Surprise (Women and ) Extra Credit

The “mystique” that Friedan spoke of was the image of the woman as mother, as wife, living through her husband, through her children, giving up her own dreams for that. She concluded: “The only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own.”

During the 1950s, women were expected to fill a structured societal and familial role which meant being submissive and subservient in a male dominated society. A typical life of a woman was to go through education but find a suitable man and tend to familial and husband needs. Her day would consist of managing the house appliances, cooking, cleaning, and only doing these tasks with no hope of self satisfaction through development in other areas such as education. Howard Zinn mentions Betty Friedan because she was also a household mom who experience this “silent” problem also with other housewives during this time period. This problem was very common with many housewives and served as a reminder of the gender inequality that society still holds.

There had always been prison riots. A wave of them in the 1920s ended with a riot at Clinton, New York, a prison of 1,600 inmates, which was suppressed with three prisoners killed. Between 1950 and 1953 more than fifty major riots occurred in American prisons.

The recent increase in riots in prisons shows the effect of the American System on society. The most “surprising” fact was that both the rich and poor committed crimes but only the rich were in jail. The recent prisoners showed the disparity between wealth as many of the rich people who broke laws were able to avoid prison because of money. Howard Zinn mentions this statistic because many of these riots signified this aspect. Rich people could higher better lawyers and be more favorably from judges. This led to an unfair advantage that Zinn needed to mention.

Prison system and Judges

One of the individuals that Howard Zinn focus on is the prisoner. Zinns introduces that “The prison was intended, through isolation, to produce repentance and salvation, but prisoners went insane and died in that isolation.” Original purpose of making prison is to help people who committed crime to relieve the sins, but it has made prisoner went crazy. In 1950s, there were more than 50 riots because prisoners could not stand the punishment and the condition of living in the prison. Eventually, the prisoners started rebellions, they took over the prison and took hostage. It was a chaos during that period. Howard Zinn mentions this because it was the beginning of prison system.


With such power in the hands of the courts, the poor, the black, the odd, the homosexual, the hippie, the radical are not likely to get equal treatment before judges who are almost uniformly white, upper middle class, orthodox.

Another individuals in the 1960s to 1970s is the judges. All the judges in that era were white people, and they are holding too much power. Different judges can decide a case totally differently. For example, there were 673 people drunk in public, and 531 people did not get punished by the decision of one judge. However, when transferring the case to another judge, there was only ONE person did not get punished with the same crime they committed. Moreover, the people who committed the crime were poor and low class. Even if the riches got caught and committed crime, they could still get out of it because they could use money to be bailed. Howard Zinn includes this history because different classes were treated so differently. In that period, if you have the money, you can be the King.

In search of Justice- The Native Americans [Extra Credit]

“There is increased activity over on the Indian side. There are disagreements, laughing, singing, outbursts of anger, and occasionally some planning…. Indians are gaining confidence and courage that their cause is right.
The struggle goes on. .. . Indians are gathering together to deliberate their destiny…”
– Mel Thorn

Native Americans were greatly ignored throughout the mid-20th century in the sense that United States never honored the treaty made with the Indians. Howard zinn mentions a quote by this young college graduated, Paiute Indian (who was the first president of National Indian Youth Council) to demonstrate that Native Indians were practically getting involved in their civil right movements and with such educated young leaders they would contribute greatly towards the betterment of Native Americans throughout the country.




“I am a Yakima and Cherokee Indian, and a man. For two years and four months, I’ve been a soldier in the United States Army. I served in combat in Vietnam-until critically wounded…. I hereby renounce further obligation in service or duty to the United States Army.

