About the CWLU

A Timeline of the Women's Liberation Movement

by Ann Medina and the CWLU Herstory Project Editorial Committee

Special thanks to Ruth Rosen for allowing us to borrow from
the chronology in her wonderful book, The World Split Open

Help us build the timeline. Scroll down to the bottom and add your comments, additions and corrections. Let's fill those blank spaces!





‘Operation Bootstrap’ is in effect sterilizing one third of Puerto Rican women.

Four young men sit-in at a Greensboro, North Carolina, lunch counter after they are refused service. Their action ignites youthful civil rights activists all over the South.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded.

Daughters of Bilitis hold first national Lesbian conference in San Francisco

Jorja English Palmer joins the Chicago Community Council Organization and becomes a leader in the battle to end school segregation in Chicago.

Illinois is first state in U.S. to decriminalize homosexual acts


President’s Commission on the Status of Women is formed by John F. Kennedy with Eleanor Roosevelt as chair.

November 1- Fifty thousand women in sixty cities, mobilized by Women Strike for Peace, protest above ground testing of nuclear bombs and tainted milk.

Dolores Huerta joins Cesar Chavez as a leader of the National Farm Worker's Association (later UFW). Jessie Lopez de la Cruz is the first union woman who organizes in the field.

Birth control pills approved in 1960 and made available in 1961.

Mary Jane Snyder, Planned Parenthood leader, speaks at schools, including at least one Catholic High School, about family planning.



Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, which exposes the dangers of pesticide use " helps launch the modern environmental movement. She is subjected to sexist attacks for her work.

Rev. Willie Barrow and Rev. Jesse Jackson organize Operation Breadbasket dedicated to improving economic conditions in the black community. It later evolves into Rainbow-PUSH.


Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique.

Congress passes the Equal Pay Act.

PCSW presents report to Kennedy documenting discrimination against women.

Some 200,000 people rally in Washington, D.C. and hear Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech.

Alice Rossi presents "Equality Between the Sexes: An Immodest Proposal" at American Academy of Arts and Sciences conference.

Terrorist bomb planted by segregationists kills four girls attending Sunday school in Birmingham, Alabama.

Chicago Board of Education sets up a 3 year project with Chicago Comprehensive Care Centers in a YWCA building.

Eleanor Roosevelt appoints Chicago labor leader Addie Wyatt to serve on the Labor Legislation Committee of the Commission on the Status of Women.


Congress passes the Civil Rights Act that includes Title VII prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex .

The War in Viet Nam escalates as the US begins bombing North Viet Nam.

The Free Speech Movement at Berkeley launches a sit-in and strike to protest restrictions on student political activity. Among the participants are Vivian Rothstein and Jo Freeman who later become organizers in the women's liberation movement.


University of Chicago student Heather Booth goes South to register voters as part of the Mississippi Freedom Summer.



Casey Hayden and Mary King circulate a memo about sexism in Civil Rights Movement.

The "Woman Question" is raised for the first time at a Students for Democratic Society (SDS) conference.

First national anti-war protest held in Washington D.C.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioners (EEOC) were appointed to enforce of the Civil Rights Act. Aileen Hernandez, a future president of NOW, was the only woman appointed.

President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act.

In Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court strikes down the one remaining state law prohibiting the use of contraceptives

Heather Booth does her first abortion referral. This eventually leads to the founding of Jane, the Abortion Counseling Service.

Illinois legislature passes a "Sex Education Act", a permissive non- mandatory bill encouraging promotion of sex education in schools.

The YWCA of Chicago's child care program begins with a Head Start program at Chicago's Coretta Scott King Center.

SCLC leader Dorothy Tillman comes to Chicago to fight for open housing. She will later become a prominent Chicago political figure.


National Organization for Women (NOW) is organized.

Heather Booth and Naomi Weisstein teach a course on women at the University of Chicago.


Women’s Liberation groups begin springing up across the country.

October LBJ signs Executive Order 11375 forbidding sex discrimination in businesses working with the government.

