They're not homemakers, they're "Makers."
While they may raise children, cook, clean and honor their spouses, the women celebrated in the PBS-AOL collaboration "Makers" are the daring ones who ventured out of the house to lead the women's liberation movement, who broke barriers and became emblems in the fight for equality.
"Makers: Women Who Make America" is a broadcast and digital effort, already online and premiering as a three-hour documentary narrated by Meryl Streep on PBS on Feb. 26.
Bra burning? Yes, that's part of the story, along with Supreme Court appointments, the first female astronaut, anchorwomen, congresswomen, corporate executives, coal miners, Boston marathoners and more.
From the victory of Roe v. Wade to the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, from consciousness-raising about advertising imagery to the admission of women in sports, it has been a long, not always winning slog.
Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Marlo Thomas, Billie Jean King, Judy Blume, Sandra Day O'Connor, Pat Schroeder, Hillary Clinton ... these and other pioneers recollect the old days, when women were expected to get a "Mrs. degree" at college and settle into the perfect kitchen.
Prominent women from sports, politics, the arts and literature share personal stories, notably Colorado's own Linda Alvarado, founder, CEO and president of Alvarado Construction and co-owner of the Colorado Rockies. She is highlighted as an example of a business leader, Hispanic, no less, who had to prove herself again and again to, as she says, "break the cement ceiling" (see sidebar).
Through it all, the authoritative father figures of TV news pop in to read headlines: Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor and, in an especially patronizing tone, Harry Reasoner.
The evolving challenges are recounted from shattering the glass ceiling to the pressure to be "supermoms" and the realization of the impossibility of "having it all."
"I don't think I was prepared for the ambivalence of motherhood and career," says noted feminist Letty Cotton Pogrebin's daughter Robin.
The rise of the so-called Moral Majority in response to the women's movement is treated, too, but without critical analysis.
The series throws a bone to the retrograde few now and then, letting anti-ERA crusader and conservative activist Phyllis Schafly have her say, giving voice to those women who felt insulted that anyone wanted to liberate them. Does a documentary focusing on the women's movement need this kind of "balance"? Viewers will judge for themselves.
The issues of abortion and violence against women necessarily take a bit of the spotlight here. The fragmenting of the movement around the issue of lesbian rights is duly noted.
Famous figures illustrate halting steps forward, from Madonna to Anita Hill (the former a symbol of women gaining agency over their sexuality, the latter an example of the losing battle for women's claims of harassment to be taken seriously).
The current shift of attention to the plight of women globally and the incidence of rape in Third World countries is noted but not fully explored.
The tone is proud: So much progress in such a relatively short time. Yet feminism still has a long way to go. Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, says "a world where men ran half of the home and women ran half of our institutions would be a much better world."