My first obligation now lies with the Indian People fighting for the lawful Treaty to fish in usual and accustomed water of the Nisqualiy, Columbia and other rivers of the Pacific Northwest, and in serving them in this fight in any way possible. …
My decision is influenced by the fact that we have already buried Indian fishermen returned dead from Vietnam, while Indian fishermen live here without protection and under steady attack… .
Just three years ago today, on October 13, 1965, 19 women and children were brutalized by more than 45 armed agents of the State of Washington at Frank’s Landing on the Nisqually river in a vicious, unwarranted attack. …
Interestingly, the oldest human skeletal remains ever found in the Western Hemisphere were recently uncovered on the banks of the Columbia River-the remains of Indian fishermen. What kind of government or society would spend millions of dollars to pick upon our bones, restore our ancestral life patterns, and protect our ancient remains from damage-while at the same time eating upon the flesh of our living People . . . ?
We will fight for our rights.”
– Sid Mills

The United States tradition of not honoring the treaties signed with Native Americans continued with treaties such as the treaty signed with the Iroquois that gave all rights of that specific land to seneka nation, but kennedy violated the treaty by building a dam on that land. In his book Howard Zinn mentions this quote by a Native American who had served in Vietnam war, Sid Mills (who was arrested fishing illegally at Nisqually river) to show that in general the Indians were disappointed by the fact that United States was not acknowledging their contributions towards the betterment of the country.


One group of individuals Zinn talks about is woman. (By 1969, women were 40% of the entire labor force of the United States, but a sustainable number of these were secretaries, cleaning women, elementary school teachers, sales women, waitresses and nurses. One out of every three working women had a husband earning less than $5000 a year.” (506) Women were making a push into the labor force and even though it did not seem like much little by little they making the leap from the role of housewife. Zinn included them in this chapter because they were making a big social change to how things were done. They use to be expected to stay and be only mothers and housewives, now they were starting to get jobs and help provide for the family.


Another group of people coming out were the homosexuals, they were admitting who they are and not hiding it anymore. The need to hide their homosexuality was not considered as socially unacceptable as it use to be, however was still deemed disgusting by many and many still looked at it as a sickness/disease. “Homosexuality was no longer concealed. “Gay” men and “gay” women- lesbians-organized to combat discrimination against them, to give themselves a sense of community, to overcome shame and isolation.” (537) Zinn included them in this chapter because they were another group coming out and trying to change old way of homosexuality having to be hidden.



I am going to devote this post on talking about women’s rights.

Helen Keller said,” We vote? What does that mean?” in 1922. In early 1930, beauty business were starting to take off and a writer (He didn’t have a name but I thought this was an important to be bought up to show the differences) said, “American women are not yet spending even one-fifth of he amount necessary to improve their appearance.”


I think Zinn brought up these to people to show how hard it is to change a social status and gender rules. It takes more then one big new law made.

In 1911 women weren’t voting yet but it look positive that will happen. Many of women were just excited of the fact they will have the same right as men and everything will be fair and squire. Helen Keller saw it through she already knew just because they can vote it is going to automatically change everything. After World War 1 and due to indispensable work done by women, they were voting alright but then what happens in 1930? They put back in where they were with better clothes but hey at least they vote now!


Extra Credit, Was it a Surprise?

For any event that has happened before our time, we have very little knowledge about.  That is why primary resources are important: we get to see glimpse of what is was like in the past.  Women’s Rights Movement is certainly one of those things.  We know that women did not have the same rights as men did.  Women’s gender role was very much set, and anything outside of that was considered ludicrous.  But even after reading many different texts related to the issue, one cannot help but wonder, “how bad was it, really?”  That is why Johnnie Tillmon’s quote in Howard Zinn’s book is important.  Tillmon was a black woman, who she described herself as poor, fat, and middle-aged.

‘Welfare’s like a traffic accident.  It can happen to anybody, but especially it happens to women.  And that is why welfare is a women’s issue.  For a lot of middle-class women in this country, Women’s Liberation is a matter of concern.  For women on welfare it’s a matter of survival.’

Her fight for Women’s Liberation was not a fight to achieve an ideal.  It was a matter of survival.  As Zinn states in the book, the question was even more immediate for some women.


Evan Haney was an Oklahoma Indian who served in the military during the Vietnam War.  From his testimony at the “Winder Soldier Investigations”, we get to see the change within the Indian society regarding their roots and identity.