NOW begins petitioning the EEOC to end sex-segregated want ads. NOW adopts a Bill of Rights for Women.

Eugene McCarthy introduces the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the US Senate.

NY Radical Women formed by Shulie Firestone, Pam Allen and Anne Koedt organize consciousness raising groups.

National Welfare Rights Organization is formed.

Vivian Rothstein goes to North Viet Nam to see the effects of the war and learns of the importance of women's organizations.

Women attending the New Politics Conference in Chicago are subjected to sexist abuse leading to further growth of the women's liberation movement.

The Westside Group, an early consciousness raising group, is organized in Chicago.

Women's Radical Action Project (WRAP) organizes at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Carl Meyer signs an executive order approving the dispensing of birth control at Cook County Hospital.


New York feminists bury a dummy of "Traditional Womanhood" at the all-women's Jeanette Rankin Brigade demonstration against the war in Vietnam in Washington, D.C.

For the first time, feminists use the slogan "Sisterhood is Powerful."

First public speakout against abortion laws is held in NYC.

Women protest the Miss America Beauty Pageant in Atlantic City.

First national women's liberation conference held in Lake Villa, IL.

Notes from the First Year, a women's liberation theoretical journal is published by the New York Radical Women.

First issue of the Voice of Women's Liberation appears with Jo Freeman as the editor.

April 4, 1968: Dr. Martin Luther King is assassinated. Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley issues his infamous,"Shoot to Kill" orders when riots break out on the Westside.

August 1968: Police attack anti-war protestors at the Democratic National Convention.


Gays and lesbians resist police raid at the Stonewall Bar in New York City launching the gay liberation movement.

Members of Redstockings disrupt a hearing on abortion laws of the New York State legislature when the panel of witnesses turns out to be fourteen men and one nun. They demand repeal, not reform, of abortion laws.

NOW celebrates Mother's Day with the slogan "Rights, Not Roses.

National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) founded.

Redstockings, a radical feminist group organizes. and introduces such terms as "Sisterhood is Powerful", and "The Personal is Political".

The Urban Preceptorship Program is started by Dr Quentin Young at University of Illinois, Chicago, providing courses for medical students, nurses and community health workers, who learned about the health care system from each other as well as from progressive mentors. Several CWLU members enroll.

Vernita Gray starts a Gay and Lesbian hotline out of her South side apartment.

Sit-in at the University of Chicago to protest the firing of feminist sociology professor Marlene Dixon.

October 31- Founding of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (CWLU), with the showing of the play Everywoman: Past, Present and Future.

Abortion Counseling Service, Women's Graphics Collective, South Side Women's Liberation Center, and other groups affiliate with CWLU.

December 4- Black Panther leader Fred Hampton assassinated in Chicago while trying to organize a multiracial community action movement.


Sisterhood Is Powerful, An Anthology of Writings from the Women's Liberation Movement edited by Robin Morgan is published.

The women's health book Our Bodies, Ourselves first published as a newsprint booklet for 35 cents.

A sit-in at the Ladies’ Home Journal exposes the sexism of the "women's magazines".

The North American Indian Women's Association is founded.

Chicana feminists found Comision Femenil Mexicana.

Toni Cade publishes The Black Woman.

August 26th- Tens of thousands of women across the U.S. participate in the "A Women’s Strike Day" to demand equality.

Bella Abzug is elected to Congress.

President Richard M. Nixon vetoes the Comprehensive Child Development Act, which would have established federally funded childcare centers.

AFL-CIO meets to discuss the status of women in unions. It endorses the ERA and opposes state protective legislation.

The Lutheran Church in America and the America Lutheran Church allow women to be ordained.

National Right to Life Committee is established to block liberalization of abortion.

Maggie Kuhn begins the Gray Panthers, dedicated to championing causes of the elderly


January- CWLU tries to start the Alice Hamilton Women’s Health Center (AHWHC) a low cost women and children health center and women’s center.

Spring- Pregnancy Testing, a CWLU workgroup, begins testing women when the only tests available were from doctor’s offices or clinics.

