Senior Honors Theses
History Department Honors Program

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



A Senior Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for Honors in History.
Faculty Advisor: Barbara Savage


This thesis illustrates how feminist consciousness at the crux of the second wave women's movement was simultaneously unified and splintered. What cut across backgrounds and united women was a common mission to overturn institutionalized and de facto gender discrimination in American society. Yet consciousness development and approaches to these women's-centered goals varied greatly among and between black, white, and Chicana women based on race, distinct history in the United States, class, concurrent liberation struggles, and religion. There was both a women's movement – broadly defined as numerous women acting somewhat contemporaneously for the advancement of women's rights – and several women's movements, meaning the pursuit of rights by women of similar standpoints, perhaps within specific contexts, such as a racial community. These movements overlapped yet rarely blended; the simultaneous existence of one movement and many demonstrates the paradoxical nature of the second wave. It also begs the question of whether internal division is indicative of the movement's failure. This thesis argues that, contrary to the views of many historians and feminists, the movement's power lies in its complexity. The voices contained in numerous anthologies are showcased in this intellectual history to demonstrate how women's thoughts and experiences interacted and molded each other's. This dynamic process compelled the interpretation and application of pro-women's empowerment ideals in myriad contexts, giving the struggle depth and making it accessible to a wider range of women. Women, regardless of background, perceived these ideals from their unique points of view and endeavored to integrate these concepts into their lives, traditions, and faiths. The movement's strength, rather than fatal flaw, is that “though all women are women, no woman is only a woman.”


feminism, womanism, consciousness, chicana, civil rights



Date Posted: 23 April 2007