women’s rights movement, also called women’s liberation movement, diversesocial movement, largely based in the United States, that in the 1960s and ’70s sought equal rights and opportunities and greater personal freedom for women. It coincided with and is recognized as part of the “second wave” of feminism. While the first-wave feminism of the 19th and early 20th centuries focused on women’s legal rights, especially the right to vote (see women’s suffrage), the second-wave feminism of the women’s rights movement touched on every area of women’s experience—including politics, work, the family, and sexuality. Organized activism by and on behalf of women continued through the third and fourth waves of feminism from the mid-1990s and the early 2010s, respectively. For more discussion of historical and contemporary feminists and the women’s movements they inspired, see feminism.
In the aftermath of World War II, the lives of women in developed countries changed dramatically. Household technology eased the burdens of homemaking, life expectancies increased dramatically, and the growth of the service sector opened up thousands of jobs not dependent on physical strength. Despite these socioeconomic transformations, cultural attitudes (especially concerning women’s work) and legal precedents still reinforced sexual inequalities.