‘I got to know the Vietnamese people and I learned they were just like us….  There were no books on Indian history, not even in the library….  But I knew something was wrong.  I started reading and learning my own culture….  I saw the Indian people at their happiest when they went to Alcatraz or to Washington to defend their fishing rights.  They at last felt like human beings.’

Did the U.S. government intentionally run programs to make the Indians forget about their roots?  If so, it was definitely for their selfish interest, just like the Vietnam War.  From Haney’s testimony, we can see how the U.S. government have not changed in some ways, and how Indians started to gain more awareness of their roots and rights.

Someone Call the Witch Doctor!!

I am going to focus on Radical Women and WITCH.

Radical Women was a group of women that protested the selection of Miss America. This rose awareness of “women’s liberation”. They had a unique style of protesting where they would gather lingerie and beauty products/accessories to form  what they called “women’s garbage” and pile it into a Freedom Trash Can. This trash can could be looked at as a symbol of their liberation. Then some of these New York Radical Women gathered to form what was called WITCH(Women’s International terrorist Conspiracy from Hell). They say:

“WITCH lives and laughs in every woman. She is the free part of each of us, beneath the shy smiles, the acquiescence to absurd male domination, the make-up or flesh-suffocating clothes our sick society demands. There is no “joining” WITCH. If you are a woman and dare to look within yourself, you are a WITCH. You make your own rules.”

This reminds me of a reading from For the Record called “The Feminine Mystique” because they both deal with identity. The difference is that the feminine mystique was an identity that was forged over time because it eventually became customary whereas WITCH is essentially an identity you are born with, stating that “if you are a woman, you are a WITCH”. WITCH showed they were serious by involving themselves in women’s rights cases in Washington D.C. and Chicago.

I believe Zinn includes them and are equally as important because the 60’s and 70’s were decades that transitioned from objectification of women to women wanting equal rights as men. They wanted to be seen as more independent and less of just a housewife. These two groups show just that. The Radical Women saw the selection of Miss America as objectification of women. It was a way for America to control how women ought to look and the Radical Women disagreed. WITCH is an important example because it showed the unity of women, recognizing an identity they were all born with while brushing away the idea of the “feminine mystique”. They wanted to better the work environment for women where men didn’t have to be looked at as superior but rather equal.

‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.’

That’s what people in the fifties had been; sick and tired. Now however, they were sick and tired of being sick and tired and weren’t going to stand for it any longer. Betty Friedan wrote her book ‘The Feminine Mystique’ in 1963 and despite the fact that I belong to a completely different generation, reading it touched something inside me the way it did with the women of those times. Just the idea of being in their situation of, as Friedan states, ‘living through their husbands and children and giving up their own dreams for all that’ is incredibly daunting for me to think of. Not only is it a terrifying prospect but an incredibly unfair one at that. However, reading this chapter of Zinn’s book made me see how women had gotten into that miserable situation in the first place. Men would require the women to work when they were off at war and as soon as they would come back, they would the push the women away and expect them to go back to the way things had always been. Not only this, but the way men talked about women to each other was appalling. According to Robert and Helen Lynd, men among themselves were likely to speak of women as ‘creatures’ that were relatively ‘purer’ and ‘morally better’ than men but as ‘relatively impractical, emotional, unstable, given to prejudice, easily hurt and largely incapable of facing facts or doing hard thinking.’ They also thought of women as ‘weak and incompetent sex play things’, of pregnant women as ‘helpless’, middle aged women as being ‘no longer beautiful’ and older women as ‘people to be ignored and put aside.’ If their fathers, husbands and sons thought about the women in their lives that way, it’s no wonder women were so frustrated and plagued by the ‘problem that has no name.’

Betty Friedan’s book helped start the fight for the civil rights of women. However, in the sixties and seventies there seemed to be a general rebellion against repression and oppression of any kind, especially against the ‘artificial, previously unquestioned way of living.’ Sex became an openly discussed topic. Married couples began having extramarital affairs in what became known as ‘open marriages.’ One of the greatest changes that took place was that homosexuals no longer concealed their sexual orientation. Gay men and lesbians now started organizing to ‘combat discrimination against them, to give themselves a sense of community and to overcome shame and isolation.’ This shows how humans in the sixties started a great wave of a radical reconstruction of sorts once again, which would continue on into the seventies.


