WS 101 M/W- Cora Agatucci

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Women's StudiesTable of ContentsHistorical Timelines
Part VI: Women in the 20th Century
& "Second Wave" Feminism

Learn more about selected WS topics by clicking the hyperlinks embedded in these timelines.
And if you find inaccuracies, bugs, or other websites relevant to timeline topics, please let me know:
The timeline pages are under construction and probably always will be...

ca. 1920 Adelaide Johnson completes a marble portrait monument (history & photo) honoring Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The work stands now stands (since May 1997) in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.

"Section 1. Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.
"Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
"Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification."

Equal Rights Amendment was written in 1921 by suffragist Alice Paul [1885-1977: Paul's biography]. It has been introduced in Congress every session since 1923. It passed Congress in 1972, but failed to be ratified by the necessary thirty-eight states by the July 1982 deadline. It was ratified by thirty-five states.
Supporters contend that the ERA is needed because the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not provide adequate protection against sex discrimination.
Opponents claim that the ERA will provide no benefits, and may hurt women."
(Larisa Kofman, Univ. of Maryland).

1923 The National Woman's Party (now known as the League of Women Voters) pressed for the Equal Rights Amendment.
1924 Helen Keller established the American Foundation for the Blind.
1925 Nellie Taylor Ross was elected governor of Wyoming.

The giant flower paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) were first exhibited. O'Keeffe was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, into a family which emphasized education for women. By the 8th grade, Georgia declared, "I am going to be an artist," though she met with early discouragement in pursuit of her career. However, in 1916, Alfred Stieglitz, a pioneer in photograpic art, was introduced to her drawing--"purest, finest, sincerest things that had entered 291 in a long while", he said and exhibited 10 in his 291 gallery. "At last," he exclaimed, "a woman on paper!" An O'Keeffe Calla Lily painting sold for $25,000 in 1928, and drew wide media attention. Georgia's financial success would finally prove to her that an artist could make a living with a paintbrush. In 1962, Georgia was elected to the 50 member American Academy of Arts and Letters, the nation's highest honor society for people in the arts. (For more links)

1928 Margaret Mead (1901-1978), U.S. anthropologist, publishes publication of Coming of Age in Samoa, a study of adolescent behavior in a Polynesian society, changing American anthropology, the scientific study of human beings. The book became a best-seller and brought Mead to the forefront of American
anthropology, where she would remain for half a century.

Alice Paul founded the World Party for Equal Rights for Women, and during the 1920s and 1930s, focused on equality for women all over the world. Paul also worked to achieve world peace, which she believed could be brought about if women played an active role in world governments.


1931 Alexandra Tolstoy fled Russia and set up retirement homes for Russian immigrants.
1932 Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias (1914-1956), one of the greatest athletes of all time, set two world records and won two gold medals in the javelin and the 80-meter hurdles at the 1932 Olympics. Zaharias won more medals and set more records in more sports than any other athlete in the twentieth-century. She started out playing basketball, then went on to track and field. In 1934, Zaharias took up golf. She won seventeen tournaments in a row in 1947, and only lost once in seven years of competition. She died of cancer in 1956.


Early 1930s Dorothy Thompson, U.S. journalist who was among the first to recognize Hitler's threat, provoked Hitler to deport her in 1934, by reporting his fascist methods.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), acclaimed "living anthropologist" and writer, studied African-American folklore by traveling around the American South and the West Indies in the 1930s, asking about local myths, legends, and traditional practices. Hurston was the most widely published black woman of her day--the author of more than fifty articles and short stories as well as four novels, two books on folklore, an autobiography, and some plays. At the height of her success she was known as the "Queen of the Harlem Renaissance." Yet her success brought no financial security, and Hurston died in a welfare home and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1973 novelist and poet Alice Walker placed a stone marker in Fort Pierce at the place believed to be Hurston's burial plot, honoring "Zora Neale Hurston, A Genius of the South." See also Alice Dunbar's contributions to the Harlem Renaissance.)

