National Organization of Women-1966 - History

National Organization of Women-1966 - History

National Organization of Women Founded

The National Organization of Women was founded by Betty Friedan, who became its first president. Thus, the modern women's movement was launched.



National Organization for Women

There were many influences contributing to the rise of NOW. Such influences included the President's Commission on the Status of Women, Betty Friedan's 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, and the passage and lack of enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibiting sexual discrimination). [6]

The President's Commission on the Status of Women was established in 1961 by John F. Kennedy, in hopes of providing a solution to female discrimination in education, work force, and Social Security. Kennedy appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as the head of the organization. The goal of action was to reconcile those wanting to advance women's rights in the workforce (such as advocates of the Equal Rights Amendment) and those advocating women's domestic role needing to be preserved (such as organized labor groups). The commission was a way to settle the tension between opposing sides. [7]

Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique in response to her own experiences. She was a feminist long before her book, by educating herself and deviating from the domestic female paradigm. The book's purpose was to fuel movement to a women's role outside of domestic environment. Acknowledging some satisfaction from raising children, cooking, and rearranging house decor was not enough to suffice the deeper desire for women to achieve an education. [8] The book is widely credited with sparking the beginning of second-wave feminism in the United States. [9] It was published on February 19, 1963, by W. W. Norton. In an interview, Friedan specifically notes, [8]

There was no activism in that cause when I wrote Feminine Mystique. But I realized that it was not enough just to write a book. There had to be social change. And I remember somewhere in that period coming off an airplane [and] some guy was carrying a sign. It said, "The first step in revolution is consciousness." Well, I did the consciousness with The Feminine Mystique. But then there had to be organization and there had to be a movement. And I helped organize NOW, the National Organization for Women and the National Women's Political Caucus and NARAL, the abortion rights [organization] in the next few years.

Founding Edit

The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded in 1966 by 28 women at the Third National Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women in June (the successor to the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women), and another 21 women and men who became founders at the October 1966 NOW Organizing Conference, for a total of 49 founders. [10] Both conferences were held in Washington, D.C. [10] The 28 women who became founders in June were: Ada Allness, Mary Evelyn Benbow, Gene Boyer, Shirley Chisholm, Analoyce Clapp, Kathryn F. Clarenbach, Catherine Conroy, Caroline Davis, Mary Eastwood, Edith Finlayson, Betty Friedan, Dorothy Haener, Anna Roosevelt Halstead, Lorene Harrington, Aileen Hernandez, Mary Lou Hill, Esther Johnson, Nancy Knaak, Min Matheson, Helen Moreland, Pauli Murray, Ruth Murray, Inka O'Hanrahan, Pauline A. Parish, Eve Purvis, Edna Schwartz, Mary-Jane Ryan Snyder, Gretchen Squires, Betty Talkington and Caroline Ware. [10]

They were inspired by the failure of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the Third National Conference of State Commissions on the Status of Women they were prohibited from issuing a resolution that recommended the EEOC carry out its legal mandate to end sex discrimination in employment. [11] [12] They thus gathered in Betty Friedan's hotel room to form a new organization. [12] On a paper napkin Friedan scribbled the acronym "NOW". [12] The 21 people who became founders in October were: Caruthers Berger, Colleen Boland, Inez Casiano, Carl Degler, Elizabeth Drews, Mary Esther Gaulden (later Jagger), Muriel Fox, Ruth Gober, Richard Graham, Anna Arnold Hedgeman, Lucille Kapplinger (later Hazell), Bessie Margolin, Margorie Palmer, Sonia Pressman (later Fuentes), Sister Mary Joel Read, Amy Robinson, Charlotte Roe, Alice Rossi, Claire R. Salmond, Morag Simchak and Clara Wells. [10]

The founders were frustrated with the way in which the federal government was not enforcing the new anti-discrimination laws. Even after measures like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers were still discriminating against women in terms of hiring women and unequal pay with men. [13] Women's rights advocates saw that these legal changes were not being enforced and worried that without a feminist pressure group, a type of "NAACP for women", [14] women would not be able to combat discrimination. NOW was created in order to mobilize women, give women's rights advocates the power to put pressure on employers and the government, and to promote full equality of the sexes. It hoped to increase the number of women attending colleges and graduate schools, employed in professional jobs instead of domestic or secretarial work, and appointed to federal offices. [15] NOW's Statement of Purpose, [16] which was adopted at its organizing conference in Washington, D.C., on October 29, 1966, declares among other things that "the time has come to confront, with concrete action, the conditions that now prevent women from enjoying the equality of opportunity and freedom of choice which is their right, as individual Americans, and as human beings." [17] NOW was also one of the first women's organizations to include the concerns of black women in their efforts. [15]

Betty Friedan and Pauli Murray wrote NOW's Statement of Purpose [16] in 1966 the original was scribbled on a napkin by Friedan. [18] Also in 1966, Marguerite Rawalt became a member of NOW, and acted as their first legal counsel. [19] NOW's first Legal Committee consisted of Catherine East, Mary Eastwood, Phineas Indritz, and Caruthers Berger it was the first to sue on behalf of airline flight attendants claiming sex discrimination. [20]

In 1968 NOW issued a Bill of Rights, [21] which they had adopted at their 1967 national conference, advocating the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, enforcement of the prohibitions against sex discrimination in employment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, maternity leave rights in employment and in Social Security benefits, tax deduction for home and child care expenses for working parents, child day care centers, equal and non-gender-segregated education, equal job training opportunities and allowances for women in poverty, and the right of women to control their reproductive lives. [22] The NOW bill of rights was included in the 1970 anthology Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings From The Women's Liberation Movement, edited by Robin Morgan. [23]