Betty Friedan:

The author of The Feminine Mystique, a pioneering book that was the first of its kind to address the issues white, middle-class women faced in their society. The reason for Zinn including her was just to bring in the perspective of a woman who had lived through all the  experiences a woman of her position faced. Her literary works were so popular in rallying women together to find solutions to escape the repetitive and imprisoning lives that it is featured in both of our sources, PHOA and For the Record. The main problem amongst these specific women is that their lives solely revolved around what her husband/children wanted.

“I feel as if I don’t exist.” Sometimes…. “A tired feeling … I get so angry with the children it scares me. … I feel like crying without any reason.”


An anonymous black man:

Although we do not the identity of this man, his story explains  what young black men faced at the time and the steps, regardless of how minute they were,  that were taken in an attempt to send a message saying: We want to be recognised for who we are! Even if it meant adding a year or two to his already unfair sentence for not registering for the draft during the Vietnam war, this man represented his style and personality through his clothes/hair at the court.

“That’s all of my life,” he said, looking at me with a combination of dismay and confusion. “Man, don’t you know! That’s what it’s all about! Am I free to have my style, am I free to have my hair, am I free to have my skin?”

Women and Prisoners

The 1960’s and 1970’s were a time in American history that called for reform. This was a time in our history where women were trying to step our of the socially stratified gender roles that they have been placed in and achieve something besides having a husband, a family and a home. The “American Dream” for women was no longer the idea of the house with the white picket fence and big green lawn, nor was it to live her dreams through the fulfillments of her husband, women wanted to work and to make something of themselves; women wanted liberation. But even among women, there were class differences, so the women’s liberation movement wasn’t being fought as a whole, but in parts; every class of women had their own issues that needed to be addressed. Patricia Robinson wrote a text by the name of “Poor Black Woman”, she addressed the need for social change that women, particularly poor black women were facing. She addressed many of the things that women during that time were fighting for, ” she demands the right to have birth control, like middle  class black and white women. She is aware that it takes two to oppress and that she and other poor people no longer are submitting to oppression… Through these steps… she has begun to question aggressive male domination and the class society which enforces it, capitalism.” Women like Robinson didn’t have much to lose in speaking out for change, in the society that they were in. These were women who were locked down upon because of heir color, their gender, and their economic status, but it was women like Robinson that voiced their opinions and helped bring about change.

The 60’s and 70’s weren’t only a time where you saw Women’s liberation movements taking place, there were many uprisings happening, and particularly there were rebellions within the penitentiary system. Federal and state prisons were experiencing turmoil, Zinn states that “in the sixties and early seventies…rebellions multiplied. They also took on an unprecedented political character and the ferocity of class war, coming to a climax at Attica, New York…” Using isolation prisons hoped to turn their bd guys into good guys but instead they ended up with insane or dead inmates. But the prison system wasn’t the only thing that needed reform, the sentencing of inmates had to be looked upon as well, because as Willard Gaylin found, there was an “enormous discretion given to judges in the handling out of sentences.” Willard Gaylin was a psychiatrist who spoke to a man names Hanks, he interviewed this African American male who refused to sign up for the Vietnam draft and was sentenced for five years, Gaylin says:
“How was your hair then?” I asked.
“And what were you wearing?”
“A dashiki.”
“Don’t you think that might have affected your sentence?”
“Of course.”
“Was it worth a year or two of your life?” I asked.
“That’s all of my life,” he said, looking at me with a combination of dismay and confusion. “Man, don’t you know! That’s what it’s all about! Am I free to have my style, am I free to have my hair, am I free to have my skin?”
“Of course,” I said. “You’re right.” ”

This conversation shows us that the decisions that were being made at that time were swayed by your attire, your headdress, even maybe your color. The system that sentenced you to do time in prison was faulty, and prisoners along with others, like Gaylin, wanted to publicize this problem and fix it. This brought about a movement that has made a lot of progress for those in the system.