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Feminism and Its Backlash: The Real Events of “Mrs. America”

This multi-part made-for-TV documentary series that debuted Spring 2020 spotlights a generation of women who brought lasting change to the world. Think of women’s lives before the advent of second-wave feminism in the late 1960s and early 1970s! Lilith photographer Joan Roth was onsite for many of this era’s feminist conferences, and its backlash gatherings too; the “Mrs.” of the series’ title is Phyllis Schlafly, anti-feminist right-winger. Designated heroes included Betty Friedan, labeled the mother of the movement and author of The Feminine Mystique, the book that Gloria Steinem confesses—to Friedan, during one episode—changed her life; and Bella Abzug, nicknamed “Battling Bella,” U.S. Congresswoman (1971–73). The series also foregrounds Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman in Congress (1968), and the first woman and first African American to seek the nomination for president. The iconic images here are just a small sample from Roth’s extraordinary photo archives.

The Lilith Blog 

Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman in Congress (1968) and the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president

Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman in Congress (1968) and the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president

Betty Friedan signing the renewed Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls, September, 1977.

Betty Friedan signing the renewed Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls, September, 1977.

Bella Abzug passes the Olympic Torch to First Ladies at the National Women's Conference, Houston, Texas

Bella Abzug passes the Olympic Torch to First Ladies at the National Women’s Conference, Houston, Texas