mid-1930s Marge Henderson launched her cartoon strip Little Lulu.
1936 Beryl Markham, a pioneer aviator, was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from London to North America.
1939 Eleanor Roosevelt supported Marian Anderson in a boycott of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which refused Anderson an opportunity to perform at Constitution Hall because of her race. Instead Anderson sings at the Lincoln Memorial before a crowd of 75,000 people.
1940 Dalia Messick created her cartoon Brenda Starr, but published under the name Dale Messick.
See also
Rosie the Riveter and Other Women World War II Heroes and "Women Come to the Front: Journalists, Photographers, and Broadcasters During World War II - DOROTHEA LANGE" (essays with images by student authors)


1943 Madame Chiang Kai-Shek made two passionate speeches to Congress pleading for aid to China against its Japanese invaders. (See background on International "Man and Woman of the Year," 1937, the year when Madame Chiang and her husband Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek were named.)
1948 United Nations accepted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Eleanor Roosevelt, U.S. delegate appointed by Pres. Truman, was the driving force behind its creation. The humanitarian work of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), American First Lady and diplomat, made her one of the best-known and most admired women in the world.
1949 Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), French writer and feminist, publishes her study of the status of women, The Second Sex, regarded as a classic statement of liberation (see photo).The opening of the section on childhood--"One is not born a woman, one becomes one"--became familiar throughout the world as a description of the condition of women. With the philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre, Beauvoir was at the center of the influential existentialist movement and participated in the French Resistance movement against Nazi occupation during World War II (1939-1945).

Mary Eliza Church Terrell (1863-1954), American social activist, cofounder
and first president of the National Association of Colored Women, gained entrance to the Washington chapter of the American Association of University Women, bringing to an end its policy of excluding blacks. Terrell was an early civil-rights advocate, an educator, an author, and a lecturer on woman suffrage and black rights.

"Why is gender important? The simplest answer is because it's there.
'Gender,' meaning the differentiation, usually on the basis of sex,
between social roles and functions labeled as 'masculine' and 'feminine,' is universal:
all societies known to us in all time periods make some sort of gender distinctions.
As a central feature of all cultures, gender seems worth some attention.
from "What Is Feminism (and why do we have to talk about it so much)?"
Mary Klages (U. Colorado, Boulder)

1950 Gwendolyn Brooks was the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry (See also Voices from the Gaps' Gwendolyn Brooks' Home Page and sample "We Real Cool.")
1952 Mother Teresa opened the Nirmal Hriday ("Pure Heart") Home for Dying Destitutes in Calcutta.
1953 United Nations encourages equality in the workplace for men and women when it sponsored the Convention Concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value, and later in 1960, the Convention Concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation. Over 100 countries ratified these measures.
1955 On December 1 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to give her bus seat to a white passenger and willingly went to jail in protest of racial discrimination on public transportion.
1959 Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) became the first female playwright to win the coveted New York Drama Critics Circle Award, for the Broadway run of A Raisin in the Sun.
1960s Pacifist Jeannette Rankin, singer Joan Baez, editor Dorothy Day, and actress Jane Fonda opposed the Vietnam War.
Mary Wells Lawrence founded the Wells Rich Greene ad agency, the largest run by a woman.
1960 Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994), U.S. track and field athlete, became the first American woman to win three gold medals at the Olympic Games in Rome.
1961 Congresswoman Jessica Weis sponsored the Equal Rights Amendment.

"The liberated woman is not that modern doll who wears make-up and tasteless clothes. ....The liberation woman is a person who believes that she is as human as a man.
The liberated woman does not insist on her freedom so as to abuse it."

Ghada Samman, writer, 1961, Syria

1962 Betty Friedan launched "second wave" feminism with the publication of The Feminine Mystique.

On the suggestion of Esther Peterson, director of the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor, President John F. Kennedy set up the first national Commission on the Status of Women in 1962. In 1963, the commission issued a report detailing employment discrimination, unequal pay, legal inequality, and insufficient support services for working women. In the 1960s, the "second wave" of the women’s rights movement revived the ERA debate. However, the majority of the commission members opposed the ERA, primarily on the grounds that equal rights were already guaranteed in the Constitution.

