From Kim Darnell, a link to a posting by Clare Bayley from 6/2/11 on the history of the word bitch.  As Bayley said then:

This past semester at MIT I took a really wonderful class called “Feminist Political Thought” which had a very open ended essay assignment. I wrote a history of the word “Bitch,” and several of my classmates requested [I wiould have said asked] to read the whole paper so I thought I’d post it here.

Bayley’s paper depends heavily on the Google Ngram Viewer — imperfect, but not a bad start:

The rise of bitch through history can be traced to 4 distinct periods: The Definition, The Rise, the Reclamation, and the Popularization. The last 3 can be tied to specific events in American feminism.


1. Insulting a woman by calling her a female dog pre-dates the existence of the word bitch itself.

2. The first serious rise in the usage of bitch begins at 1920 – exactly the same year as another feminist milestone in the United States: suffrage.

3. 1963 saw both the publication of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, and the release of the final report of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. Both bemoaned the poor status of women in an apparently free and equal society, both brought forth the startling notion that women who lived the life of a perfect housewife might have many good reasons to not be happy. These ideas sparked the 2nd wave of feminism

4. By the time Feminism began its 3rd wave, reclaiming bitch was an official part of many feminist’s agenda. [Note Bitch magazine.]

Lots of stuff to be filled in, but it’s a start.

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