Breaking the Wave: Women, Their Organizations, and Feminism, 1945-1985: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Breaking the Wave: Women, Their Organizations, and Feminism, 1945-1985

1st Edition

Edited by Kathleen A. Laughlin, Jacqueline Castledine


268 pages

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Breaking the Wave is the first anthology of original essays by both younger and established scholars that takes a long view of feminist activism by systematically examining the dynamics of movement persistence during moments of reaction and backlash. Ranging from the "civic feminism" of white middle-class organizers and the "womanism" of Harlem consumers in the immediate postwar period, to the utopian feminism of Massachusetts lesbian softball league founders and environmentally minded feminists in the 1970s and 1980s, Breaking the Wave documents a continuity of activism in both national and local organizing that creates a new discussion, and a new paradigm, for twentieth century women’s history.

Contributors: Jacqueline L. Castledine, Susan K. Freeman, Julie A. Gallagher, Marcia Gallo, Sally J. Kenney, Rebecca M. Kluchin, Kathleen A. Laughlin, Lanethea Mathews, Catherine E. Rymph, Julia Sandy-Bailey, Jennifer A. Stevens, Janet Weaver, and Leandra Zarnow.

Table of Contents


Introduction The Long History of Feminism, Kathleen A. Laughlin

Part I Mainstream, Leftist, and Sexual Politics

Chapter 1 Civic Feminists: The Politics of the Minnesota Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, 1942—1965

Kathleen A. Laughlin

Chapter 2 The Legal Origin of "The Personal Is Political": Bella Abzug and Sexual Politics in Cold War America

Leandra Zarnow

Chapter 3 "I’m Glad as Heck that You Exist": Feminist Lesbian Organizing in the 1950s

Marcia Gallo

Part II Women’s Global Visions

Chapter 4 Exporting Civic Womanhood: Gender and Nation Building

Catherine E. Rymph

Chapter 5 The National Council of Negro Women, Human Rights, and the Cold War

Julie A. Gallagher

Chapter 6 From Ladies Aid to NGO: Transformations in Methodist Women’s Organizing in Postwar


Lanethea Mathews

Part III The Politics of Location

Chapter 7 The Consumers Protection Committee: Women’s Activism in Postwar Harlem

Julia Sandy-Bailey

Chapter 8 Pregnant? Need Help? Call Jane: Service as Radical Action in the Abortion Underground in Chicago

Rebecca M. Kluchin

Chapter 9 Feminizing Portland, Oregon: A History of the League of Women Voters in the Postwar Era,


Jennifer A. Stevens

Chapter 10 Barrio Women: Community and Coalition in the Heartland

Janet Weaver

Part IV Feminist Consciousness and Movement Persistence

Chapter 11 "Stop That Rambo Shit. . . This is Feminist Softball": Reconsidering Women’s Organizing in the Reagan Era and Beyond

Jacqueline L. Castledine and Julia Sandy-Bailey

Chapter 12 "It Would Be Stupendous for Us Girls": Campaigning for Women Judges Without Waving

Sally J. Kenney

Chapter 13 Building Lesbian Studies in the 1970s and 1980s

Susan K. Freeman

Conclusion Looking Backward, Looking Forward

Jacqueline L. Castledine

About the Editors

Kathleen A. Laughlin is Professor of History at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. She is the author of Women’s Work and Public Policy: A History of the Women’s Bureau, US Department of Labor, 1945-1970.

Jacqueline L. Castledine is a core faculty member of the University Without Walls program, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she teaches interdisciplinary studies.

About the Series

New Directions in American History

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / United States / 20th Century