Lesbian rights Edit

In 1969, Ivy Bottini, who was openly lesbian, designed the logo for NOW, which is still in use today. [24] The first time lesbian concerns were introduced into NOW also occurred in 1969, when Bottini, who was then president of the New York chapter of NOW, held a public forum titled "Is Lesbianism a Feminist Issue?". [25] However, NOW president Betty Friedan was against lesbian participation in the movement. In 1969, she referred to growing lesbian visibility as a "lavender menace" and fired openly lesbian newsletter editor Rita Mae Brown, and in 1970 she engineered the expulsion of lesbians, including Bottini, from NOW's New York chapter. [26] [27] In reaction, at the 1970 Congress to Unite Women, on the first evening when all four hundred feminists were assembled in the auditorium, twenty women wearing T-shirts that read "Lavender Menace" came to the front of the room and faced the audience. [28] One of the women then read their group's paper "The Woman-Identified Woman", which was the first major lesbian feminist statement. [28] [29] The group, who later named themselves "Radicalesbians", were among the first to challenge the heterosexism of heterosexual feminists and to describe lesbian experience in positive terms. [30]

In 1971, NOW passed a resolution declaring "that a woman's right to her own person includes the right to define and express her own sexuality and to choose her own lifestyle", as well as a conference resolution stating that forcing lesbian mothers to stay in marriages or to live a secret existence in an effort to keep their children was unjust. [31] That year, NOW also committed to offering legal and moral support in a test case involving child custody rights of lesbian mothers. [31] In 1973, the NOW Task Force on Sexuality and Lesbianism was established. [31] Del Martin was the first open lesbian elected to NOW, and Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were the first lesbian couple to join NOW. [32]

Activism Edit

Anti-discrimination Edit

NOW also helped women get equal access to public places. For example, the Oak Room held men-only lunches on weekdays until 1969, when Friedan and other members of NOW staged a protest. [33] As well, women were not allowed in McSorley's Old Ale House's until August 10, 1970, after NOW attorneys Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow filed a discrimination case against the bar in District Court and won. [34] The two entered McSorley's in 1969 and were refused service, which was the basis for their lawsuit for discrimination. The case decision made the front page of The New York Times on June 26, 1970. [35] The suit, Seidenberg v. McSorleys' Old Ale House (1970, United States District Court, S. D. New York), established that, as a public place, the bar could not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. [36] The bar was then forced to admit women, but it did so "kicking and screaming". [37] With the ruling allowing women to be served, the bathroom became unisex. But it was not until sixteen years later that a ladies room was installed. [38]

Carole De Saram, who joined NOW in 1970 and was later president of the New York chapter, led a demonstration in 1972 to protest discriminatory banking policies. She encouraged women to withdraw savings from a Citibank branch in protest of their practices, causing a branch to close. [39] NOW led numerous similar protests, and in 1974, their actions led directly to the passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. [40] [41]

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Edit

Advocacy of the Equal Rights Amendment was also an important issue to NOW. The amendment had three primary objectives, which were: [42]

Section 1. Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

Efforts were proven successful when Congress passed the amendment in 1972. However, simply passing the amendment in the two houses of Congress did not mean the work was finished. NOW had to direct the efforts of getting the amendment ratified in at least three-fourths of the states (38 out of the 50 states). [43]

In response to opposing states denying the ratification of the amendment, NOW encouraged members to participate in marches and economic boycotts. "Dozens of organizations supported the ERA and the boycott, including the League of Women Voters, the YWCA of the U.S., the Unitarian Universalist Association, the United Auto Workers (UAW), the National Education Association (NEA), and the Democratic National Committee (DNC)." [43]

As strong as the support was, it was to no avail to the opposition from various groups. These groups included select religious collectives, business and insurance interests, and most visibly was the STOP-ERA campaign led by antifeminist Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly argued on the premise that creating equality in the work force or anywhere else would hinder the laws that are instilled for the mere protection of these women. The safety of women was a higher priority than ensuring there is equality in financial and social scenarios. The predicament over the Equal Rights Amendment was not a fight between men and women who abhor men, but rather two groups of women advocating different perspectives on the nature of their lives. The rivalry was sparked in speeches, such as that of Schlafly who began her dialogue by thanking her husband for allowing her to participate in such an activity. [44]

Even though the efforts did not prove to be enough to have the amendment ratified, the organization remains active in lobbying legislatures and media outlets on feminist issues.

Abortion Edit

Abortion being an individual woman's choice has come into the forefront since the Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade in 1973. The decision of the court was that it ultimately was the woman's choice in reproduction. However, according to the National Organization for Women, decisions following the 1973 landmark case had substantially limited this right, which culminated in their response to encourage the Freedom of Choice Act. The controversy over the landmark case ruling was initiated in the two cases, Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood and Gonzales v. Carhart. These two cases consequently banned abortion methods after 12 weeks of pregnancy. [45]

Gonzalez v. Planned Parenthood and Gonzalez v. Carhart both dealt with the question of whether the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was unconstitutional for violating the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment expressed in the Roe v. Wade case. This act ultimately meant that the concept of partial-birth abortion as defined in the Act as any abortion in which the death of the fetus occurs when "the entire fetal head [. ] or [. ] any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother" is banned. The Supreme Court ultimately decided 5–4 that it was not unconstitutional and did not hinder a woman's right to an abortion. [46]

