After World War II, women’s struggle for equality achieved a mixed record of success. The women’s rights movement won equal opportunities in higher education and employment relatively quickly in the 1940s and 1950s. The modern concept of women’s equality as “feminism” appeared in the 1960s, led by activists such as Betty Friedan. Some of its victories in the legislative arena were completely inadvertent, while one of its grandest objects and subject of its greatest efforts resulted in defeat. Moreover, the movement was dominated by an intellectual and professional leadership at some distance from ordinary women. Despite the vagaries of the movement, it was remarkably successful in fundamentally changing society and women’s roles as well as attitudes towards women.
World War II was instrumental in the origins of the Women’s Movement. The classic image of “Rosie the Riveter” reflected the fact that millions of women went into factories when men were mobilized into the military. However, many unmarried and poor women had already participated in the industrial economy for a century. With demobilization after the war, more than three million women quit their jobs to return to their roles as homemakers or were let go to make room for returning men.
There was a lingering split from the 1920s between future First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, and feminist leader of the National Women’s Party, Alice Paul. Roosevelt fought to keep protective legislation for women in terms of working hours or physical tasks, and Paul wanted an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that made women completely equal under the law. Paul was so frustrated by the lack of progress on the ERA that she resorted to “red-baiting” by labeling its opponents Communists and reporting them to the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Post-war American culture was rather conservative and supported traditional roles for women. The images of women as mothers and homemakers on the new media of television were quite reflective of the reality for many suburban women. The marriage rate was increasing, a Baby Boom resulted in more than 76 million births between 1946 and 1964, and the divorce rate dropped. The American people supported traditional roles for women, and as one post-war poll noted, 63 percent were opposed to married women working outside the home.
In 1963, feminist author Betty Friedan wrote a path-breaking book, The Feminine Mystique that challenged traditional roles for women.
She described the sense of dissatisfaction that many women felt as “the problem with no name” and wrote, “The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction…Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay besides her husband at night – she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question – ‘Is this all?’” (Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, 1963).
Friedan’s book was a best-seller and struck a chord with many women, particularly of her social class. But, some women were poorer and did not have the luxury of choosing whether to work or not because necessity forced them into the workplace. Other women did not share Friedan’s dislike of women’s traditional roles as mother and housewife.
In the early 1960s, many changes were developing for women’s equality in employment and education. By 1960, the number of working women had risen to 35 percent of the workforce with increasing numbers of married women. This probably reflected the fact that many families wanted the extra disposable income to participate in the growing consumer economy more than an increasing desire of women to find personal satisfaction from working. Women were attending higher education in higher numbers, earning nearly 40 percent of the degrees by 1960 and the numbers would continue to grow. In May, 1960, the Food and Drug Administration approved the oral contraceptive, “the Pill,” for women, and millions of women were soon using it for birth control despite the fact that many states outlawed contraceptives. The Pill changed the sexual lives of women throughout the nation. Women’s careers would not be shortened by unanticipated pregnancies, and women would have fewer children.
The Pill became involved in constitutional issues when the Supreme Court took up the question. In 1965, the Supreme Court would overturn anti-contraception laws in Griswold v. Connecticut, arguing that the “penumbras” in the Bill of Rights—in the First, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments—create “zones of privacy.” Moreover, the majority also used the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to argue that there are “certain fundamental rights” not listed in the Bill of Rights as the Ninth Amendment specifically recognizes. But, should the courts lay down new rights in decisions or should the people be the ones who would define those rights through the amendment process? Moreover, the Fourteenth Amendment explicitly states that, “The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article,” not the courts (The United States Constitution, Fourteenth Amendment, 1866). By overturning the anti-contraceptive laws of a vast majority of states, the Supreme Court undermined the rights of states to determine laws for their own citizens.
Women won legal equality in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The House Rules Committee Chairman, Howard Smith (D-VA), was a segregationist who may have attempted to halt civil rights for African Americans by including additional rights for women by banning discrimination in employment based on sex—although he claimed he supported women’s equality. To further muddy the waters, many northern liberals and labor unions supported protective legislation for women and opposed the amendments to the Civil Rights act that gave legal protection against discrimination to women. Nevertheless, the Civil Rights Act passed both houses of Congress and was signed by President Johnson to become law. The Act established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an executive agency that would be charged with enforcing the law.
In 1966, several feminists formed the National Organization of Women (NOW) and issued a “Statement of Purpose.” The NOW statement was primarily a call for an end to discrimination in education, employment, civil society, and culture. The Statement of Purpose sought to ban discrimination against women with legal and constitutional protections by the government.
