Women's Issues and the 1968 Presidential Election

Elected in 1968, Richard Nixon campaigned on the coat-tails of equal right, however his lack of attention toward’s women’s issues caused him plenty of backlash.  During the election, women’s liberation was a hot topic, as the new wave of feminism flooded American politics, clashing with the culture of a “typical” female (think Doris Day and Mrs. Cleaver.)

Issues such as legalized abortions (remember, the Roe v. Wade decision wasn’t made until 1973,) the value of women’s votes, and the equality for women (especially married women) in the workplace were all highly charged issues, as women climbed the social, class and status ladder and clashed against the men who were already sitting on top.

Working women:

Currently, women make $0.77 to every man’s dollar, though this gap in wages is not something that hasn’t be fought before. In a 1962 issues of the Wall Street Journal (just six year before the election) women were already fighting for equal pay. In an article titled Senate Unit Approves ‘Equal Pay for Women’ Bill; Changes Possible: Tower to Seek to Put Limit on Labor Agency’s Role, Allow for Added Cost of Women Employes, talks of putting a limit on the Labor Agency’s role in the issue to allow for employers to afford the “added cost of women employees.” However, as the printed of this article the bill was not yet passed, women’s lobbying groups rallied for “equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill.” The article also spoke of ridiculous amendments that would be added to such a simply bill (because it’s so hard to pay everyone the same wage when you’re cheap) such as not being able to look into earlier complaints by female worker’s on unjust actions, and the bill would only cover based on “seniority or merit increase systems.” The bill looked to favor the excuses by avoiding the harsh truth that employers just do not want to pay women equally.

Abortion Laws:

In an article dated December 1968 (right after the 1968 election) by Keith Monore ,titled How California’s Abortion Law Isn’t Working: California’s abortion law The abortion reformers look to the courts for change, spoke of how California was reforming its Abortion Law. It allowed for abortions to be approved and undergone only if the mother was mentally ill. In effect, many women were suddenly mentally ill to have their cases approved, and as Monore reported, if their cases weren’t approved women would find other means to abort their pregnancies, such as seeking unsafe “alternative abortions.” While Pro-choice and Pro-lifers battle it now during this election, in 1968 women were still having the “legitimacy” of their rapes questioned, as the article quoted stories of a raped girl who became pregnant who died after she jumped off her parents’ roof to abort the child, another was of a child who despised his “parents” who was conceived after his mother (a married women) was raped though abortion was approved by medical authorities it was the declined by the district attorney.

Sexual Discrimination:

In 1966, the National Organization for Women (NOW) was formed, and is currently the largest feminist organization in the United States. Since it’s formation, NOW focuses on issues pertaining to women such as abortion rights and reproductive issues, violence against women, constitutional equality, promoting diversity and ending racism, lesbian rights, and economic justice. Using the database “Women and Social Movements,” I was able to find an article titled “How and Why Was Feminist Legal Strategy Transformed, 1960-1973.” In Document 15 was an article from November 1967 which dealt with Constitutional Protection Against Sex Discrimination, written by Mary Eastwood. The core of Eastwood’s memorandum can be summed up by one quote:

“The power of American law, and the protection guaranteed by the U.S.Constitution to the civil rights of all individuals, must be effectively applied and enforced to isolate and remove patterns of sex discrimination, to ensure equality of opportunity in employment and education, and equality of civil and political rights and responsibilities on behalf of women, as well as for Negroes and other deprived groups.”

Just like the issues before this, women have been fighting against sexual discrimination on a political for decades. Though progress has been made, there is still much to be done, and this current election may choose whether or not the war on women truly blooms to fruition.


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