Feminism in the 70s: The Second Wave


To examine feminism as it existed at Madison College, and eventually, James Madison University, in the 1970s, it is first important to address how feminism existed as a nationwide phenomenon during this period.  For the purposes of this endeavor, “feminism”- a term that often ignites intense debate over meaning, purpose, and membership, will be taken to refer specifically to Second Wave Feminism as it existed during the 1970s.  However, as Second Wave Feminism is still a relatively nebulous and controversial topic, as all incarnations of feminism continue to be to this day, for simplicity’s sake, this exhibit will use the definition put forth in Susan M. Shaw and Janet Lee’s text Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions.  According to Shaw and Lee, Second wave feminism is the “twentieth-century period of social activism from the 1960s through the 1980s that addressed formal and informal inequalities associated, for example, with the workplace, family, sexuality, and reproductive freedom.” (Shaw and Lee, 3)

The potential for feminism at Madison College during this period is, of course, greatly complicated by a number of factors that are somewhat unique to this institution, including:

1) Its history as a women’s only institution

2) Its geographical position in the American south, and the cultural heritage that carries

3) Its relatively conservative student population

4) Its active athletics, fraternity, and party cultures

In light of these, and many other factors, this exhibit seeks to determine if and to what degree the broader national trend of feminism in the 1970s translated to feminist activity, consciousness, and identification among the population of Madison College in this period.

Works Cited:

Shaw, Susan M., and Janet Lee. Women’s voices, feminist visions: classic and contemporary readings. 5th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2012.