The Work of the Common Woman

“For a lot of middle-class women in this country, Women’s Liberation is a matter of concern. For women on welfare it’s a matter of survival.” –Johnnie Tillmon

This project focuses on the issues that working class women faced during second-wave feminism, and aims to share their marginalized story. While the feminist movement was heavily characterized through the experiences of middle-class educated women, those in the working class were often invisible in their fight against inequality. In 1970, women made just 58 cents for every dollar men were paid for the same job. The passing of Title VII (1964), a law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment, was imperfect but set a foundation for working women in their fight for equality to legally confront discriminatory hiring practices. As the fight of working class women gained momentum, articles describing union organizing, that also critiqued unions’ sexist practices, began to appear. Feminist poet Judy Grahn gave a strong voice to those women who were often overlooked in the movement–waitresses, maids, cashiers–in her 1978 book of poems The Work of a Common Woman.

–Michael Stamas