In 2017, Kathryn Schulz published an essay about Pauli Murray, a transformative and underappreciated figure who had played a key role in making the case for racial equality and women’s rights. Thurgood Marshall referred to one of Murray’s books as “the bible” of Brown v. Board of Education, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg credited Murray with helping shape her work on gender discrimination. “Four decades before another legal scholar, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, coined the term ‘intersectionality,’ Murray insisted on the indivisibility of her identity and experience as an African-American, a worker, and a woman,” Schulz writes.
This week, in honor of Women’s History Month, we’re bringing you a selection of pieces about women central to the story of this nation. In “The Imperfect, Unfinished Work of Women’s Suffrage,” Casey Cep explores the history of the fight for voting rights. In “Lift and Separate,” Ariel Levy considers why some elements of feminism remain so divisive today. In “Death of a Revolutionary,” Susan Faludi examines the tragic life of the writer and activist Shulamith Firestone, a leading figure in the second-wave feminist movement. Finally, in “Books as Bombs,” Louis Menand reviews the remarkable and lasting influence of Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique.” Taken together, these pieces reveal the extraordinary accomplishments of women who blazed new trails and brought America into the future.
She was an architect of the civil-rights struggle—and the women’s movement. Why haven’t you heard of her?
A century after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, it’s worth remembering why suffragists had to fight so hard, and who was fighting against them.
Shulamith Firestone helped to create a new society. But she couldn’t live in it.
Why is feminism still so divisive?
Why the women’s movement needed “The Feminine Mystique.”