National Organization for Women claimed it was a disregard to a basic principle stemming from Roe v. Wade, which was to only have legislative restriction on abortion be justified with the intention of protecting women's health. Hence, the support for the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which primary purpose was to safeguard a woman's access to abortions even if the Roe v. Wade ruling is further disregarded. As of 2013, there are seven states that have made the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) state law. FOCA will consequently supersede any other law prohibiting abortion in those seven states. They are: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, Wisconsin, Maine, and Washington. In addition, Maryland, Nevada, and Washington were the only three states to adhere via ballot initiative. [45]

Succeeding in the enactment of FOCA would ultimately mean fulfilment of three goals for the National Organization for Women. First, asserting a woman's reproductive right. Second, disseminate information to the public audience about threats posed in the two court cases mentioned above. Third, through the dissemination of information to the public, this in return would mobilize efforts to support female rights in multiple areas that will be presented in the future. [47]

Women's Strike for Equality Edit

On August 26, 1970, the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment which granted women the right to vote, NOW officially sponsored the Women’s Strike for Equality, a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights. Approximately 10,000 [48] women took to the streets of New York City’s Fifth Avenue for the strike and about 50,000 participants, mostly women, in total all throughout the country. [49] [50] Time described the event as “easily the largest women’s rights rally since the suffrage protests”. [51] The organizers of the strike approved three main goals: demand for a free abortion, establish 24/7 childcare centers, and provide equal opportunity in jobs and education. [52] Other goals included demanding for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, [53] political representation, [54] and no forced sterilization. [55] Public reaction and media coverage were mixed. Many spectators called the demonstrators anti-feminine, "ridiculous exhibitionists,” “a band of wild lesbians”, or Communists, [56] [57] but the event was generally uninterrupted. [58] The strike was a major success. Weeks after the event, NOW’s membership rose by 50 percent, and a CBS News poll found that four out of five people had heard or read about women’s liberation. [59]

Betty Friedan and Pauli Murray wrote the organization's Statement of Purpose [16] in 1966. The statement described the purpose of NOW as "To take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men." The six core issues that NOW addresses are abortion and reproductive health services access, violence against women, constitutional equality, promoting diversity/ending racism, lesbian rights, and economic justice, with these issues having various sub-issues. The organization goes about creating these changes through laborious lobbying, rallies, marches, and conferences. NOW focuses on a variety of issues deploying multiple strategies, causing it to be an organization in which a comprehensive goal is envisaged and performed. [60]

Priorities mentioned above were pursued to ultimately secure constitutional amendments guaranteeing these rights. Even though discrimination on the basis of sex was illegal, the federal government was not taking an active role in enforcing the constitutional amendments and the new policies. [14] NOW sought to apply pressure to employers, local governments, and the federal government to uphold anti-discrimination policies. Through litigation, political pressure, and physical marches, NOW members held an authoritative stance leading to recognition in court cases, such as NOW v. Scheidler and Weeks v. Southern Bell. [61]

NOW v. Scheidler revolved around the issue of racketeering to gain support for anti-abortion groups. NOW was suing the groups for utilization of violence and the threat of violence for garnering support. The violence varied from physical barriers into entrances of abortion clinic to arson and bombings of those clinics. The plaintiff accused the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) of unethically seizing the right of women to make decisions about their own bodies and argued that this right needed to be defended. The case was a success in terms of the class action suit "brought against terrorists by those they had terrorized". [62]

However the case was dismissed based on the mere definition of racketeering because racketeering must have an economic inclination, and there was no evidence to prove PLAN had this financial intention. This does not mean it was not a significant case. It brought light and recognition to National Organization for Women and its goals. If anything, it galvanized the organization to strengthen its tactics. [63]

Weeks v. Southern Bell had the same effect, but this is an example where those galvanized efforts proved beneficial. This concerned discriminatory practices against women in the workplace. Lorena Weeks, employee of Southern Bell, claimed she was being discriminated against via exclusion to higher paying positions within the company. Sylvia Roberts acted as her attorney, supporting Week's grievances with the accusation of the company's violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is enabled to "protect individuals against employment discrimination on the bases of race and color, as well as national origin, sex, and religion". With this premise, Weeks, with the aid of Sylvia Roberts, succeeded in 1969 after making an appeal. The trial not only served as the triumph of National Organization of Women, but brought to life legislation made to the intentions of organizations, such as NOW. [64]

NOW published a national newsletter, Do It NOW, beginning in 1970, edited by Muriel Fox. [65] From 1977, the journal has been known as the National NOW Times (ISSN 0149-4740). [66]

The following women have led the National Organization for Women: [67]

    (1966–1970) (1970–1971) (1971–1974) (1974–1977) (1977–1982) (1982–1985) (1985–1987) (1987–1991) (1991–2001) (2001–2009) (2009–2017) (2017–2020)

NOW has been criticized by various pro-life, conservative, and fathers' rights groups. [68] [69] [70] During the 1990s, NOW was criticized [ who? ] for having a double standard when it refused to support Paula Jones in her sexual harassment suit against former Democratic President Bill Clinton, while calling for the resignation of Republican politician Bob Packwood, who was accused of similar assault by 10 women. [71] The Jones suit was later dismissed by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, ruling that Mrs. Jones' allegations, even if true, would not qualify as a case of sexual harassment. Jones appealed but later dropped her suit after reaching a settlement out of court for $850,000. Judge Webber Wright later held President Clinton in contempt of court for giving "intentionally false" testimony about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky in the Paula Jones lawsuit, marking the first time that a sitting president has been sanctioned for disobeying a court order. [72]

