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The Women's Movement

            If you were to ask almost any woman in the United States who the best looking president was chances are she would say John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy has long been revered by women as easy on the eyes, but during his presidency he was not so revered by the ladies on women's issues. In response to this criticism, J.F.K. organized in 1961 the Commission on the Status of Women. The idea for this commission came from the suggestion of Esther Peterson, the director of the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor. In 1963 the commission issued a report detailing employment discrimination, unequal pay, legal inequality, and insufficient support services for working women. This report led directly to the passage of the Equal Pay Act that same year. The Equal Pay Act made it illegal to pay different wages to men and women who performed the same work. Unfortunately, the new law had little effect on narrowing the wage gap between the sexes. Most female workers remained in jobs traditionally held by women, offering low wages and little prospect for advancement. This so- called "second wave" of the women's rights movement revived the ERA debate.
             One of the most prominent leaders of this "second wave" in women's lib was one of Peoria's own, Betty Friedan. Friedan gained her first public attention when she published the infamous book "The Feminine Mystique".
             In her book Friedan addressed the question on women's minds everywhere "Is this all?" Was there life for women outside the cooking, cleaning, and sewing? In a loud response to this silent question, Betty Friedan started the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966, in an effort to increase women's political power in the United States. In its early years, NOW focused almost exclusively on the attainment of rights for women as individuals. It wasn't until NOW sponsored the Women's Strike for Equality in 1970 did membership expand dramatically.

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