The Three Waves of Feminism in America

“Feminism is defined as the belief in social, political and economic equality between the sexes” (Issitt, 2013).  There have been waves of the feminist movement in America” the Suffragette Movement, the movements of the 1960’s – 1980’s, and the modern-day expanses which have moved into a more all-inclusive movement. Each era of the feminist movement has attempted to empower women and help bring an end to gender prejudice within society, with the modern movements focusing upon not only women’s empowerment but society as a whole. In 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York, a group of women gathered, led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton whose goal was to end the suffrage of women. They demanded that discrimination against women cease to exist in the United States and that “equal rights between the sexes, including voting privileges, legal protection, and equal employment and wages” become the norm of American Society (Issitt, 2013). However, it was not until 1919 when Congress finally passed and amended in 1920 the United States Constitution to allow women to vote. “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” (United States Government, 2017).  However, the rights did not extend to all women in the United States, as women of color still had to wait for their victory.

Great strides had been accomplished within the Suffragette Movement, with the right to vote being at the center of legislation on the side of women. Then the war came, and women found themselves within the workforce, taking care of the nation while the men were off defending the nation itself. By the 1940s women were finally fitting into their male-dominated world; even women of color were beginning to find the race barrier breaking down, if only somewhat. “At this extraordinary historical moment, Mexican American women found new means to exercise control over their lives in the home, workplace, and nation” (Escobedo, 2013). However, there were still downsides, such as women were working without the benefits that men enjoyed, like full pay for work performed, and they had to give up their positions once the men were able to return home. It was after the end of World War II that a decline in the feminist movement began and women were classified as “feminine” only if they fit into their male-dominated societal viewpoints once again. For example, “By the mid-fifties, 60 percent dropped out of college to marry, or because they were afraid too much education would be a marriage bar” (Friedan, 2009).

However, by the 1960s the second wave of feminism in the United States happened and lasted until the 1980s, and included not only white women but women of various races. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which included the word sex, gave protections against “hiring, promoting, and firing” (National Archives, 2017). Next came the 1970s, when women’s rights to equal education came into being with Title IX in 1972 (Issitt, 2013). Furthermore, “In 1972, the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Roe v. Wade officially gave women the right to undergo an abortion, seen as a major victory for the feminist movement” (Issitt, 2013).

The third wave of feminism within the United States is that of the modern movements, which are not only considered with women’s issues but for the social justice afforded to all minorities within our society. One of the current movements focal points is the placement of women within leadership roles in our society. “Modern American feminists are concerned with combating existing misogyny and prejudices regarding the suitability of women for leadership” (Issitt, 2013). However, there are still many more obstacles women still must overcome in our society. For example, women still make earn a fraction of the pay that men earn for the same job with current studies showing that while white women still earn less than men, on average 29.6 percent less than white men, it is far worse for women of color. For example, Hispanic women earn “57.2 percent of the median weekly earnings of non-Hispanic White men” (Hegewisch et al., 2017) and black women earn “62.5 percent of the median weekly earnings of White men” (Hegewisch et al., 2017). It is my opinion that if the goal of placing more women in political positions is obtained, issues such as pay gap discrimination among all women can finally be tackled.



Escobedo, E. R. (2013). From Coveralls to Zoot Suits: The Lives of Mexican American Women on the World War Ii Home Front. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.

Friedan, B. (2009). The Problem That Has No Name. In A. L. Ferber, C.M. Jimenez, A. O'Reilly

Herrera, & D. R. Samuels(Eds.), The Matrix Reader: Examining the Dynamics of Oppression and Privilege (pp358-362). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hegewisch, A., Phil, M., and Williams-Baron, E. (2017).  Institute for Women's Policy

Research. Retrieved from

Issitt, M. S. (2013). Feminism: An Overview. Salem Press Encyclopedia,
National Archives. (2017). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved from

United States Government. (2017). Transcript of 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Women's Right to Vote (1920). Retrieved from


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.