The 1960s

1961 37.5% of women in paid work.

1961 Introduction of the contraceptive pill giving women full control of their fertility for the first time. Initially for married women only but by 1970 it was available for all women.

1964 General election 28 women MPs elected (4% of the total)

1967 Abortion Act, decriminalises abortion up to 28 weeks (later reduced to 24) with the approval of two doctors. Did not apply to Northern Ireland.

1968  One in four university students were women.

1968  Due to gender job segregation  women were earning roughly half what men earned and most women were stuck in low pay, low status jobs such as cleaning, hairdressing, typing and catering. In Ford’s car plant at Dagenham, North London (Britain biggest factory) 180 women sewing machinists came out on strike over a grading dispute which turned into an equal pay strike. Production was held up for 3 weeks. The women won a big rise but not full male rate.

1968-9 Student protests. Many women students joined the student movement and found that their male ‘comrades’ wanted them to type leaflets, make tea and other mundane tasks, leaving the leadership roles for the men.  

1969-70 women’s liberation groups started to form in major towns.