NOW has also been criticized by feminists who claim it focuses on liberal agenda rather than women's rights. NOW has been criticized for not supporting pro-life feminists, [73] [74] as well as other liberal issues, and supporting the Iraq War. [ citation needed ] Some members, such as LA NOW chapter president Tammy Bruce left NOW, saying they oppose putting liberal and partisan policy positions above equality for all women. Tammy Bruce has attacked NOW for not doing enough to advocate for international women's rights, but instead attacking the George W. Bush White House for their conservative positions. [75] Accusations of putting politics above feminism began in 1982, the year the ERA was defeated, when NOW, under President Judy Goldsmith, fiercely opposed Reaganomics and endorsed the Democratic opponent of Republican feminist Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick due to Fenwick's support of Ronald Reagan's economic agenda. [76] [77] [78]

Additionally, Deborah Watkins, who was once the President of the Dallas Chapter of NOW, left NOW in 2003 to found, in the same year, the Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter of the National Coalition for Men, stating she grew tired of what she considered "hypocrisy" and "male bashing" at NOW. [79]

Moreover, the "National Organization for Women (NOW) has caused controversy by putting Little Sisters of the Poor on their 'Dirty 100" list', a religious order that according to Fox News' Megyn Kelly, "operate[s] homes in 31 countries where they provide care for over 13,000 needy, elderly persons, many of whom are dying". [80]


National Organization of Women-1966 - History

The National Organization for Women was founded in 1966 by prominent American feminists, including Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisolm, and others. The organization’s “statement of purpose” laid out the goals of the organization and the targets of its feminist vision.

We, men and women, who hereby constitute ourselves as the National Organization for Women, believe that the time has come for a new movement toward true equality for all women in America, and toward a fully equal partnership of the sexes, as part of the world-wide revolution of human rights now taking place within and beyond our national borders.

The purpose of NOW is to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.

We believe the time has come to move beyond the abstract argument, discussion and symposia over the status and special nature of women which has raged in America in recent years the time has come to confront, with concrete action, the conditions that now prevent women from enjoying the equality of opportunity and freedom of which is their right, as individual Americans, and as human beings.

NOW is dedicated to the proposition that women, first and foremost, are human beings, who like all other people in our society, must have the chance to develop their fullest human potential. We believe that women can achieve such equality only by accepting to the full the challenges and responsibilities they share with all other people in our society, as part of the decision-making mainstream of American political, economic and social life.

We organize to initiate or support action, nationally, or in any part of this nation, by individuals or organizations, to break through the silken curtain of prejudice and discrimination against women in government, industry, and professions, the churches, the political parties, the judiciary, the labor unions, in education, science, medicine, law, religion and every other field of importance in American society. Enormous changes taking place in our society make it both possible and urgently necessary to advance the unfinished revolution of women toward true equality now. With a life span lengthened to nearly 75 years it is no longer either necessary or possible for women to devote the greatest part of their lives to child-rearing yet childbearing and rearing which continues to be a most important part of most women’s lives — still is used to justify barring women from equal professional and economic participation and advance.

Despite all the talk about the status of American women in recent years, the actual position of women in the United States has declined, and is declining, to an alarming degree throughout the 1950’s and ’60s. Although 46.4% of all American women between the ages of 18 and 65 now work outside the home, the overwhelming majority — 75% — are in routine clerical, sales, or factory jobs, or they are household workers, cleaning women, hospital attendants. About two-thirds of Negro women workers are in the lowest paid service occupations. Working women are becoming increasingly — not less — concentrated on the bottom of the job ladder. As a consequence, full-time women workers today earn on the average only 60% of what men earn, and that wage gap has been increasing over the past twenty-five years in every major industry group. In 1964, of all women with a yearly income, 89% earned under $5,000 a year behalf of all full-time year round women workers earned less than $3,690 only 1.4% of full-time year round women workers had an annual income of $10,000 or more.

Further, with higher education increasingly essential in today’s society, too few women are entering and finishing college or going on to graduate or professional school. Today, women earn only one in three of the B.A.’s and M.A’s granted, and one in ten of the Ph.D.’s.

In all the professions considered of importance to society, and in the executive ranks of industry and government, women are losing ground. Where they are present it is only a token handful. Women comprise less than 1% of federal judges less than 4% of all lawyers 7% of doctors. Yet women represent 51% of the U.S. population. And, increasingly men are replacing women in the top positions in secondary and elementary schools, in social work, and in libraries — once thought to be women’s fields.

Official pronouncements of the advance in the status of women hide not only the reality of this dangerous decline, but the fact that nothing is being done to stop it. …

Discrimination in employment on the basis of sex is now prohibited by federal law, in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. …The Commission has not made clear its intention to enforce the law with the same seriousness on behalf of women as of other victims of discrimination. … Until now, too few women’s organizations and official spokesmen have been willing to speak out against these dangers facing women. Too many women have been restrained by the fear of being called “feminist.”

There is no civil rights movement to speak for women, as there has been for Negroes and other victims of discrimination. The National Organization for Women must therefore begin to speak.

We believe that the power of American law, and the protection guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to the civil rights of all individuals, must be effectively applied and enforced to isolate and remove patterns of sex discrimination, to ensure equality of opportunity in employment and education, and equality of civil and political rights and responsibilities on behalf of women, as well as for Negroes and other deprived groups.

