Sex was everywhere in the 1970s.
As a generation of women became liberated in their sexual identities, they wanted that liberation to extend beyond the bedroom.
Women’s equal rights advocates like Gloria Steinem, Susan Brownmiller and Kate Millett emerged and became the faces and voices for a generation.
Here are some of the key women and events that helped – or hindered – women’s liberation throughout the decade.
Feminism goes mainstream
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which states that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” was originally introduced to Congress in 1923 – three years after women gained the right to vote – but never reached the House or Senate floor.
The National Organization for Women, which was founded in 1966 and advocated for a “fully equal partnership of the sexes,” soon endorsed the ERA and made passing it into the U.S. Constitution a top priority. (The amendment had been unsuccessfully presented to every session of Congress between 1923 and 1970.)
However, the ERA was just one part of what the new, “second-wave” feminists wanted to accomplish, as TIME’s article “Who’s Come a Long Way, Baby?” from August 31, 1970, points out:
“They want equal pay for equal work, and a chance at jobs traditionally reserved for men only. They seek nationwide abortion reform – ideally, free abortions on demand. They desire round-the-clock, state-supported child-care centers in order to cut the apron strings that confine mothers to unpaid domestic servitude at home. The most radical feminists want far more. Their eschatological aim is to topple the patriarchal system in which men by birthright control all of society’s levers of power – in government, industry, education, science, the arts.”
In the same article, TIME spotlights Kate Millett, an author who was able to capture the feminist movement’s most radical ideology into a book that became a must-read for any supporter.