Second-Wave Feminism in the Student Life and Culture Archives

Written by Patty Templeton

The first-wave of feminism in the United States focused on overturning legal obstacles to gender equality. It concentrated on issues like voting rights and property rights. The second-wave of feminism is agreed to have lasted from the 1960s until the 1980s. During these two decades of activism, people fought for a variety of issues that revolved around sexuality, reproductive rights, work life, family life, and gender-based inequalities. It should be noted that the second-wave of feminism has been criticized as not inclusive to the issues of women of color/working class and poor women.

Activism concerning second-wave feminism can be found throughout the Student Life and Culture (SLC) Archives. The following materials are a starting point for second-wave feminism research in the archives. These resources connect to topics and people pertinent to feminism on campus and how female students were treated during this time.

Women Supporting Equal Rights Amendment, ca. 1976

The Women’s Resources and Services Subject File, 1964-1991 (RS 41/3/10) contains pamphlets, posters, flyers, correspondence, newsletters, and more regarding programs like the Feminist Scholarship Conference (1978), the Illinois Symposium for Women (1969-1981), and the Verdell Frazier-Young Awards (1970-1991).

The Women’s Resources and Services References File, 1959-88, 1993-2005 (RS 41/3/9) builds broader context for second-wave feminism. It contains clippings, articles, brochures, and booklets about women in higher education focusing on topics such as Title IX, women’s liberation, Women’s Studies, and the Equal Rights Amendment.

For minutes, newsletters, and program materials about the Equal Rights Amendment, sexual harassment, rape, the National Women’s Music Festival (1976-80), the Women’s Film Festival (1981 & 1984), and other issues concerning women, look through the Women’s Student Union Records, 1974-84 (RS 41/66/100).

Women’s Folk Festival, 1974

The Joyce D. Meyers Papers, 1961-2018 (RS 41/20/271) reflect the life and activism of Meyers, who attended UIUC in the 1970s, protested for the Equal Rights Amendment, and became the first openly LGBTQ candidate to run for Champaign City Council.

The Paula Treichler Papers, 1970-1998 (RS 52/5/21) reflect Professor Treichler’s work, correspondence, papers, and clippings regarding issues such the Campus Affairs Committee on Women’s Concerns, child care, women’s studies, and the Committee on the Status of Women.

A search through the Student Organizations Publications, 1871- (RS 41/6/840) may be fruitful, as it contains copies of student org docs and announcements. For example, Box 1 contains info on the Abortion Rights Coalition and the Allies for a Women’s Center.

To position the expectations of women on campus leading into and during second-wave feminism, peruse Illini Wise 1944, 1946, 1949-60 (RS 41/3/810). To further situate how women and their interests were viewed, check out Editorial Office News for Women, 1948- (RS 8/3/861). These weekly news releases focused on “news of general interest to women” and homemaking.

Several more publications of interest include Continuing Conversations, 1967- (RS 41/3/814), a bimonthly publication focused on concerns of women at UIUC, and People Publications, 1970-71 (RS 41/66/969). People reflected radical activism on campus, including women’s liberation.

As always, the Daily Illini is an excellent resource to keyword search for topics such as feminism, abortion, Title IX, the Equal Rights Amendment, and women’s liberation. (Make sure to limit the years of your search!)

The SLC has a plethora of material regarding women’s history throughout the second-wave of feminism, as does the University Archives at the Main Library. Start here but contact an archivist if you have any questions!

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