June- Naomi Weisstein forms the Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band which lasts until 1973.

September- The Graphics Collective forms after the CWLU Newsletter invited women to “express…women’s liberation ideology through visual art”

Vivian Rothstein and Naomi Weisstein form “Midwives of the Revolution.”

November- CWLU members begin anti-imperialist work & examining the connections between imperialism and sexism.

CWLU membership expands tremendously, largely as a result of media publicity about the women's movement.

CWLU structure evolves towards monthly citywide meetings, regular Steering Committee meetings and paid staff.


Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and others help found the National Women's Political Caucus.

The first battered women's shelter opens in the U.S., in Urbana, Illinois, founded by Cheryl Frank and Jacqueline Flenner.

New York Radical Feminists hold a series of speakouts and a conference on rape and women's treatment by the criminal justice system.

Feminist Women's Health Center founded in Los Angeles by Carol Downer and Lorraine Rothman.

Union Wage, a working women's organization is founded in the Bay Area.

Lesbian-Feminist Separatist collective The Furies founded primarily as a reaction to anti-gay attitudes in the feminist movement.

NOW acknowledges lesbian oppression after some members are expelled for being gay.

In April, CWLU holds first membership conference since its founding, which tightens up membership and structure, and clarifies Steering Committee's decision-making powers.

Liberation School holds its first session in February.

Liberation School involved in women's studies conferences in Chicago and in New York City.

More CWLU work groups form: Action Committee for Decent Childcare; Legal Clinic; Sister Center in Rogers Park and Womankind(monthly newspaper).

Our Bodies Ourselves courses are conducted in some Chicago area schools.



January- First issue of Ms. Magazine published.

Congress passes Equal Rights Amendment and sends it to the states for consideration.

Puerto Rican women hold their first conference.

Congress passes Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments to the Civil Rights Act to enforce sex equality in education, which forces educational institutions to support women's sports.

Representative Shirley Chisholm runs for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

In San Francisco, Margo St. James organizes COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics) to improve the working conditions of prostitutes.

Phyllis Schlafly attacks the ERA in her newsletter and forms the STOP ERA organization.

January- Outreach/Secret Storm work group begins working to expand the CWLU's influence especially in working class neighborhoods.

May - Seven members of Jane are arrested and held in jail overnight charged with performing and conspiracy to perform abortions.

July- Chicago NOW causes the Illinois Bell Telephone Company to stop running sex-segregated want ads.

CWLU membership conference in November adopts revision of SC structure to include co-chairs chosen from CWLU as a whole.

CWLU adopts two major position papers on socialist feminism and lesbianism and changes its political principles to include support for gay liberation.

Liberation School begins to develop in the direction of doing more outreach classes.

Circle Women's Liberation Union (University of Illinois) affiliates with the Chicago Women's Liberation Union and is instrumental in launching the school's first Women's Studies Program.

More work groups form: Direct Action for Rights in Employment (DARE); China Group; Gay Group; Rape Crisis Line; Connecting Link; and High School/Junior College Outreach (later called Secret Storm).


January 22- Supreme Court strikes down many state abortion laws with the Roe v. Wade decision.

Congress allows the first female page in the House of Representatives.

Singer Helen Reddy wins a Grammy Award for her song "I Am Woman" which becomes the unofficial anthem of the movement.

AT&T agrees to end discrimination in women's salaries and to pay retroactive compensation to women employees.

The National Black Feminist Organization is formed.

More than three hundred women from 27 countries attend an International Feminist Planning Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their goal is to create an international movement through global conferences.

Olivia Records, a women's music record company, is founded, and issues Holly Near's "Hang in There".

Office workers form Women Employed in Chicago, Women Office Workers in New York, and 9-5 in Boston.

Naiad Press, Lesbian book publishers, started by Barbara Grier and Donna McBride.

The first CWLU co-chairs are chosen as part of the group's effort to build a long term organization.

