1970s The Battle of the Sexes

In the early 1970s, feminism became a force that reshaped the relationships between men and women in the most fundamental ways. Divorce rates spiked as women chafed under their traditional roles but, where men could adapt, marriages became stronger than ever.

In 1972 women were given a true voicewhen Gloria Steinem launched Ms. Magazine. The magazine gave women a platform to tell their story and to open a national conversation. Ms. grew rapidly during the 1970s putting a spotlight on issues such as abortion, women’s health and domestic violence. 

With the widespread adoption of the contraceptive pill, women’s sexuality was freed from the constant worry over pregnancy. At the same time, the Movement targeted states’ restrictive abortion laws, culminating in the epochal Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973.

The Movement could be felt in every realm of life from politics to the economy to pop culture. Billie Jean King was the best female tennis player in the world when she took on Bobby Riggs in the highly promoted “Battle of the Sexes.” And in 1974 the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Little League must allow girls to play baseball alongside boys.

Riding a wave of victories, the Movement aimed for the ultimate victory — passage of a constitutional amendment recognizing women’s equality. But, just as passage seemed assured, a conservative backlash led by Phyllis Schlafly doomed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and put an end to the unbroken string of victories.

Maria Pepe Maria Pepe

Maria Pepe on her role in opening up Little League to girls and her legacy

Maria Pepe Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King on fighting for equality in professional tennis

Sarah Weddington Sarah Weddington

Sarah Weddington was a the attorney in Roe v Wade. Learn more about the landmark case.

Sarah Weddington Ms. Magazine

Gloria Steinem founded Ms. Magazine in 1972

Roe vs. Wade Roe vs. Wade

MAKERS: Women Who Make America airs February 26 at 8pm ET.

Roe vs. Wade Stop ERA

The fight to ratify the ERA

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