It called upon “the power of American law, and the protection guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to the civil rights of all individuals, must be effectively applied and enforced to isolate and remove patterns of sex discrimination, to ensure equality of opportunity in employment and education, and equality of civil and political rights and responsibilities on behalf of women” (National Organization of Women, “Statement of Purpose,” 1966).
Only a year later, at the second annual NOW conference, the organization called for a “Bill of Rights for Women” that included all the items in the Statement of Purpose and added a call for an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), publicly-funded daycare centers across the nation, and a repeal of all laws banning abortion. Over the next few years, NOW devoted a great deal of its efforts to lobbying several different federal agencies for enforcing Title VII (part of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 that banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or national origin), to pressuring Congress to pass the ERA, and expanded its agenda to include other feminist issues such as recognizing that lesbian rights were "a legitimate concern of feminism."
The struggle for the ERA was the most public and significant battle in the quest for women’s equality. In 1972, both houses of Congress passed the ERA by overwhelming majorities to fulfill the two-thirds requirement for constitutional amendments. The ERA needed three-fourths of the state legislatures to ratify the amendment before 1979 (later extended to 1982) for it to become the law of the land. The proposed amendment was quickly ratified by dozens of states and then stalled, eventually winning ratification in 35 states just short of the necessary 38, and failed.
The ERA failed in large part due to the strong grassroots campaign called “STOP ERA” at the state and local level, spearheaded by a conservative lawyer and activist, Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly advanced the view, embraced by many religious conservatives and other Americans, that the ERA would have baleful consequences for women. She said that the constitutional amendment would subject women equally to the military draft, end protections in child custody and divorce proceedings, lead to the decline of the traditional family, support abortion rights, back homosexual rights, and lead to unisex bathrooms. Whether or not it would have contributed these things, Schlafly organized a grass-roots campaign at the local and state level called “Stop ERA” which successfully defeated the ERA.
Feminists supported legalized abortion to protect women’s reproductive rights and the “right to control her own body.” They campaigned to overturn state abortion laws and then pushed cases to the Supreme Court in order to overturn all state laws. In the landmark case of Roe v. Wade (1973), the Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout the country based upon the precedent established in the Griswold decision. The movement to legalize abortion had adopted a lengthy and costly campaign to change abortion laws in the states, but then it shifted its strategy to the courts. Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the majority opinion for the Supreme Court, and much like Justice Roger B. Taney in the Dred Scott decision, sought to use the Court to settle a highly contentious social and political question. To that end, Justice Blackmun spent time at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota conducting medical and historical research on the topic. In a 7-2 decision, the Court decided that state laws banning abortion were unconstitutional. It created the trimester framework for pregnancy and stated that during the first trimester there was an unlimited right to abortion. After that, the state had a “compelling interest” in “protecting the potentiality of human life” and could regulate abortions though a physician’s approval. In the last trimester, the state could proscribe abortion except for the protection of the life or health of the mother.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Byron White called the opinion “an exercise of raw judicial power” because, he argued, the Court “fashions and announces a new constitutional right” which overrides laws in a majority of states. “The upshot is that the people and the legislatures of the 50 states are constitutionally disentitled to weigh the [issue],” White wrote (Justice Byron White, Roe v. Wade Dissenting Opinion, 1973).
The Roe decision hardly settled the question in the minds of the American people and set off a decades-long battle in the public square on the highly contentious subject. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the Court sowed perhaps more confusion.
Yet, the Court declared that it must uphold a women’s right to have an abortion because it must always uphold precedent (previous decisions) or the court’s legitimacy would be questioned. However, only a few decades before, it purposefully and famously rejected precedent in the Brown decision that had the effect of overturning Plessy.
The struggle for women’s equality may have lost the battle of the ERA, but it won the war. Affirmative action, or giving preference to certain groups in hiring, for women was highly successful in employment, and women entered the professions in such numbers that it was commonplace. Disparities in pay for the same jobs began to disappear. Affirmative action in college and graduate school admissions was so successful that institutions of higher education had to begin looking for ways to attract more male students. Women entered politics and won higher and higher offices. Most of NOW’s original agenda was achieved, though feminists would still say that the “glass ceiling” for women prevented them from rising to complete parity with men at the highest levels of business or politics.
The women’s movement was on the whole successful in achieving equality for women, and women could now choose whether to have a traditional role or work outside the home professionally. Fifty years after Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published, American women continued to debate the meaning of feminism and its relevance to their lives once greater equality and liberty were achieved. While men have shouldered some additional burdens in the home and family, women still have not been released from their traditional roles cooking, cleaning, and caring for children even as they’ve assumed new roles in society. Women have found that although they won greater employment opportunities and equality, they are struggling to “have it all” by bearing the double-burden of traditional roles and work.
