What Role Did Women Play in the 1960s?

During the first few years of the 1960s women were still viewed as homemakers and mothers. During this decade the role of women changed as they gradually gained the freedom to work outside the home and be respected as professionals.

In the early 1960s women were stereotyped as happy wives and mothers. The only jobs available to them outside the home were as teachers, secretaries and nurses. Society felt that a woman’s goal was to get married, have children and be a skilled homemaker. Unmarried and assertive women were social outcasts.

Things began changing when the first birth control pill was introduced in 1960. Women now had the freedom to enter the workforce and delay having children. Unsatisfied homemakers identified with Betty Friedan’s 1963 book “The Feminine Mystique,” which challenged the traditional roles of women.

The 1963 President’s Commission on the Status of Women outlined suggestions for how women could receive better pay, education, opportunities and support for working mothers. Soon after, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ensured that people of all colors, races, national origins and religions could not be discriminated against in employment. Women became more socially aware and sought to join groups such as Women Strike for Peace and the National Organization for Women. By the end of the 1960s women’s roles had changed dramatically as society began to better support non-traditional occupations for women.