Artemisia Gallery, a gallery for women artists is founded. (named for artist Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the first women artists to achieve recognition in the male-dominated world of post-Renaissance art)

200 women attend the founding conference of Women Employed (WE) which becomes a voice for the rights and aspirations of Chicago's working women.

CWLU members organize the Abortion Task Force (ATF) to assist low-income and minority women gain access to abortions in the wake of Roe vrs. Wade.

In a groundbreaking study, Chicago NOW’s Marriage, Divorce, and Family Relations Committee determines that nearly half of child support payments were unmet.

August- Chicago NOW hires the organization’s first full time staff person

November- The CWLU membership conference adopts a proposal for a 5-person Planning Committee (2 co-chairs plus 3-other people).

The CWLU Liberation School sponsors a conference for women's schools from other cities.

Health Evaluation and Referral Service (HERS); Women's Prison Project; and Emma Goldman Women's Clinic affiliate with the CWLU.


Equal Credit Opportunity Act passes ending much of the discrimination against women in obtaining credit.

Over one thousand colleges and universities offer women's studies courses and eighty have full programs.

Helen Thomas, after covering Washington for thirty years, is finally named White House reporter.

Elaine Noble becomes the first openly gay candidate elected to a state legislature. (Massachusetts)

Homosexuality removed from list of mental disorders by American Psychiatric Association.


CWLU's Outreach Committee into organizes women’s sports teams and battles sex discrimination in the Chicago Park District.

Chicago NOW along with local chapters around the country files law suit against Sears for sex discrimination and in April 1977 the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe Sears was violating federal law.

The CWLU Planning Committee forms, and co-ordinates major International Women's Day demonstration on March 8.

The Committee to End Sterilization Abuse (CESA) is formed which includes the Puerto Rican Socialist Party(PSP) and the CWLU.

A struggle begins over anti-gay attitudes within the CWLU, most notably those held by members of the Revolutionary Union.

Lesbian Group (later called Blazing Star) affiliates with the CWLU.

Chicago hosts the founding convention of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)


The United Nations sponsors the First International Conference on Women in Mexico City.

For the first time, federal employees' salaries can be garnished for child support and alimony.

National Right to Life PAC organized to to stop women from obtaining legal abortions.

Phyllis Schlafly organizes Eagle Forum as an alternative to "women's lib," in support of voluntary school prayer, law and order, and a strong national defense, and against busing, federally funded child care, and abortion.

Tish Sommers, chair of NOW's Older Women Task Force, coins the phrase "displaced homemaker."

Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will on the ubiquity of rape is published.

NOW sponsors "Alice Doesn't" Day, and asks women across the country to go on strike for one day.

Joanne Little, who was raped by a guard while in jail, is acquitted of murdering her offender. The case establishes a precedent for killing as self-defense against rape.

Chicago Coalition to End Sterilization Abuse formed.

Health Evaluation and Referral Service (HERS) forms and lasts until the 1990's.

Culmination of RU struggle results in expulsion of one member from CWLU and voluntary withdrawal of several others.

National Conference on Socialist Feminism is held in July--CWLU is involved in the planning, and Liberation School sponsored study groups in advance of the conference.

Asian Women's Group affiliates with the CWLU.

Another major struggle begins in the CWLU pitting the majority of the organization against members who uphold a "Two-line Struggle" position which opposes gay liberation, the ERA and the CWLU's traditional socialist feminism.

Illinois Coalition against Domestic Violence is formed.

Mountain Moving Day Coffeehouse for women and children opens.


Redbook magazine polls its readers about sexual harassment. 90% of young women say they view the situation as serious.

A bill that defines a "person" as "a human being" from the moment of fertilization is signed by Louisiana's governor.

A movement to repeal a gay rights ordinance in Dade County, Florida, is led by singer Anita Bryant.

ERAmerica is launched to promote the ratification of ERA.

The Organization of Pan Asian American Women forms for women of Asian and Pacific American Islander descent.

Barbara Jordan becomes the first African-American and first woman to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Supreme Court decision agrees with General Electric that the company's failure to cover pregnancy-related disability is not discriminatory.