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Law of Demand
As prices decrease, the quantity demanded increases or as prices increase, the quantity demanded decreases.
Rights which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.
Rights which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.
Except where authorized by people through the Constitution, government does not have the authority to limit freedom.
The power of government flows from the people.
Separation of powers
A system of distinct powers built into the constitution, to prevent an accumulation of power in one branch.
Checks and balances
Powers distributed among the branches of government allowing each to limit the application of power of the other branches and to prevent expansion of power of any branch.
The people delegate certain powers to the national government, while the states retain other powers; and the people, who authorize the states and national government, retain all freedoms not delegated to the governing bodies.
Fairness or reasonableness in the way people are treated or decisions are made.
The natural right of all individuals to create, obtain, and control their possessions, beliefs, faculties, and opinions, as well as the fruits of their labor.
Citizens are best able to pursue happiness when government is confined to those powers which protect their life, liberty, and property.
(or republican government) Form of government in which the people are sovereign (ultimate source of power) and authorize representatives to make and carry out laws.
(or representative government)Form of government in which the people are sovereign (ultimate source of power) and authorize representatives to make and carry out laws.
Reasoned and respectful sharing of ideas between individuals is the primary way people influence change in society/government, and is essential to maintain self-government.
The fundamental principles by which a state or nation is governed. The United States Constitution, written in 1787, lays out the roles and powers of each of the three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial), the protections of due process and rule of law in the states, a republican form of government, and the manner in which to amend the document.
Jefferson was a Virginia plantation owner who was the principle author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson served as a legislator and governor in Virginia, as well as an ambassador to France, Secretary of State under George Washington, Vice President under John Adams, and the third President of the United States. During his political career, Jefferson founded the Democratic-Republican Party with James Madison, and he bought the Louisiana Purchase from France. After his presidency, Jefferson started the University of Virginia near his home, Monticello.
Bill of Rights
The first ten amendments to the Constitution, ratified in 1791, which limit government power and protect individual liberties, including the freedoms of speech, press, religion, petition, and assembly, as well as protections against cruel and unusual punishment, unreasonable search and seizure, and other due process rights.
Ratified in 1791, it protects citizens’ rights to create a militia and to bear arms. “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
The government must interact with all persons according to the duly-enacted laws; applying these rules equally among all persons.
Every individual is equal to every other person with respect to natural rights and treatment before the law.
Consent of the governed
The authority of the government must come from the people through elections and through the people’s interaction with government.
Individuals must take care of themselves and their families, and be vigilant to preserve their liberty and the liberty of others.
Rule of law
Government officials and citizens all abide by the same laws regardless of political power.
Declaration of Independence
The document written in 1776 by the Founders to send to Britain’s King George III in which independence from Britain was declared and the reasons for the separation were explained.
Articles of Confederation
The first national government document developed in 1781 by the Founders. The Articles created a federal legislative branch, but there was no executive or judiciary. The states retained most of the governmental powers.
The group of people who wrote and influenced the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the United States Constitution, and the United States Bill of Rights. These men were instrumental in establishing the nation and its governmental documents and practices.
A series of 85 essays written to convince the people of New York to ratify the Constitution. The authors were James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. These documents are considered to be the most authoritative explanation of the political theory of the Constitution.
Ratified in 1791, it protects the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and freedom to petition the government.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Law of Supply
As the price drops, the quantity supplied also drops.
Ratified in 1791, it protects citizens’ rights against unreasonable searches and seizures of property and explains that warrants must be issued with probable cause. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Ratified in 1791, it protects the right indictment by a jury, against double jeopardy, self-incrimination, loss of life, liberty, or property without due process, and just compensation for private property taken for public use. “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Ratified in 1791, it states that the powers not enumerated or delegated in the Constitution are reserved for the states and the people. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
Ratified in 1791, it protects against excessive bail and fines and cruel and unusual punishments. “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Ratified in 1791, the listing of certain rights protected by the Constitution cannot be used to deny rights not enumerated in the document. “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Alexander Hamilton served as General Washington’s chief of staff, promoted the ratification of the Constitution in the Federalist Papers, and founded the nation’s financial system and first political party.
Madison was a Framer who was instrumental in writing the Constitution and Bill of Rights. He is known as the “Father of the Constitution.” Madison partnered with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to write the Federalist Papers in support of the ratification of the Constitution. He also served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, the United States House of Representatives, Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson, and the fourth president of the United States.
First President of the United States, George Washington served as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
An English philosopher and physician, John Locke was one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers and is known today as the Father of Classical Liberalism.
