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Copy of The Birth of the Women's Liberation Movement

Questions to ponder whilst you read…

  • Was the sexual revolution an important factor in the rise of the WLM? If so, how?
  • Was the Left responsible for the emergence of a ‘second wave’ of feminism in the 1970s?
  • What are the main differences you perceive between ‘first’ and ‘second’ wave feminism? Are these useful labels for the historian?
  • What obstacles did women face in forming a feminist consciousness in the early days of the WLM?

Preparatory Activity

Read an article from the 1970's Spare Rib magazines and come prepared to discuss how it defines the WLM.

For some useful background with short articles and timelines see this British Library site.

Core Reading

S. Rowbotham, Promise of a Dream: Remembering the Sixties (2000) [full book is in the library; Google Books has a review version of most of the first chapter which will give you a flavour] - Charlie, Megan, Ateeqa

J. Mitchell, Women’s Estate (1971) [part 1] - Harprit, Tamyla, Emily

Further Reading

Phillida Bunkle, 'The 1944 Education Act and Second Wave Feminism', Women's History Review 25:5 (2016)791-811

L. Segal, Making Trouble: Life and Politics (2007)

J. Mitchell, ‘Women: The Longest Revolution’, New Left Review (1966) [seminal article which played an important role in the beginning of the WLM in Britain]

Fighting for Feminism: The Woman Question in an Italian Revolutionary Group by Big Flame Women’s Group (available at www.libcom/files/5975.pdf)

Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution (1971) [revolutionary feminist in the USA]

G. Greer, The Female Eunuch (1970) [Australian feminist influential in UK]

Deborah Cameron and Joan Scanlon (eds.), The Trouble and Strife Reader (2010) [extracts from this WLM activist newspaper. Online open access.]

Caine, English Feminism 1780-1980 (1987) [chapter 6]

S. Rowbotham, Dreams and Dilemmas (London: Virago, 1983), pp.5-44

B. Campbell & A. Coutes, Sweet Freedom: The Struggle for Women’s Liberation (1987)

Maitland, Very Heaven, Looking Back at the 1960s (1988)

Glencross, How the international women's movement discovered the "troubles": brokered and broken transnational interactions during the Northern Ireland conflict, 1968-1981(2011)

August, ‘Gender and 1960s Youth Culture: The Rolling Stones and the New Woman’, Contemporary British History 23:1 (2009), 79-100

M.P. Donnelly, Sixties Britain: Culture, Society, and Politics (2005) [chapter on women]