From seeing Lipstick and Dynamite and other early-era matches, we know that the ladies had significant places within the wrestling cards of the 50's and 60's. They were not little fly weights or damsels in distress, they were tough strong women, wrestling as their own independent characters (or even just as themselves), going toe to toe with each other and sometimes the men. They were not relegated to corners or the ring apron, but standing upright, with arms raised in the middle of the ring.
But somewhere between that era and the Eighties, these women disappeared. In all the footage from the AWA and WCCW, there was never a match even featuring an independent female competitor. The only glimpse of female talent were as valets, who interfered occasionally in matches to help out their guy, the actual wrestler. What happened?
We may explore this phenomenon later in the course, but i'm addressing it and speculating now. From the late 60's through the 70's, several cultural upheavals occured, including the feminist revolution. One may think that this would encourage women's wrestling, inspiring new wrestlers to show that they can take on the men, demonstrate the equality of the sexes. However, it seems to have gone to other way. Perhaps the mindset was leaning away from proving that the sexes were equal on 'man's turf', but rather avoiding those arenas and trying to establish the power of women on their own turf, away from the 'male' characteristics of aggressive, violent entertainment.
With society gradually becoming less male-dominated, the strong roles that women held in pro wrestling seemed to wane. In the 50's and such, the women's matches served as both vicarious release for fans and literal release for the wrestlers themselves, a chance to rebel against the gender roles that they were forced to fit during the rest of everyday life. With those gender roles changing, and the heavy hand of 'The Man' being lifted, this vicarious rebellion was no longer as special as before, which may have led to the decline of important, independent female characters in the territories.
Coming into the 80's and beyond, a sort of status quo has been reached, and gradually more important female wrestlers begin to come forth, albeit slowly. Most are still valets and gain fame by holding the arm of a larger more successful male wrestler. This strange gap between ages of vital women's wrestling may be most attributable to societal changes, but of course, I am speculating. Still, strange how the great, strong women of the 50's gave way to minor valets and damsels in distress so quickly.