We realize that women’s problems are linked to many broader questions of social justice their solution will require concerted action by many groups. Therefore, convinced that human rights for all are indivisible, we expect to give active support to the common cause of equal rights for all those who suffer discrimination and deprivation, and we call upon other organizations committed to such goals to support our efforts toward equality for women.

We believe that this nation has a capacity at least as great as other nations, to innovate new social institutions which will enable women to enjoy true equality of opportunity and responsibility in society, without conflict with their responsibilities as mothers and homemakers…. Above all, we reject the assumption that these problems are the unique responsibility of each individual woman, rather than a basic social dilemma which society must solve. True equality of opportunity and freedom of choice for women requires such practical, and possible innovations as a nationwide network of child-care center which will make in unnecessary for women to retire completely from society until their children are grown, and national programs to provide retraining for women who have chosen the care for their own children full-time.

In the interest of the human dignity of women, we will protest, and endeavor to change, the false image of women now prevalent in the mass media, and in the texts, ceremonies, laws, and practices of our major social institutions. Such images perpetuate contempt for women by society and by women for themselves. We are similarly opposed to all policies and practices — in church, state, college, factory, or office which, in the guise of protectiveness, not only deny opportunities but also foster in women self-denigration, dependence, and evasion of responsibility, undermine their confidence in their own abilities and foster contempt for women.

We believe that women will do most to create a new image of women by acting now, and by speaking out in behalf of their own equality, freedom, and human dignity — not in pleas for special privilege, nor in enmity toward men, who are also victims of the current, half-equality between the sexes — but in an active, self-respecting partnership with men. By so doing, women will develop confidence in their own ability to determine actively, in partnership with men, the conditions of their life, their choices, their future and their society.


Audio collection of the National Organization for Women, 1966-1991

Access. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

NOW Political Action Committee (PAC) Meetings (#1603-1688), are closed pending negotiations. NOW grievance committee recording (#1730-1732) are closed until January 1, 2034.

As of December 2015, board meeting recording are no longer closed and written permission of the National Organization for Women (NOW) is no longer required for access to this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. The National Organization for Women retains its copyright in its own records.

Copying. Tapes may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Extent

Scope and Contents

This collection contains mostly audiotapes from NOW national board meetings and NOW national conference proceedings. Miscellaneous interviews and speeches are listed at the end of the finding aid and include a number featuring Eleanor Smeal and others discussing the ERA. Materials are arranged largely in chronological order, where dates are identified. Length of tapes is provided, in minutes, where evident, and are estimates. Identifying numbers and labels on the individual tapes were used where found. The collection is arranged into five series.

Series I, NOW National Conferences, 1966-1989 (#1-602), includes tapes of those sessions NOW decided to record, and do not represent every session at a conference. NOW began taping their annual conferences in 1966. The conference tapes consist largely of professional recordings NOW later made available for sale as sets or by individual session. Numbers on the conference tapes do not necessarily correspond with the printed program rather the numbers correspond just to those sessions which were taped, and available for sale. Often the sessions which were recorded were divided by type of program: workshops were listed with a W prior to the number, hearings with an H, and plenary sessions with a P. This numbering scheme was also kept, where found, e.g.: W.1, H.1, or P.1, etc. For printed materials related to the conferences, such as programs and lists of tape sets available for sale, see MC 496, #21.1-26.8.

Series II, Regional and Subject Conferences (#603-674), contains the Iowa Skills conference (1979), the plenary sessions of the Ohio NOW conference (1983), an incomplete set of tapes from the California State and Southwest Regional Conference (1986), both the plenary and session tapes from the National Abortion Clinic Defense Conference (1990), and an incomplete set of tapes from the National Young Feminist Conference (1991).

Series III, NOW National Board Meetings, 1973-1991 (#675-1602), contains largely amateur recordings of national board meetings beginning with 1973. Although handwritten notes were taken at many of the meetings, transcripts were rarely provided, hence the tapes are the only complete record of the national board meetings. As well, the handwritten notes, found in MC 496, #2.1-6.66, were often annotated with references to the audiocassettes. During many of these post-1973 board meetings, NOW used two tape recorders simultaneously, creating two sets of audiocassettes of each meeting. These two sets, while duplicating the same material, are not exact duplicates of each other, as each recorder was started and stopped at different times. The sets of audiocassettes were labeled according to which recorder each came from, hence labels such as: small and large b or bl (black) and g or gr (green) and old and new, were retained in the description. Where available, the handwritten notes, mentioned previously, often indicate the starting and stopping times of each set of tapes, and will assist the researcher in locating which tape contains a particular topic. Many sets were not complete, with either missing or damaged tapes these were noted by the cataloger where found. Due to missing or damaged audiocassettes, as well as the inability to determine if the sets were indeed exact duplicates, both sets were retained as originals.

Series IV, Political Action Committee (PAC) Meetings (#1603-1691), consist of recordings of PAC meetings which were often held in conjunction with national board meetings.

Series V, Miscellaneous Interviews, Meetings, and Public Service Announcements (#1692-1763), is divided into two subseries with miscellaneous recordings listed at the end. Subseries A, Equal Rights Amendment, includes an ERA colloquium, public service announcements, and a number of interviews and speeches with and by Eleanor Smeal. Subseries B, Grievance Committee and Issues, contains a radio interview and presentations from the Ohio Grievance Committee. Included among the miscellaneous tapes is the NOW founders' meeting (1986), Sexist Justice with Karen DeCrow, and 18 tapes which appear to be the audio portion of a documentary project on NOW.