The Continental Congress, comprised of delegates from 12 of the 13 American colonies, represented the colonists during and after the American Revolution. The Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence and ratified the Articles of Confederation.
King George III
King George III was the King of Great Britain at the time of the American Revolution. His actions towards the American colonies, outlined in the Declaration of Independence, spurred the American Revolution.
Spanning ten years from 1929 to 1939, the Great Depression was one of the longest-lasting economic downturns in the history of the United States affecting the U.S. and most of the world.
An introductory statement, preface, or introduction.
Cruel and unfair treatment by people with power over others.
Using power over people in a way that is cruel and unfair.
Before becoming the second President of the United States, John Adams served as the country’s first Vice President under George Washington. Adams was an advocate of American independence from Britain and a Federalist.
Founding Father John Jay was one of the signers of the Treaty of Paris and served as the first Chief Justice of the United States. He was also one of the authors of the Federalist Papers.
Ratified in 1791, it protects citizens against the quartering of soldiers in private homes without their approval. “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”
Ratified in 1791, it protects the rights of impartial jury trials, the right to be informed of the accusations against you, the right to be confronted by witness, and the right to be assisted by counsel. “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”
Ratified in 1791, it protects the right of jury trials in law suits dealing with more than twenty dollars and protects against reexamination of the trial in any court if decided by a jury. “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
Alexis de Tocqueville
French political thinker and historian, Alexis de Tocqueville is best known for his works Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution. He visited the U.S. in the 1830s and wrote admiringly about many aspects of American law and society.
Democracy in America
Written by Alexis de Tocqueville after visiting the United States, Democracy in America contains de Tocqueville’s analysis of and reflections on the United States’ democratic system and society. The first volume was published in 1835 and the second in 1840.
Written in 1215, it is the oldest document in the British and American heritage of rights. Contributed to the adoption of the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments of the Bill of Rights, and speaks of these rights as ancient.
Two Treatises of Civil Government
Written by John Locke in 1690, the Two Treatises of Civil Government criticize absolute power for kings and outline Locke’s suggestions for a more civilized society based on natural rights and the social contract.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. “Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
The group of people who actually attended the Constitutional Convention and participated in writing the Constitution.
Ratified in 1868, it states that all people born or naturalized in the United States are citizens and ensures that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Ratified in 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment gave Congress the ability to collect income taxes. “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census of enumeration.”
atified in 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment introduced Prohibition, the period of United States history when the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol was made illegal throughout the country. “Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited. Section 2. The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.”
The Twentieth Amendment was ratified in 1933, and it establishes procedures for presidential succession and the start and end of federal officials’ terms of office.
“Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3rd day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
In 1933, the Twenty-First Amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, ending Prohibition. “Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed. Section 2. The transportation or importation into any state, territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited. Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.”
English Bill of Rights
Passed by the British Parliament in 1689, the English Bill of Rights limited the power of the British monarch, outlined the rights of the Parliament, and guaranteed Protestants the right to bear arms.
The legislative body of the United Kingdom (known as Great Britain or England during the Founding era).
One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was a statesman, author, publisher, scientist, inventor and diplomat. He served in the Second Continental Congress during the American Revolution and helped draft the Declaration of Independence. In addition, Franklin helped negotiated the Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War and later served as a delegate to the convention that produced the U.S. Constitution.
The right to vote.
A government in which the power belongs to citizens through the right to vote.
Ratified in 1870, it states that the right could not be restricted based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” “Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Ratified in 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment introduced direct election of Senators. “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures. When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct. This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.”
Ratified in 1920, the amendment stated that a citizen’s right to vote must not be restricted based on gender. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Direct democracy is a political system in which the people vote directly on policies or laws, as opposed to voting for representatives who enact laws on their behalf.
Not planned or chosen for a particular reason; done without concern for what is fair or right.
The process by which courts analyze the constitutionality of an act of government.
Majority rule/minority rights
laws may be made with the consent of the majority, but only to the point where they do not infringe on the inalienable rights of the minority.
An arbitrary order or decree.
Something that is owned by a person, business, etc. This includes possessions, beliefs, faculties, and opinions, and the fruits of one's labor.
A government in which the power is held by the people.
A body of electors chosen by each state to vote for the president and vice president of the United States.
Conduct that reflects universal principles of moral and ethical excellence essential to leading a worthwhile life and to effective self-government. For many leading Founders, attributes of character such as justice, responsibility, perseverance, etc., were thought to flow from an understanding of the rights and obligations of men. Virtue is compatible with, but does not require, religious belief.