GLENN: Such was the popular refrain from singer Helen Reddy, among others, in the '60s and '70s. I Am Woman was one of the biggest hits in 1971. For thousands of years, the roles of men and women had seemed to be pretty well defined and for the most part, generally accepted. Generally speaking, men were the hunter gatherers, and women were the nurturers. But society changed. And it took some time to adapt to that change. And as transitions can get, this one was occasionally rocky. There was a time in between when popular culture made it seem that the most important task a woman had was just to make a good cup of coffee for her man.
VOICE: Your coffee, sir.
VOICE: Thanks, beautiful.
VOICE: You're welcome.
VOICE: How can such a pretty wife make such bad coffee?
VOICE: I heard that.
VOICE: Judy, what brings you over?
VOICE: Oh, Mrs. Olson, Frank crabbed about my coffee again.
VOICE: Oh, coffee problems.
VOICE: It sure is. I can't make good coffee.
VOICE: Good coffee is no problem. You just use the coffee with better flavor, Folger's.
VOICE: Folger's coffee?
GLENN: And for the love of heaven, whatever you do, don't let the little lady drive.
VOICE: Depending on how you drive and your car's condition, you can get incredible mileage from the Goodyear custom-wide tread poly glass tire.
VOICE: I've got 32,000 miles on my tires.
VOICE: I've got 41,000 miles on my poly glass.
VOICE: But poly glass means more than mileage when your wife has to drive alone.
VOICE: When a woman is at the wheel, poly glass means more than mileage.
GLENN: In the midst of all the social upheaval over the roles of men and women, ads and attitudes like these just ignited the spark of social change that led to the feminist movement of the '60s and '70s. One of the most famous protests during the movement took place in Atlantic City. It happened during the Miss America Pageant in 1968.
VOICE: To the feminists, the annual television beauty pageants seemed a gross offense.
VOICE: Miss Illinois is Miss America.
VOICE: We are going to sing your song.
VOICE: Inside, one set of young women accepted the chauvinist baubles. Outside, others carried on with more consciousness raising.
GLENN: Women were everywhere, burning their bras and demanding equal rights.
VOICE: We threw bras and girdles and stockings, high high-heeled shoes and cosmetics into the trash can. The press loved it. And we learned very early on that the press liked crazy things, so let's use the press.
GLENN: As legendary and worldwide as the bra-burning event was, it is interesting that the actual bra burning never really happened.
VOICE: We didn't burn any bras. They would have happened if they had allowed us to have a fire.
VOICE: They struck the coverage they wanted, but at some risk to their reputation.
VOICE: For those who think that the Women's Liberation Movement is a joke, vaguely connected with burning bars and getting in the men-only bars, I disabuse you of that notion. It is about equal pay and equal opportunity in the job market.
GLENN: Protesters tossed their underwear into a large trash can, labeled The Freedom Trash Can. But without permits, the clothing was never burned. They're real rebels. The movement was definitely still making moves.
VOICE: In America, they started to burn their bras. And the women's movement had already begun. They thought, if they can do it, we have to do it in Holland.
GLENN: But the coverage wasn't always popular.
VOICE: Fifty years ago today, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution gave women the right to vote. On this anniversary, a militant minority of women's liberationists was on the streets, across the country, to demand equal employment.
VOICE: It turned out, there really weren't a lot of would-be liberated women willing to stop their work for the day in New York. Early demonstrations tended to be small and the onlookers by no means were always sympathetic.
GLENN: It seemed that almost no one was opposed to women having equal opportunities for employment and compensation under equal circumstances. But with abortion on demand thrown in on top of it, along with many questions of equal access to all public bathroom facilities and the even more concerning prospect of women being drafted into the military service and placed on the front lines of battlefields, the ERA amendment became much, much tougher to sell to the American people.
William Buckley discussed some of these issues with ERA opponent Phyllis Schlafly.
VOICE: The state of Connecticut ratified the so-called Equal Rights Amendment. The proposed constitutional amendment passed overwhelmingly by the Senate and the House holds that, quote, equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.
That doesn't sound particularly subversive. And I would therefore like to begin by asking Mrs. Schlafly to state her principal objection to the ERA.
VOICE: Well, it's a very innocuous wording of the amendment that is the reason why many people didn't realize in the beginning what unfortunate consequences it would have. But fortunately, the amending process calls for a full-blown debate in the state legislatures around the country, and this is where we find out some of the things that were not originally realized by many people who voted for it. We find, as we look into the matter, that ERA won't give women anything which they haven't already got or have a way of getting. But, on the other hand, it will take away from women some of the most important rights and bits and exemptions we now have.
VOICE: What would be an example of that?
VOICE: Well, a great, glaring example on which there is full agreement between both the proponents and opponents is the matter of the draft. Women are exempt from the draft. Selective service as only young men of age 18 have to register. But the Equal Rights Amendment will positively make women subject to the draft and on an equal basis with men. Nor could you have a system whereby the women would get all the nice easy desk jobs and the men get all the fighting jobs. It would have to be equal across-the-board, in combat, on warships, and all up and down the line.
GLENN: Vice chairman Anne Scott.
VOICE: There's no question that if the Equal Rights Amendment is passed, that women would become subject to the draft. However, I think that we have a situation now where the draft is going by the boards. And furthermore, I think the question is not one of the rights of women here, but it is a question of the draft. Clearly, no sane parent would want to see either child, either a son or a daughter subject to the draft.
But if women are to be citizens and citizens are to be subject to the draft, then women should take the responsibilities as well as the rights of citizenship. It's not simply a question of being subject to the draft, it is also a question of denial of opportunity. There are many situations in which women could benefit from the draft. They already are in the service.
VOICE: And become a war hero.
VOICE: Why not?
GLENN: No matter how enlightened society was or wasn't during the 1970s, the idea of America's daughters being drafted into military service and placed on the front lines of a combat situation just didn't sit well for most Americans.
Despite some impressive and possibly unlikely supporter over the years, including the Republican president of the United States in 1975 --
VOICE: Women's liberation is truly the liberation of all people. Let 1975, international women's year, be the year that ERA is ratified.
GLENN: Obviously, 1975 was not that year. Even with Gerald Ford's endorsement. Nor was any other year.