Political Participation and Feminist Consciousness Among Women Activists of the 1960s



This paper examined the hypothesis that women who took part in student movements of the 1960s would be distinguishable from their contemporaries in terms of political ideology, political behavior, and feminism in middle age. Women who had been identified as student activists in public records during the late 1960s and early 1970s were compared to a sample of nonactivist peers. Although the two groups scored similarly on variables related to work and family arrangements, former activists scored higher on measures of leftist political orientation and political efficacy, reported greater political salience and collectivism, and reported greater current political participation. Although both groups reported high levels of feminist consciousness and identity, activists scored significantly higher. The difficulty of politically mobilizing women to combat gender discrimination is discussed in light of the discrepancy between consciousness and activism in the comparison group.