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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?


Core Reading

S. Rowbotham, Promise of a Dream: Remembering the Sixties (2000)

J. Mitchell, Women’s Estate (1971) [part 1]

Further Reading

History of Women's Liberation - website of primary sources

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]