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June 30, 1966: A new, and proudly feminist organization has just been born!

Twenty-eight people got together today and formally set up a National Organization for Women, whose purpose will be to work to achieve the generations-long goal of total equality between women and men. The group&rsquos founders have been in Washington, D.C., since day before yesterday attending the Third National Conference of the Commissions on the Status of Women.

Many of those attending the conference were action oriented, and wanted to do something specific and meaningful to fight sexism, beginning with a resolution demanding that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission do its job, and start enforcing laws against sex discrimination in the workplace. But though the theme of the conference was &ldquoTargets for Action,&rdquo delegates were told that &ldquogovernment commissions cannot take action against other government departments,&rdquo so even this modest motion was ruled &ldquoout of order.&rdquo

At that point it became obvious that no governmental entity could take the kind of rapid, independent, sometimes militant actions that will be needed to overcome the last bastions of sex bias. So beginning over lunch yesterday, followed by a meeting in Betty Friedan&rsquos hotel room last night, and at informal sessions today during breaks in the conference, 28 of the conference attendees managed to create a new activist group before rushing to the airport for their flights home. The purpose of the new group will be: &ldquoTo take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society NOW, assuming all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.&rdquo

Author Betty Friedan (&ldquoThe Feminine Mystique&rdquo) came up with the name, which she scribbled on a table napkin during yesterday&rsquos luncheon. But Kathryn Clarenbach of the Wisconsin Commission on the Status of Women will temporarily head the group.

According to Analoyce Clapp, it has been decided:

&ldquoThat members join as individuals it will be a voluntary organization, speaking only for ourselves.

That the group will be called the National Organization for Women (N.O.W.).

That N.O.W. will recommend action in the area of equality for women.

That we begin with the assumption that we will not have unanimity on all questions.

That N.O.W. will be an action organization for the advancement of women into equal participation in the whole spectrum of American life.

That each member contribute five dollars per month toward the expenses of the organization. The ultimate financing will be decided later.

That N.O.W. keep in touch with all similar groups, both action and non-action groups.

That a telegram be sent to each of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioners urging them to rescind the Commission&rsquos recent ruling that help-wanted ads again be labeled &lsquoMale&rsquo and &lsquoFemale.&rsquo

Recruiting of Charter Members will continue until August first.&rdquo

Among the issues of immediate concern to the new group are:

(1) Equal jury participation by women. Female defendants often face all-male juries due to unequal jury selection laws. In 22 states women can get an automatic exemption from service, and Florida requires women to register with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in order to be in a pool of those eligible to be called. Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina prohibit women from serving at all.

(2) Title VII (a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) and the failure of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce its prohibition of sex bias.

(3) Newspaper &ldquohelp wanted&rdquo ads that label jobs for &ldquomen&rdquo or &ldquowomen.&rdquo

Though an organization presently consisting of 28 members spread throughout the country, with no office or employees, and assets of only one hundred and forty dollars doesn&rsquot sound like much of a challenge to the entrenched prejudice of government, industry, media, law and custom, neither did an initially small group of suffragists that eventually became a widespread, powerful political and social movement due to the righteousness of their cause.


National Organization for Women

The National Organization for Women (NOW) was officially established on June 30, 1966, in Washington, D.C., by a group of twenty-eight attendees at the Third National Conference of the Commission on the Status of Women. Its startup budget, collected from these founding members, was $140. By the end of its first year, its membership had increased to approximately 1,200. Nearing its fortieth year, in 2005 it claimed more than 500,000 dues-paying members and 550 chapters in 50 states. It remains the largest and most wellestablished American feminist organization.

The organization arose out of frustration at the slow pace with which women’s inequality was being addressed through established channels. The issue of discrimination against women was already widely recognized when NOW was formed: by the mid- 1960s, most states had established women’s commissions, and women’s workplace rights had been addressed at the federal level in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, barring sex discrimination in employment. However, many felt that these measures were little more than window dressing, and that no real change would occur unless a new organization, dedicated to women’s equality, ensured that women’s issues were given higher priority.

Among NOW’s founders was its first president, Betty Friedan, a journalist and author of the bestselling book, The Feminine Mystique. Other founders had strong ties to the labor and civil rights movements, and to networks of lawyers, teachers, government workers, and other professional groups. While white middleclass women were overrepresented, particularly in its early years, the group included women and men from a range of backgrounds. For example, Aileen Hernandez, an African-American woman with experience in the labor movement, was an earlyNOWleader who served as organization’s second president. Rev. Pauli Murray, the first African-American woman Episcopal priest, was also a founding member. She co-authored NOW’s original statement of purpose which begins as follow:

The purpose of NOW is to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.

As a national organization, NOW operates through a chapter structure. Local and state chapters organize their members around a range of issues, and send representatives to participate and vote in national NOW gatherings. Binding these chapters together is a set of official NOW priorities and issue-oriented task forces. These priorities include pressing for a constitutional equal rights amendment achieving economic equality for women championing abortion rights, reproductive freedom, and other women’s health issues and ending violence against women. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, NOW has provided particular leadership in defending abortion providers against attacks from anti-choice radicals such as Operation Rescue and in leading efforts to secure federal legislation to address violence against women. NOW’s grassroots structure facilitates these efforts. In the case of clinic defense work, individual NOWchapters provide escorts and local onthe- ground assistance while the national organization presses for more effective federal enforcement. In successfully lobbying for enactment and subsequent reauthorization of the federalViolence AgainstWomenAct, NOWsimilarly enlisted its extensive grassroots network to mobilize support for the legislation.