Both the House and Senate pass the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal Medicaid money for abortions.

Many professional and women's organizations decide to boycott those states that have not passed the ERA and to hold their conferences elsewhere.

The first marital rape law is enacted in Nebraska, making it illegal for a husband to rape his wife.

CWLU Co-Chair and Planning Committee elections not held due to internal chaos.

CWLU suffers a political split in March- "Two Line" supporters are expelled. Other members leave because of disagreement over how the dispute is handled.

Summer- Liberation School folds

The National Alliance of Black Feminists organizes in Chicago.


Houston, Texas, witnesses the First National Women's Conference, at which twenty thousand representatives, women from all states, gather to pass a far-reaching National Plan of Action.

National Association of Cuban-American Women formed.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence established.

Eleanor Smeal, president of NOW, demands that homemakers should have their own Social Security accounts.

The American Civil Liberties Union asks the Rhode Island Supreme Court to allow women to use their own names, rather than that of their husbands.

The Air Force graduates its first women pilots.

January- Chicago NOW became a founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Metropolitan Chicago

April-CWLU disbands after an 8 year existence.

July- Chicago NOW wins lawsuit against the City of Chicago for sex discrimination of hiring and promoting employees.

The Illinois Caucus on Teenage Pregnancy (ICTP) is initiated following a conference to discuss the national problem of increasing teenage pregnancy. United Way provides a part-time staff person- Suzanne Hinds.

Chicago Abused Women Coalition (CAWC) organizes.





The first National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights.

Chicago’s women-owned bookstore, Women and Children First, opens its doors.

Loyola University in Chicago opens the first women’s studies program in a Jesuit institution.



Illinois NOW declares an ERA "state of emergency" in the state.

90,000 march and rally in support of the ERA in Grant Park.



Chicago Women in the Trades(CWIT) organizes to represent women blue collar workers.


National ERA ratification process expires, effectively killing the measure.

Illinois General Assembly fails to ratify the ERA.



Coretta Scott King and other black leaders announce support of gay civil rights.

Former CWLU health activist Jenny Knauss hired as Executive Director of the Illinois Caucus on Teenage Pregnancy.

Harold Washington, the city's first African American mayor is elected with strong support from Chicago feminists.


Walter Mondale chooses Geraldine Ferraro for his vice-presidential running mate. They lose to Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

R. Leontyne I. C. Kelly becomes the first African-American ordained as a bishop in the United Methodist Church.

Berkeley becomes first city in US to institute Domestic Partner policy for city employees.

Chicago NOW helps to draft and pass the Illinois Criminal Sexual Assault Law.

Flora Faraci opens the Jane Addams Book Shop specializing in literature, poetry and first editions.


The UN's Third World Conference on Women is held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its category of mental illnesses and disorders.

Bella Abzug founds Women's Foreign Policy Council, which, along with Women for Meaningful Summits and the Jane Addams Conference, struggles to promote women's interests in foreign policy.

Amy Eilberg becomes first woman Conservative Rabbi.

Wilma Pearl Mankiller is sworn in as first woman principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

CWLU reunion held in Chicago. Former members assemble to assess the history of the organization, discuss the state of the women's movement and socialize.


The Meese Commission produces a list of all the films it deems to be pornographic "social menaces."

The Supreme Court rules in EEOC v. Sears that Sears did not discriminate.

Margaret Atwood publishes her dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale, in which the religious Right has won electoral power and creates the theocracy and republic of Gilead.

The New York Times finally agrees to use Ms. instead of Miss or Mrs.

Barbara Mikulski, from Maryland, becomes first Democratic woman elected to the U.S. Senate who hasn't succeeded her husband. The number of women in the Senate doubles from one to two.

Newsweek poll reveals that 56 percent of women consider themselves feminists; 71 percent say that the movement has improved their lives; only 4 percent describe themselves as antifeminist.

Chicago Women in the Trades hosts the first orientation to the trades seminar at Washburne and over 700 women attend.