1963 Jean Nidetch established Weight Watchers, selling out to H. J. Heinz in 1978 for $72 million.

A Russian woman, Valentina Tereshkova, became the first woman in space when she accompanied a team of astronauts. A second Russian, Svetlana Savitskaya, flew in 1981, and before astronaut Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman to fly in space in 1982. Ride became a symbol of hope and progress for American wome, and since her historic flight in 1983, a number of other women have proven themselves on U.S. space shuttle missions.

1965 Elizabeth Duncan Koontz was elected the first black president of the National Education Association.
1966 To press for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Betty Friedan established NOW, the National Organization of Women.

Indira Gandhi (1917-1984), Indian political leader, became the leader of the Congress Party and then prime minister of India, the world's largest democracy.

1967 Rosemary Casals and Billie Jean King won the doubles crown at Wimbledon and at the United States and South African championships. Casals, an immigrant from el Salvador, earned a reputation as a rebel in the staid tennis world when she began competing in the early 1960s. During her two-decade tennis career, Casals won more than 90 tournaments and worked for many changes that strengthened women's tennis.


1969 Golda Meir (1898-1978), elected Israel's fourth premier (1969-74), is a founder of the state of Israel. At her death in 1978, Golda Meir was mourned internationally and hailed as "the conscience of the Jewish people."
1970s Fareeha Zafar set up Pakistan's first women's trade union.

"Old age is not a disease -- it is strength and survivorship,
triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and
disappointments, trials and illnesses."

"We have a lot to offer society, we old folks. We're not finished, or
washed up, or out to pasture. We have ideas, many ideas, and if anybody
asks us, we're willing to share our ideas."

"Speak your mind--even if your voice shakes, well-aimed slingshots can topple giants."
Maggie Kuhn, 1905-1995

1970 Maggie Kuhn (1905-1995) began the Gray Panthers, initially dedicated to
championing causes of the elderly, including challenging age discrimination and lobbying for government health care coverage, but soon embracing wider causes such as raising opposition to the Vietnam War.
1972 Barbara Jordan (1936-1996 ) of Texas became the first black female to chair a state legislature.(See 1996 congressional Tribute to Barbara Jordan, NewsHour Remembers... and In Memorium)

Gloria Steinem inaugurated a fifteen-year editorship of Ms. magazine.

The ERA measure won congressional approval in 1972 as the 27th Amendment, but it had to be ratified by at least 38 states to become law. Under the leadership of female politicians like U.S. representative Bella Abzug of New York, and groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW), supporters of the ERA campaigned to gain passage of the amendment at the state level.

1973 Norma McCorvey, officially known as "Roe," sued Texas for the right to an abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade declared invalid all state laws that restricted abortion in the first three months of pregnancy, grounding the decision on the right to privacy. On the same day, in Doe v. Bolton, the Court struck down procedures required by statute that created unnecessary obstacles for a woman who sought an abortion. (See The Feminist Chronicles - 1973: Lifestyles; and of related interest, CONTRACEPTION: Methods Through History, from Tannahill: Sex in History)

President Nixon, in his human resources message to Congress said the administration "will continue" to support ratification of the [Equal Rights) amendment ". . . so that American women. . . need never again be denied equal opportunity." However, the administration did not go all out for ratification, because of an alleged fear that if the White House pressed aggressively for
ratification, it might generate more opposition to the amendment on the ground that the President was overstepping his authority.
(See The Feminist Chronicles - 1973: Events)

1974 Betty Bone Schiess became the first female ordained Episcopal priest in America, the first of 11 women to be ordained, in an atmosphere of both celebration and conflict, by four bishops challenging the denomination's rules and practices as
well as 2,000 years of male dominance of the Christian priesthood.
Catholic nuns also adopted a resolution calling upon their church to ordain women as priests at a leadership conference made up of most of the women in top posts in Catholic religious orders. The National Leadership Conference of Women Religious thus became the most prestigious body to call for the ordination of women.
(See the Feminist Chronicles 1974: Religion).

