Practice Question on Women's Roles

Readings and Notes about Women


  1. The Children’s Hour (1961), based on a 1934 play, depicts two single women working as teachers who are ostracized after a rumor spreads that they are engaged in a romantic relationship. See Readings for January 14.

  2. Daughters of Bilitis, formed in 1955: an early homophile group for women and lesbians that also published The Ladder and advocated for lesbian rights. See Readings for January 14.

  3. 1991 Controversy over women’s roles, feminism, women’s reproductive rights, and women in combat. Compare NOW Resolutions and Phyllis Schlafly’s Report. According to Schlafly, NOW wants to radically restructure society instead of just advocating for women’s rights; she opposes the ERA, citing NOW’s tactics dating back to the 1970s. See Readings for January 23.

  4. 1967 Minutes of a Meeting by NOW. The organization votes on resolutions to support ERA and abortion rights, but there is still some disagreement within the organization about these resolutions. See Readings for January 30.

  5. Esther Peterson explains why, after opposing the ERA, she has decided to change her mind. See Readings for January 30.

  6. Phyllis Schlafly debates a NOW representative on Firing Line in 1973, and they disagree about women’s roles in combat. See Readings for January 30.

  7. League of Women Voters policy in 1947 invokes Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 but also explains that equal treatment does not mean identical treatment. The League still supports special protective labor laws for women. See Readings for February 6.

  8. 1930s Newspaper Columns by Eleanor Roosevelt explain her position on protective labor laws, which she still supports. At the same time she notes the work that WPA women administrators and activists in groups like the Women’s Trade Union League are doing, as well as business and professional women. See Readings for February 13.

  9. Madonna appears at the MTV Music Video Awards and performs a very public, sexually charged show in 1991. See Readings for January 23.

  10. Alice Moore leads the campaign against West Virginia textbooks in 1974. See Readings for January 30.

  11. Richard Brookhiser says that in the 1960s, the “division of labor” in his house was that “Dad worked” and “Mom was the Mother.” See Readings for January 30.

  12. Many of the Firing Line episodes filmed on college campuses in the late 1960s and early 1970s have women in the audience. See Readings for January 30.

  13. Journalist Kathy O’Hearn recalls being dismissed by her male colleagues in the newsroom when she and other women wanted to air the Rodney King video. See Readings for January 23.

  14. The Supergirl comic from 1987 contains an introduction from Elizabeth Dole as Secretary of Transportation in 1983, and also depicts Supergirl as a hero, while simultaneously showing her having a boyfriend she wants to go to the dance with. See Readings for January 23.

  15. In his State of the Union Address from 1996, Bill Clinton thanks women, his wife and “Mrs. Gore,” for teaching him about the importance of families and children and the difficulties of parenting. Also mentions that welfare reform will help mothers who are required to go to work not to worry about their children. See Readings for January 23.

  16. Article on Barack Obama’s election to the Harvard Law Review mentions the election of the first female editor in 1977. See Readings for January 23.

  17. The article by Susan J. Douglas on conservative radio mentions a backlash by men who felt that women’s new roles in society were constraining their freedom or changing their masculinity. See Readings for February 4.


  1. In 1941, women protested lend-lease bill with signs saying: “Kill Bill 1776, Not Our Boys.”

  2. Betty Boop depicted first as a flapper in the 1920s, transformed by the 1940s and 1950s into a housewife cleaning.

  3. Conformity in Cold War culture. (example: Ford TV ad and housewives)

  4. Even in radical movements like the Black Panther party, women were still depicted as mothers of children.

  5. Martha Shelley diverges from earlier homophile organizations to found the Gay Liberation Front.

  6. Phyllis Schlafly’s political power during Reagan administration. Reagan calls her up to get her help, and she goes to the White House to consult. She founded the STOP ERA movement; she writes for Goldwater in 1964; she runs for Congress in 1952.

  7. Anita Bryant “Save our Children Campaign”, anti-gay rights campaign in 1977.

  8. Sandra Day O’Connor appointed to the Supreme Court.

  9. The “nude in” at Grinnell College. Protested Playboy.

Example question

Popular culture often depicts the history of American women between 1940 and 1980 as one of rapid transformation, in which women allegedly left traditional, private roles as homemakers for increasingly public roles as politicians, professionals, and activists. To what extent does this depiction of change over time fit the evidence examined in this class?