Marginalized and Empowered

Young female students constituted a fair proportion of the activist groups on college campuses. The freedom to explore intellectual ideas and mold their own beliefs enabled young women to question societal ideals. Social reform movements in which college women participated provided female activists with “hard-won skills, self-confidence, and the ideals acquired in civil rights [and other] work” (Evans 17).  Social movements obtained much of their support and activists from college campuses. Passions and a sense of urgency, in addition to the intellectual environment, positioned college students as the perfect candidates for social activism.

Historians such as Christina Greene and Sara M. Evans have argued that college students, particularly female students, played a pivotal role in the foundations of social movements such as civil rights activism and anti-war groups. Young women obtained both formal and informal leadership roles within the civil rights movements. The marginalization they experienced even among groups claiming to be fighting for social change motivated women to cause their own change, much of which would last until the twenty first century. For example, Guytana Horton, an undergrad from North Carolina College, presided over the NAACP intercollegiate division. Also, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, provided a space where “young black women often enjoyed new opportunities for activism and leadership” (Greene 97). Yet as female activists at the collegiate level experienced opportunities to put their education to use and pushed movements forward,  those new roles failed to “eradicate sexism within the [Civil Rights] movement” (97). Sara Evans describes the New Left movements having grown increasingly “masculine, [and] even militant” (Evans, 16). Sexism and changes within movements such the Civil Right’s Movement and the Anti-war Movement pushed many of these young, passionate, intelligent women to shift their energies to a new and rapidly growing activism: feminism. The marginalization they experienced even among groups claiming to be fighting for social change motivated women to cause their own change, much of which would last until the twenty first century.

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