By the time Augusta Baker (b. 1911) retired from her position as New York Public Library librarian in 1974, her efforts had ensured that libraries and bookstores gave African American and other "minority" children today have a wide choice of suitable books to read throughout the U.S. When Baker started work as a young librarian in New York in 1937, she found few children's books portraying black people in a realistic manner. During the next thirty-seven years Baker corrected this situation, not only by adding appropriate books to the New York Public Library's collection, but also by meeting with authors and publishers to get more African American stories written.

By 1974, some 1,000 colleges and universities were offering women's studies courses and over 80 had full-fledged women's studies programs, some offering bachelor's degrees in this area of study. A few offered master's degrees in Women's Studies. See Joan Korenman's Guide to Women's Studies Programs in the U.S. and Around the World.

1975 United Nations launches the Decade for Women, a ten-year effort to focus on women’s issues. From 1975-1985, international groups organized a series of conferences around the world on themes of equality, development, and peace. These conferences, culminating in the 1985 UN Nairobi Conference, expanded the participation of the world’s women in all classes, drawing leaders and delegates from "developing" and industrialized nations alike.
1976 Anna Mae Aquash (1945-c. 1976), Native American activist, as well as mother, wife, social worker, and day care teacher, was found murdered on the Pine Ridge Reservation during a time of tremendous social and political upheaval. Aquash has become a symbol of the movement for Indian rights.

In "Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood," the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asserts: "For these reasons, in execution of a mandate received form the Holy See and echoing the declaration which he himself made in his letter of November 30, 1976, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith judges it necessary to recall that the Church, in fidelity to the example of the Lord, does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination. The Sacred Congregation deems it opportune at the present juncture to explain this position of the Church. . . . since it can be of help in deepening understanding of the respective roles of men and women." [From the Catholic Information Network (CIN), 1996].

1977 Noted Polish-American legislator Barbara Mikulski (see her homepage!)was elected to Congress and advanced to the Senate nine years later. (See also Project Vote Smart's biography of Sen. Mikulski; or send an e-mail message to Sen. Mikulski here.)

Nawal El Saadawi (1931- ) , Egyptian doctor, author and feminist, publishes The Naked Face of the Arab Woman. Concerned with the Arab female psyche, she has set out to liberate the mind of the Arab woman, her sexuality, as well as legal position. Saadawi's writings were for a long time considered dangerous for the society and were banished in her native Egypt. Saadawi has been prevented from working as a doctor, and she was jailed from 1981 to 1982. More recently, she has been working in rural Egypt, with information work directed at women, in order to liberate them economically from male dominance.

Mairead Corrigan (b. 1944) and Betty Williams (b. 1943)
Irish social activists, win the Nobel Peace Prize and are credited with reducing the death toll in Northern Ireland by half. Forming Women for Peace, later renamed the Peace People Organization, Corrigan and Williams sought to end the violent conflict between Protestant British loyalists and the Catholic Irish Republican Army racking Northern Ireland: "We want for our children, as we want for ourselves, our lives at home, at work, and at play to be lives of joy and peace."


