Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Anthropology






Feminism, Identity (Psychology)



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 175 leaves ; 28 cm.)


The purpose of this study was to determine if participation in Women's Liberation results in identity change in the individual participants. As a pilot study, it examines the characteristic experiences of a study group of twenty-six local participants and compares the effects of their participation with a theoretical model of identity change process proposed by Ward H. Goodenough in Cooperation in Change. According to this model the process of identity change is a consequence of specific kinds of realizations fostered by a series of definable stages which are: 1) achieving a desire for identity change, 2) making a commitment to change, 3) attaining an understanding of what needs to be changed (which involves recognizing the problems and solutions to achieving change), and 4) having the new identity accepted by others.

The research included an examination of available materials on Women's Liberation, the consultation of some general literature on the status of women, personal participation in various Woman's Movement activities, observation of individual participants and groups in action, the collection of in-depth interview statements and biographies from a study group of twenty-six women who are Women's Liberation participants, and finally, a comparative study of the findings.

The comparative study involved an analysis of the interview information in light of the theoretical model of identity change. Specifically analyzed were the process involved in facilitating identity change, and the actual effects of participation on the women in the study group (as this related to identity change). A discussion is presented of the informants' experiences and how they see themselves since participation, and a discussion of some of the aspects of public response to women's participation in Women's Liberation activities.

The findings show that all of the women studied experienced identity change in varying degrees; all have been subjected to new self-confrontation experiences; all made physical and/or psychological behavioral modifications; all experienced changes in their categories of perception and their criteria for evaluating their changed perceptions; and, all have some understanding of what they want changed and how to achieve it. The most extensive identity changes occur in those who are most actively involved, in those who have had the most exposure to radical political activities and those whose social circumstances are most favorably receptive to Women's Liberation. Individuals who are not extensively involved, who have conservative political and /or religious backgrounds, and who are exposed to continued hostile or negative reception on the part of others to their activities are blocked from achieving extensive identity change. In general, the experiences and behavior of the women in this study conforms to what is now known about women's participation in the movement and the general public's response to Women's Liberationists.

The study presents a brief history of the background of the movement, a discussion of the theoretical model used, an account of the research methodology, a series of sample portraits of women in the study, the data analysis, an application of the theoretical framework to the data, and a brief discussion of some general implications of the Women's Movement as a whole. This thesis shows that participation in the movement produces identity change which conforms to an anthropological model of identity change process.


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Portland State University. Dept. of Anthropology.

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