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Goals of the Feminist Movement

What Did Feminists Want?


Bus Conductors in London Demand Equal Opportunity

Bus Conductors in London Demand Equal Opportunity, December 1968

Fred Mott/Evening Standard/Getty Images

What do women want? In particular, what did the feminists of the 1960s and 1970s want? Feminism changed many women's lives and created new worlds of possibility for education, empowerment, working women, feminist art and feminist theory. For some, the goals of the feminist movement were simple: let women have freedom, equal opportunity and control over their lives. Here are some specific feminist movement goals from the “second wave” of feminism.

  • Abortion rights on demand
    The call for “abortion on demand” is often misunderstood. Leaders of the women’s liberation movement were clear that women should have reproductive freedom and safe access to legal abortion.
  • Education
    Many women went to college and worked professionally in the early 20th century, but the mid-20th century myth of the middle-class suburban housewife downplayed the importance of women’s education. Feminists knew that girls and women must be encouraged to seek an education, and not just as “something to fall back on,” if they were to become, and be seen as, "fully" equal.
  • Rethinking women's "roles" in nuclear family households
    Although not all feminists called for collective mothering or went so far as to urge “seizing the means of reproduction,” as Shulamith Firestone wrote in The Dialectic of Sex, it was clear that women should not have to bear the sole responsibility for raising children. 
  • “I Want a Wife”
    No, this essay from the first issue of Ms. magazine did not mean that every woman literally wanted a wife, but it did suggest that any adult would love to have someone to play the “housewife” role as it had been defined.
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