NOW’s issue priorities have at times provoked some internal strife. For example, in 1967, some members who disagreed with NOW’s emphasis on protecting women’s right to abortion left the organization and formed the Women’s Equity Action League, a now-defunct organization focused on women’s economic rights. Another faction protested when, in the late 1960s, NOW first articulated its support for lesbians’ rights. The priority given to the constitutional equal rights amendment has also proven controversial among members who believe that the current federal constitution is adequate and that organizational energy could be better spent on other issues.

NOW’s emphasis on action, including grassroots action and civil disobedience, distinguishes it from many other women’s organizations. In addition to electoral and lobbying work on the federal, state, and local levels, NOW also participates in litigation and organizes mass marches, rallies, and pickets. NOW’s record of mounting mass actions is particularly notable. A decade after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and the ill-fated Poor Peoples’ March on Washington of 1968, the NOW-organized 1978 march in support of the equal rights amendment drew more than 100,000 people to Washington, D.C. National Marches for Women’s Lives, which was co-organized by NOW, drew 500,000 reproductive rights supporters in 1989, 750,000 in 1992, and more than one million in 2004.

Philosophically, NOW generally ascribes to the ‘‘equal treatment’’ branch of feminist thought, rejecting public policies that give women special treatment because of perceived differences from men. For example, in the Supreme Court case of California Federal Savings & Loan Association v. Guerra (1987), NOW argued that a state law granting women extra work leaves on account of pregnancy constituted sex discrimination. Instead, argued NOW, the law should give women and men the same benefits. Similarly, NOW has been a leader in efforts to eliminate gender- based insurance rates, disputing actuarial tables that justify such sex-based rate making, and which, in some instances, inure to women’s financial benefit. According to NOW, use of sex as a rate-making tool masks the utility of lifestyle factors that would be even more accurate, such as smoking and exercise habits, and that would avoid status-based discrimination. Finally, NOW has opposed a return to the pre– Title IX days of single-sex public education, arguing that girls do not need special treatment and special classes to thrive, but that they should be given equal treatment in stereotype-free coeducational settings.

Despite its focus on formal equality, however, NOW acknowledges the special issues that face women. Its support of legislation to address domestic violence is based on the understanding that such violence is overwhelmingly directed at women. Likewise, NOW has championed efforts to expand government support for childcare in recognition of the fact that women generally bear the burden of caregiving within a family.

In the twenty-first century, NOW has increased its efforts to diversify its ranks, hosting a series of conferences focused on issues of concern to young women, women of color, and other allies whose views were not well represented in earlier iterations of the organization. Although participation in activist organizations is on the wane nationally, and NOW must struggle to maintain its vitality in the face of the growing power of conservative women’s organizations, NOW remains a force for women’s equality in the political and popular arena and at every level of government.


Contents

In 1963 Johnnie Tillmon founded ANC (Aid to Needy Children) Mothers Anonymous, which was one of the first grassroots welfare mothers’ organizations. [2] This organization later became part of the National Welfare Rights Organization. [2]

In early 1966, delegates from poor peoples’ organizations all over the country met in Syracuse, New York and Chicago, Illinois to discuss the need for unity among grassroots organizations for the poor in the United States. Around this same time, Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, both of the Columbia University School of Social Work, were circulating a draft of an article called "The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty" that later appeared in The Nation. The article discussed the idea that the widespread distribution of information about welfare benefits eligibility could dramatically increase welfare rolls, thus creating a bureaucratic and fiscal crisis. In turn, this would lead to the replacement of public assistance programs that currently existed with a guaranteed annual income for all people. Cloward and Piven were more concerned with reaching community groups with this work than with academia, and the article helped to serve a link between the two. [3]

George Wiley, CORE, PRAC, & the birth of a movement Edit

In May 1966, George Wiley, a nationally recognized chemist, the second African American on the faculty of Syracuse University, and former associate director for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and two of his associates from CORE set up the Poverty Rights Action Center (PRAC) in a two-story row house in Washington, D.C. [4] The PRAC was intended to become a permanent headquarters for coordinating efforts of present poor people's organizations. The PRAC's first project was planning a series of demonstrations that were to be coordinated with a welfare recipients’ march from Cleveland to Columbus, Ohio that had already been planned. This march had been thought up by representatives of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee led by César Chávez. The PRAC's efforts led to poverty rights demonstrations with thousands of participants in sixteen major cities on June 30, 1966, with extensive newspaper coverage in New York City, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Boston. [5] : [7–8]

Although there was no formal tie between the participating groups, the NWRO refers to the June 30 demonstrations as "the birth of a movement." Broad coalitions of groups sponsored each city's activities, including, but not limited to, welfare recipient organizations. Over time, there was an increase in coordination and cooperation between these welfare recipient groups and thus a nationwide welfare recipients’ organization was needed. [6]

National coordinating committee formed Edit

In August 1966, the representatives of welfare recipient groups from 24 cities met in Chicago, voting to form the National Coordinating Committee of Welfare Rights Groups (NCC). The PRAC office was officially named the headquarters for a welfare rights movement at a December 1966 meeting of the NCC. PRAC was authorized by the NCC in February 1967 to come up with a membership card for all groups affiliated with the NCC. Uniform membership requirements and a common dues structure for its affiliates were adopted by the NCC in April 1967. [6]

