The feminist movement of the 1960s and '70s originally focused on dismantling workplace inequality, such as denial of access to better jobs and salary inequity, via anti-discrimination laws.
In 1964, Representative Howard Smith of Virginia proposed to add a prohibition on gender discrimination into the Civil Rights Act that was under consideration.
Women were generally unwelcome in professional programs; as one medical school dean declared, "Hell yes, we have a quota... We don't want them here — and they don't want them elsewhere, either, whether or not they'll admit it." Working women were routinely paid lower salaries than men and denied opportunities to advance, as employers assumed they would soon become pregnant and quit their jobs, and that, unlike men, they did not have families to support. I'm a server of food and a putter-on of pants and a bedmaker, somebody who can be called on when you want something. " Friedan stunned the nation by contradicting the accepted wisdom that housewives were content to serve their families and by calling on women to seek fulfillment in work outside the home.
In 1962, Betty Friedan's book captured the frustration and even the despair of a generation of college-educated housewives who felt trapped and unfulfilled. While Friedan's writing largely spoke to an audience of educated, upper-middle-class white women, her work had such an impact that it is credited with sparking the "second wave" of the American feminist movement.
Knowing that they could now complete years of training or study and launch their career without being interrupted by pregnancy, a wave of young women began applying to medical, law, and business schools in the early 1970s.
At the same time, the Pill made the "sexual revolution" possible, helping to break down the double standard that allowed premarital sex for men but prohibited it for women.
However, it quickly became clear that the newly established Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would not enforce the law's protection of women workers, and so a group of feminists including Betty Friedan decided to found an organization that would fight gender discrimination through the courts and legislatures.The feminist movement was not rigidly structured or led by a single figure or group.As one feminist wrote, "The women's movement is a non-hierarchical one.At the same time, the FBI viewed the women's movement as "part of the enemy, a challenge to American values," as well as potentially violent and linked to other "extremist" movements.The women's movement used different means to strive for equality: lobbying Congress to change laws; publicizing issues like rape and domestic violence through the media; and reaching out to ordinary women to both expand the movement and raise their awareness of how feminism could help them.