Feminism and Its Backlash: The Real Events of “Mrs. America”

This multi-part made-for-TV documentary series that debuted Spring 2020 spotlights a generation of women who brought lasting change to the world. Think of women’s lives before the advent of second-wave feminism in the late 1960s and early 1970s! Lilith photographer Joan Roth was onsite for many of this era’s feminist conferences, and its backlash gatherings too; the “Mrs.” of the series’ title is Phyllis Schlafly, anti-feminist right-winger. Designated heroes included Betty Friedan, labeled the mother of the movement and author of The Feminine Mystique, the book that Gloria Steinem confesses—to Friedan, during one episode—changed her life; and Bella Abzug, nicknamed “Battling Bella,” U.S. Congresswoman (1971–73). The series also foregrounds Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman in Congress (1968), and the first woman and first African American to seek the nomination for president. The iconic images here are just a small sample from Roth’s extraordinary photo archives.