Study Guide

A Left-Handed Commencement Address Timeline

By Ursula K. Le Guin

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November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975

The Vietnam War

There weren't many women involved in the fighting of the Vietnam War, but you can bet your bottom dollar that there was a fair amount that protested it. Although it doesn't directly impact Le Guin's writing of her Left-Handed Address, it helps to keep in mind that our country was in a major state of turmoil in the years leading up to the end of the Second Wave of feminism.

June 10, 1963

The Equal Pay Act is Passed

The Second Wave was known for it's judicial and legislative accomplishments, and this one was a doozy. It made it against the law to pay anyone less based on gender discrimination, which is a pretty big deal. (Now we just have to get employers to actually enforce it, seeing as women still earn, on average, about $0.76 for every dollar that men earn…)

October 13, 1967

Executive Order 11375

This Executive Order amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in order to expand President Johnson's affirmative action policy to cover discrimination based on sex (which was originally left out of the wording because people were scared it would be unacceptable to the bill's more moderate supporters).

September 7, 1968

Protest of Miss America Pageant

Even though nothing was actually set fire (due to a lack of permits, which is pretty funny when you think about it), this protest gave rise to the iconic image of feminists burning their bras as a symbol to protest patriarchal oppression.

January 3, 1971

Bella Abzug Elected to Congress

Bella was a firebrand, as well as one of the most outspoken women ever elected to Congress. She ran on a platform supporting the Civil Rights and Feminist movements, with a tagline that read: "The woman's place is in the House… the House of Representatives!"

It was her vocal insistence that women be treated equally to men that inspired many more female legislators in the years to follow.

January 22, 1973

Roe v. Wade Decision in the Supreme Court is Passed

Although this is one of the most highly debated court cases in American history, a brief summary of the case is that it decided that states don't have the legal right to ban abortion, which is a limited but fundamental right under the United States Constitution. This was a major landmark in the feminist movement.

October 28, 1974

Equal Credit Opportunity Act

Did you know that before this act was passed, women typically had to be issued credit cards in their husband's name? So, it was as recently as 1974 that women earned the legal right to have their own credit. (Well, the right to not be discriminated against based on gender.)

January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989

Ronald Reagan's Presidency

Ronald Reagan's presidency can be a pretty polarizing topic in politics, but it can mostly be agreed that he wasn't a huge champion of women's rights. He helped squash the Equal Rights Amendment, and significantly reduced departments like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, whose work to ensure equality for the genders had only just begun.

September 25, 1981

Sandra Day O'Conner is First Woman on Supreme Court

One of the only feminist things Reagan did as president was appoint O'Conner as the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. She was a key swing vote on many huge court cases, including the upholding of Roe v. Wade in 1989.

June 30, 1982

Equal Rights Amendment Fails to be Ratified, and Dies

Originally presented to Congress in 1923, the ERA demanded equal rights for women. So, what was the problem with that? Well, no one could agree on what "equal rights" meant. Whoops.

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