Chicago Foundation for Women organizes to distribute philanthropic grants to women's programs in Chicagoland.


Eleanor Smeal and others found the Fund for the Feminist Majority, in part to encourage feminists to run for office.

Congress declares March "Women's History Month."

Under pressure from Chicago NOW and CSASN, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office creates a Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit.

Chicago NOW helps get the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance passed.


In Webster v. Reproductive Services, the Supreme Court allows Missouri's prohibition of the use of public funds for abortion.

Toni Morrison receives the Pulitzer Prize for all her work, including Beloved.

Methodists create a gender-neutral hymnal.

Congress approves a memorial for the 10,000 women who served in Vietnam.



Feminist Majority representatives Ellie Smeal and Peg Yorkin, meet in Paris with Andre Ullman and Emile Beaulieu of Roussel Uclaf to discuss RU-486.

Mark Lepine fatally shoots 14 women engineering students at the University of Montreal Engineering School, after shouting, "You're women, you're going to be engineers. You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists."

8,000 rally for Abortion Rights in Chicago.

December- Apnar Ghar opened as the first social service agency and transitional shelter dedicated to serving Asian women affected by domestic violence.


President Bush vetoes the Family and Medical Leave Act, a bill guaranteeing unpaid family leave.



President Bush vetoes the Civil Rights Act of 1990 which would have strengthened efforts to end discrimination in the workplace.

Anita Hill accuses Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment at a widely publicized Senate hearing.

NOW with joins 200,000 people in a protest against war in the Middle East.

Illinois Board of Higher Education votes to approve funding for the UIC Center for Research on Women and Gender (CRWG).


750,000 Americans assemble in Washington for a pro-choice rally.

UIC CRWG moves into space in the IIDD building. Alice J. Dan, Ph.D. appointed director.

DePaul University begins its Women’s Studies program.

Chicagoan Mae Jamison becomes the first African American woman to go into space.


Dr. Joycelyn Elders is appointed Surgeon General of the United States.

In an outbreak of violence against abortion providers, Dr. David Gunn is assassinated in his Pensacola, Florida family planning clinic; Dr. George Tiller is wounded outside his clinic in Wichita, Kansas, & Dr. Wayne Patterson is killed in Mobile, Alabama.

Toni Morrison Awarded Nobel Prize.

Take Our Daughters to Work Day is organized.

Chicago Women in the Trades and the Tradeswomen Advisory Council produce the Women in Trades Career Fair attended by 500 women and girls.

Carol Moseley-Braun elected to the US Senate.


Violence Against Women Act act passed by Congress.

Women's WORLD, a global free speech network of feminist writers, is founded to defend women writers under attack. Former CWLU member Meredith Tax is its President.

Congress passes the Gender Equity in Education Act to promote math and science learning by girls, counsel pregnant teens, and prevent sexual harassment.



Fourth World Conference on Women opens in Beijing, China.



Amnesty International issues a report on the status of women in Taliban controlled Afghanistan, calling it a "disaster".

University of Chicago opens its Gender Studies program.


October 15 is declared to be International Rural Women's Day by President Clinton.

Supreme Court rules that college athletics programs must actively involve roughly equal numbers of men and women to qualify for federal support.

The YWCA begins a multi-year expansion of services in Chicago to Latino and Asian populations, people with disabilities, the gay-lesbian community and to Chicago’s underserved Englewood, Lawndale and Roseland communities.



A 24-hour, toll-free sexual assault hotline is started for the City of Chicago under the administration of the YWCA.



CWLU Herstory Project organizes to document the history of the women's liberation movement in Chicago.



The YWCA RISE Children’s  Center begins offering citywide counseling for child victims of sexual assault.



Women Building Chicago 1790-1990 is published. This history of 400 Chicago women was directed by Rima Schultz and Adele Hast.


Women's Health USA 2002, a detailed statistical analysis is published by Maternal and Child Health Bureau.



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Thanks from the CWLU Herstory Project.