Kirkus Star


The Struggle for Women's Liberation
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Richly illustrated, engagingly written history of second-wave feminism and successor movements from the 1960s to the present.

As Morris (Women’s History/George Washington Univ. and Georgetown Univ.; Sappho’s Bar and Grill, 2017, etc.) and Withers (Sociology/Univ. of Bristol; Feminism, Digital Culture and the Politics of Transmission, 2015, etc.) write, the women’s liberation movement that developed alongside other countercultural political movements was predominantly Western and mostly “white-dominated.” They trace an early milestone to a conference in Oxford, England, held in late February 1970, the first women’s liberation conference in Britain, which articulated certain goals—importantly, “consciousness raising,” “a tool that enabled women to unlock knowledge that had been historically overlooked by male-dominated politics and culture.” The conference was important, but it had predecessors in such things as feminist protests at the 1968 Miss America pageant, which decried “an image that oppresses in every area in which it purports to represent us,” and the publication of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. The political movement spread to embrace parallel movements on the part of women of color, with representatives such as Angela Davis in the U.S. and Olive Morris in the U.K. Other milestones included the publication, in 1971, of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective of Our Bodies, Ourselves, which, the authors note, sold 240,000 copies in its first newsprint edition and many more in a more conventional trade format, touching off an interest in self-care and health activism. “Through politicizing the female body,” Morris and Withers note, “the women’s movement constructed new political and territorial boundaries.” Other pathways to liberation included lesbian collectives, women’s publishing houses and book fairs, publications such as the pioneering Ms. magazine, music, and performance art. Later allied movements included women’s campaigns against nuclear weaponry, for equal pay, and the like. The authors note ongoing concerns among post–second wave activists, including “slut shaming” and access to information.

Essential for students of women’s rights and popular political movements in the modern era and an inspiration for future actions.

Pub Date: Feb. 27th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-58834-612-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Smithsonian Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2017


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