Family, children and the Women's Liberation Movement
Zoë Fairbairns talks about her mother's life and work at home
Mukami McCrum talks about working collectively
From the beginning, the Women’s Liberation Movement argued, sometimes over-simply, that ‘women’s oppression’ began in the family. This was because the family was where little girls learned to be women and also because the household relied on the unpaid work of women. Furthermore, the WLM provided an opportunity for women to spaces where women could explore the paradox of being a wife, mother and independent adult: the conflict between loving and caring for others while also maintaining a sense of self and purpose. Feminists questioned the institution of marriage and family, and were excited about exploring new ways of living and loving. Questioning the connections between women, family and domesticity, and attempting to find new ways of imagining family, kinship and community were central to the debates and discussions of the WLM.
Increasingly, young women wanted more than marriage and motherhood as they were defined in the 1950s and ‘60s. As a result feminists challenged:
- Women's confinement to the home and marriage, or women's destiny as wives and mothers and the legal terms of marriage contracts
- The division of labour within a household and as it affected paid work outside
- The stereotypical shape and nature of a family, re-imagining what this could look like
Mary McIntosh on women's financial and legal independence
The text in this article is available under the Creative Commons License.