Recently, my public television station did a documentary on The Women’s Liberation Movement and having been one of those gals, it was a treat to relive history. Some of the clips left me wanting to stand up and shout, “Right on!” Nice to know the old juices can still flow. Nonetheless, history forces me to acknowledge that the changing economic climate in our country played a big role in the women’s rights movement.
Everyone knows the history of the industrial revolution and how it transformed us from an agrarian to an urban centered society. Certainly, this change affected family roles, creating breadwinners and homemakers. When the economy changed again from the industrial age to a service economy, the roles changed also. In a service economy, as Jerry Z. Muller notes in “Capitalism and Inequality,” women could qualify for work outside the home because the new jobs required skills other than brute strength. What’s more new inventions for the home, like washing machines, dryers and dishwashers, freed up a woman’s time. But gals didn’t exchange the stove for the typewriter because the option was more rewarding, but because wages paid in a service economy fell far short of those in an industrial one. To live as before, two breadwinners were required. (“Capitalism and Inequality” by Jerry Z. Muller, Foreign Affairs, March/April, 2013, pg. 38.) So, it can be argued that The Women’s Liberation Movement was a consequence of an economic evolution.
According to Muller that evolution is continuing because women have become critical to the workplace. The family model of one of breadwinner and one homemaker has all but disappeared. In its place is a partnership of shared financial obligations between individuals of “equal levels of education and more comparable levels of economic achievement…” (Ibid. pg. 39)
I’m proud to have been a part of The Women’s Liberation Movement, but a little knowledge of history keeps me humble.
(Courtesy of muikaleadership.com)