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Feminist Chronicles - 1959

Events

Pope John XXIII called for an ecumenical council. (01/25/59)

Alaska became the 49th state. (01/03/59) and Hawaii became the 50th (08/21/59).

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was organized. Tom Hayden, later a California legislator, was one of three key founders.

During his Presidency, Eisenhower named 28 women to Senate-confirmed posts, topping Truman's total of 20.


Lifestyles

The Barbie Doll was introduced by Mattel. She was invented by Ruth Handler who later invented the first breast prosthesis for mastectomy patients. (1959)

Searle pharmaceutical company filed its application with the FDA to license "the pill" as a contraceptive. (1959)

Although available for decades, it was not until this year that the American Medical Association (AMA) finally sanctioned birth control. (1959)

Therapeutic Abortion: A Problem in Law and Medicine by Professors Packer and Campbell, writing on "the abortion problem," noted that many non-clandestine abortions were performed to protect a woman's health as opposed to her life, which was not a valid reason under most existing abortion laws. Further, a vast abortion black market was thriving throughout the United States with an estimated million or more abortions a year performed and with between 5,000 and 10,000 women dying as a result. (1959)


Education

The University of Minnesota set up a revolutionary program to encourage older women to get college degrees. It may have resulted from the fact, finally noted, that women had more than 40 years to live after their youngest children entered school. (1959)

A Century of Higher Education for Women by Mabel Newcomer reported that although the proportion of women among college students had increased in the U.S. to 47% in 1920, by 1958, it had dropped to 35.2%. Fewer than 10% of doctorates were awarded to women, compared with one in six in 1920 and 13% in 1940. Five women's colleges had in fact closed, 21 had become co-educational and two had become junior colleges. Three out of five women attending co-educational, colleges were taking secretarial, nursing, home economics or education courses; the percentage of women receiving professional degrees had not been as low since before World War I. (1959)


Economic

The National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) selected the first seven candidates for astronauts-all men. (1959)


Media

Century of Struggle by Eleanor Flexner, the first history of the U. S women's movement written by a professional historian, was published- with an implicit call to arms.

The Status Seekers by Vance Packard examined the country's class system and noted that a college education was the wedge dividing white and blue collar workers.


Legal

The American Law Institute's Model Penal Code included a section on abortion law reform. In addition to saving the life of the pregnant woman, it proposed that abortion be justified when there was a substantial risk to the physical or mental health of the woman, for congenital defects, and when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. (1959)


Political

The U.S. Senate confirmed Claire Boothe Luce as ambassador to Brazil (04/28/59) but she resigned (05/01/59) because of a relentless one-man campaign against her appointment by Senator Wayne Morse. Morse described her as "unqualified" and "emotionally unstable" though some thought the attacks were because she was married to Henry Luce, editor-in-chief of Time, Fortune, and Life.

Indira Gandhi, 41, only daughter of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, was elected President of the Congress Party in India. (02/02/59)


The Backlash

Pat Robertson began "The 700 Club" on his TV station. Robertson, who advocated a Bible-based, "pro-family" agenda, was later supported by the Coors family, which contributed money and time to advance his ministry.

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