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Feminism

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death sent political and emotional shockwaves throughout America. A memorial bloomed immediately outside the Supreme Court and spread throughout the country. Justice Ginsburg is remembered as a fighter for women’s rights and a cultural icon who had friends and loved ones from all political beliefs.

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A major theme in “Mrs. America” is the divide between white and black feminists in the 1970s and the role of race in the battle over the ERA. Before she began her research, Waller knew little about Florynce Kennedy, a lawyer and activist played in the series by Niecy Nash. “After reading this book, I think it’s a gross failure” that Kennedy isn’t more widely recognized, she says. “This is a great biography that really places her at the beginning of intersectional feminism, as one of the first women to speak about the intersection of sexism and racism and the connections between Black Power and the feminist movement.”

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“Once we decided that the show was about a lot more than just the battle over the ERA and second-wave feminism and really about the rise of the new right and the Moral Majority and the realignment of the parties, we wanted to read more about the shift in the political landscape in the ’70s that we’re still feeling today,” Waller says. Melich’s book included the type of “pro-choice Republican feminist leaders who now don’t really exist anymore,” including Jill Ruckelshaus, a founder of the Nation Women’s Political Caucus (played in “Mrs. America” by Elizabeth Banks). “The pivot of the Republican Party from being pro-woman and pro-choice to being the party that’s anti-woman really happened around 1976, and this book really speaks to that turn.”

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This collection helped round out Waller’s portrayal of the woman whose groundbreaking book, “The Feminine Mystique,” helped ignite feminism’s second wave. “A lot of the interviews in the book really captured details about Betty —for instance what a mess her apartment was, her purse being a landfill of people’s phone numbers and notes to herself and makeup,” Waller says. “It gave such nice texture to her character.” She also drew from Friedan’s collection, “It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women’s Movement,” which delves into key dramatic moments such as the 1972 Democratic Convention, as well as the columns Friedan wrote for McCall’s magazine, which often dealt openly with her quest for romance. “We were fascinated by how boy crazy Betty was. She really loved to date and really loved falling in love. We found it a wonderful characteristic of hers.”

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From Mary Magdalene to "The Scarlet Letter"'s Hester Prynne and beyond, women of questionable morality who live undisciplined lives have been socially shunned. That seems to finally be changing.

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