1977 Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921- ), medical physicist, shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work in new analytic technique called the radioimmunoassay, or RIA, which allowed quantifying very small amounts of biological substances in body fluids using radioactive-labeled material, making it possible for doctors to diagnose conditions caused by minute changes in hormone levels. She was the second woman (Gerty T. Cori was the first) to win the Nobel Prize in this category. Although her parents were not schooled past the eight grade, they were well-read and encouraged the education of their children. In 1941, Rosalyn Sussman graduated with honors in physics and chemistry from Hunter College in New York, New York. She desperately wanted to go to medical school, but being Jewish and a woman, she realized she had no chance of being admitted. When a job could not be guaranteed a New York Jewish woman in physics, Purdue Univ. would not accept her as a graduate student in physics, and Yalow entered secretarial school. Fortunately for her, men were being diverted into the military on the eve of WWII, so graduate schools began accepting women rather than close the schools. Yalow received a teaching assistanceship in physics at the University of Illinois, the most prestigious school she had applied to, and in 1945, she received her Ph.D. in nuclear physics.
Late 1970s Deanna Kawatski became the first female Canadian fire ranger.
1979 Margaret Thatcher (b. 1925), known as the "Iron Lady," becomes the first woman in European history to be elected prime minister. She then went on to become the first British prime minister in the twentieth century to win three
consecutive terms and, at the time of her resignation in 1990, the nation's longest-serving prime minister since 1827.
1979 Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work as founder of the Missionaries of Charity and the Nirmal Hriday ("Pure Heart") Home for Dying Destitutes in Calcutta, subsequently extending her work onto five continents. The Albanian-born Roman Catholic nun, originally named Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, entered the Order of the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto in Ireland at the age of 18. She trained in Dublin and Darjeeling, India, before taking her religious vows in 1937. While serving as principal of a Roman Catholic high school in Calcutta, she was moved by the presence of the sick and dying on the city's streets. In 1948 she was granted permission to leave her post at the convent and begin a ministry among the sick. Members of the congregation take four vows on acceptance by the religious community: in addition to the three basic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience is a fourth vow pledging service to the poor, whom Mother Teresa described as the embodiment of Christ.
1982 The ERA was defeated when only 35 states had passed the measure, three short of the 38 required for ratification. In an unprecedented step, Congress had earlier extended the 7-year deadline for ratification to 10 years, recognizing the general support for the ERA. However, opponents of the ERA argued that a legal doctrine of equality threatened to erase the traditional differences between men and women and confuse the distinct roles that the sexes played in society. Phyllis Schlafly, the founder of STOP ERA, maintained that the ERA offered women no right or opportunity that they did not already possess.
1983 Flossie Wong-Staal (b. 1947), a Chinese-American medical researcher, was credited as codiscoverer of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. One of the world's foremost authorities in the study of viruses, Flossie Wong-Staal was responsible for the first cloning of HIV in 1985 and its first genetic mapping, work with her subsequent research, broke the ground for the development of HIV tests that are used to screen donated blood and test people for the virus. Now Florence Riford Chair in AIDS Research at the University of California at San Diego, Wong-Staal is focusing on discovering a vaccine for the AIDS virus and on therapies to treat those already suffering from the disease.
1984 At the Olympics, Nancy Hogshead won three gold medals for swimming. Kathleen Sullivan anchored the event for ABC News.
1985 Wilma Pearl Mankiller (b. 1945) was sworn in as first woman principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Overcoming many personal tragedies, she returned home to Mankiller Flats, Oklahoma, to establish herself as a politically powerful leader working for the betterment of Native American people.
By 1987 Forty states enacted equal pay laws (e.g., Wisconsin. See also links to U.S. Equal Employment Laws & Regulations, including Enforcement Agencies like the Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Labor; federal laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, including Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended in 1972 and 1991; and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. See also those who are not protected ("exemptions") by equal pay laws.
1989 Barbara Harris (b. 1930) was ordained a suffragan (assistant) bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church in 1989, breaking a 2000-year-old tradition. She was the first female bishop ordained by any of the three major branches of Christianity--Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy.


TOP of this pagePart VI: Women in the 20th Century & "Second Wave" Feminism
Women's Studies Historical Timelines were prepared by Cora Agatucci, 1997

Part I: Women Make Early History
Part II: 17th & 18th Century Women
Part III: Modern Struggles for Equality
Part IV: Struggle for the Vote
Part V: U.S. Woman Suffrage Is Won

Go to Part VII: Women of the 1990s
Sources and Resources for Further Study

WS 101 Syllabus Cora's Classes Cora's Home page