1959: Tibetan Women's Uprising commences
The long struggle for Tibet to gain independence from China came to a head in the late 1950s, ultimately forcing the Dalai Lama to flee to India in exile. Tibetan women made their voices heard when they took part in a protest against the Chinese government on March 12, 1959. The women surrounded the Dalai Lama's home but were later arrested; many were beaten and executed.
1960: Sri Lanka elects world's first female prime minister
When Sirimavo Bandaranaike won Sri Lanka's 1960 election, she became the first woman head of state to hold the title without inheriting the position due to her birth. She was elected after her husband was assassinated the year before and continued implementing his socialist economic policies and promotion of Buddhist cultural practices in the country (then called Ceylon). Bandaranaike stepped down in 1965, but returned in the 1970s to serve two more terms before retiring for good at 84.
1961: India bans dowries
Dowries were a common custom in Indian culture hailing from its days as a British colony; a bride’s parents would give money or other gifts to help their daughter start a new life, but the practice soon became more of a payment to the groom's family at the time of marriage, as an incentive for the union. Unfortunately, the custom also led to violence against the women it hoped to protect. Sometimes a woman’s husband or in-laws would attack her in hopes of getting a higher bride price. The 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act aimed to stop this violence against women by getting rid of the tradition, but it's been difficult to enforce and is often misused.
1962: Katherine Johnson helps send a man to space
In NASA's early days, African American women often worked as human computers, doing the necessary calculations for different projects by hand. In 1953, Katherine Johnson became one of them. By the 1960s, she was working on flight trajectory calculations and often double-checking the work done by electronic computers. Astronauts like John Glenn relied on her calculations to ensure a safe landing, contributions that were immortalized in the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures.”
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1963: Betty Friedan publishes ‘The Feminine Mystique’
People often describe feminism as coming in several waves and historians often credit Betty Friedan's seminal book, “The Feminine Mystique,” with helping spark the second wave. While far from a perfect book, the tome sold nearly 3 million copies, which allowed more women to think about, discuss, and discover the “problem with no name” shaping their lives for the first time. Friedan's writing gave a voice to the anger and repression many women were feeling.
1964: First woman of color elected to Congress
Patsy Takemoto Mink became the first woman of color elected to Congress when she won one of Hawaii's seats in the House of Representatives in 1964. She served until 1977, advocating for the rights of women, immigrants, and children. Mink also worked hard to pass Title IX, which increased opportunities for women in education.
1965: Dolores Huerta directs a five-year strike
Working alongside fellow labor activist Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers Union in 1965 and quickly took the lead in negotiating contracts between the Coachella Valley grape growers and their employers. Five years later, she won a historic victory when 26 grape growers agreed to sign fairer contracts. Huerta continued to fight for the rights of farmworkers—as well as women and other Mexican Americans—and she continues to be an active, influential figure in those communities today.
1966: National Organization for Women is founded
On June 30, 1966, Catherine Conroy put a $5 bill on the table in Betty Friedan's hotel room and told the 15 other activists in the room to “Put your money down and sign your name.” The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded at that moment, and it originally aimed to figure out how to enforce the Title VII section of the Civil Rights Act. NOW has grown over the past half-century, but still uses grassroots power to advocate for women's economic, political, and social equality.
1967: First woman runs the Boston Marathon
At 19, Kathrine Switzer—who was unofficially competing with Syracuse University's men's cross-country team—told her coach she wanted to run the Boston Marathon. After proving she could complete the 26-mile race, she registered for the marathon, which didn't technically have gender limitations. Though officials tried to pull her out of the race once she started, Switzer ultimately completed the run and spent years advocating for women to be officially allowed to enter.
1968: Miss America ignites ‘bra burning’ protests
Contrary to popular belief, no bras were burned during this Sept. 7, 1968, protest outside the Miss America beauty pageant. But 400 feminists did throw symbols of what they thought society used to oppress them—including bras—into a “freedom trash can” in protest of the pageant's support of what they saw as unattainable beauty standards.
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