America in the 1960s and ‘70s was a time of sweeping change and the questioning of social norms throughout the country. This period of social disruption was a tipping point in American culture, when people gained the courage to speak out and make change happen. The Student Movement provided the momentum for some of the most important change-making forces, such as the New Left and the Women’s Rights Movement. The Student Movement began much earlier than the 1970s. The first glimpse we see of the younger, college-age generation unifying and banding together for a cause was during the Civil Rights Movement. At that time, groups of students found their voice by participation in sit-ins and formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (Patterson 1996).
While civil rights was the first cause that we saw this younger generation stand up for, the Student Movement didn’t truly gain momentum until 1965 with opposition to the Vietnam War (Lipset 1966). At this point, many members of the younger generation had become alienated and discontent, wishing to distance themselves from their parents’ generation and form their own identity. The younger population was ready and eager to break free from the social constructs formed by previous generations. As the movement picked up, the group became more and more radical, going after the change they wanted to see (Colin Barker 2008). The noise created by the Student Movement facilitated upheaval within groups throughout the entire country.
The movement culture of the 1960s and ‘70s, which spurred from the Student Movement, prompted many to stop and question their place in society. One group that found discontent in where they currently stood were women. These women were the start of the Women’s Rights Movement and the second wave of feminism. Although women had their political rights established, they now sought economic rights, equal access to professions, equal opportunity in education, sexual equality, and the realization of the political rights they had already formally acquired (Patterson 1996). The Student Movement, along with this resurgence of women’s rights issues, naturally directed a great deal of attention to all-male educational institutions and prompted them to consider change.