.
GLORIA STEINEM: Now the majority of people in this country know that if there is inequality, it's wrong, it's unjust, that men and women can do the same work, that we're all human beings. And the point is our individual talents. That's a huge change-- huge.