In August 1967, delegates from 67 local welfare rights organizations met in Washington, D.C. and adopted a constitution that was drafted by the PRAC staff and had been adopted by the NCC, thus forming the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). Johnnie Tillmon became the first chair of the NWRO. [7] The NCC made a place for itself within the NWRO as the main decision making body in the national structure of the organization. However, despite a nationwide organization, local welfare rights groups still retained nearly complete autonomy for their local actions. [6]

During the first few months of the new movement, the NWRO narrowed its focus from attempting to create a movement that would encompass all poor people to concentrating on those individuals who receive public assistance. Welfare recipients were easily organizable and they had the greatest measureable performance within the movement. [6]

Also in the early stages of the movement, Wiley rejected Cloward and Piven's strategy of flooding welfare rolls with new welfare recipients and instead favored a strategy of organizing current welfare recipients into pressure groups. Critics of the Cloward-Piven strategy argued that it was easier to create a welfare crisis than to bring about its resolution. Activists, who were mainly welfare recipients themselves with little political power, would be left amidst this crisis with the ability to do nothing about it. This move was also easier organizationally for the movement because it was strategically more difficult to identify those who were eligible for welfare than those who already received it, it was also more difficult to motivate welfare-eligible individuals to act than those who already received it, and it was easier to organize current recipients of welfare by offering them benefits such as supplementary welfare payments. [8]

The NWRO's first major activity was lobbying against the work incentive provisions of the Social Security Amendments of 1967. The organization held demonstrations that included a sit-in at the United States Senate Committee on Finance hearing room. The activity brought the NWRO a lot of media attention but did not impact the shaping of legislation very heavily. [8]

In 1968, just weeks before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., King acknowledged the NWRO, giving leaders of the movement and the issues at hand an important part in King's upcoming (without him) Poor People's Campaign. This nod from King later helped to promote the NWRO's first meeting between its leadership and the United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, held in the summer of 1968. [9]

In December 1968, the organization was granted a large government contract to help monitor the Work Incentive Program. Funding from this and several other large grants from foundations helped to finance a major expansion of the NWRO staff, including the addition of field organizers. [10]

The NWRO won much access to government officials during the first Nixon administration due to membership rolls growing larger and a bigger presence in the media. Leaders in the welfare rights movement were some of the first to be able to meet with Daniel P. Moynihan after he was appointed to the White House staff and leaders also started to meet regularly with Robert Finch, the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. During the drafting of the Family Assistance Plan, NWRO leaders were consulted by the Nixon administration and these leaders were also active in lobbying against the plan. [10]

Despite demonstrations pointed toward the United States Congress and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and traditional lobbying and negotiating efforts, welfare rights activities were not mainly centered at the national level. The movement has relied much more on simultaneous demonstrations based on common ideas and themes from local affiliates across the United States. NWRO publications, such as its newspaper The Welfare Fighter, document accounts of the accomplishments and activities that local affiliates participated in. [11] Local groups fueled much of the activity, such as the original June 30 rallies and "birthday in the streets" demonstrations each June 30 after that. Nationwide campaigns revolved around local groups demanding for resources such as supplemental welfare checks to pay for back-to-school clothing for children of welfare recipients as well as the demand for retail credit at major department stores for NWRO members. [12]

By August 1969, an NWRO convention in Detroit estimated roughly 20,000 dues paying members of the organization, and thus roughly 75,000 family members total affected by the movement. [13] Most of the members of the movement were poor, mostly black women. [14] By 1971, NWRO included 540 separate welfare rights organizations. [11]

In 1972, Johnnie Tillmon was appointed executive director of the NWRO after George Wiley's resignation. [1] Wiley had been trying to mobilize the working poor, whereas Tillmon tried to align with the feminist movement. [2] Tillmon's 1972 essay, "Welfare Is a Woman's Issue," which was published in Ms., emphasized women's right to adequate income, regardless of whether they worked in a factory or at home raising children. [15] The funding for the NWRO had gone down by the time Tillmon became the executive director, and the NWRO ended in bankruptcy in March 1975 however, Tillmon continued fighting for welfare rights at the state and local levels. [2] [1]

Local level Edit

Each local affiliate of the NWRO was fully autonomous. The group was allowed to decide on its own program, make its own decisions, organize itself, and raise money by itself, while the NWRO remained a resource for them. The only power the NWRO had over an affiliate was the power in which to recognize them as an affiliate. The national constitution required that members of local affiliates include a majority of welfare recipients and that all but ten percent of the members be people of low income. Each local group had to be independent of any larger organization that could restrict its freedom of action. [16]

National level Edit

Members elected lay leaders who had the power to dismiss the staff director. There were biennial conventions of delegates from all local groups in the country which elected a national executive board. The NCC consisted of delegates from each state that contained a local welfare rights affiliate. It met four times a year to make the basic policy decisions of the NWRO. The national staff was responsible to the national executive board, which was representative of the largest states within the movement because they contained the most delegates. [17]


Goals [ edit ]

Betty Friedan and Pauli Murray wrote the organization's Statement of Purpose in 1966. The statement described the purpose of NOW as "To take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men." The six core issues that NOW addresses are abortion and reproductive health services access, violence against women, constitutional equality, promoting diversity/ending racism, lesbian rights, and economic justice, with these issues having various sub-issues. The organization goes about creating these changes through laborious lobbying, rallies, marches, and conferences. NOW focuses on a variety of issues deploying multiple strategies, causing it to be an organization in which a comprehensive goal is envisaged and performed. [ 35 ]

Priorities mentioned above were pursued to ultimately secure constitutional amendments guaranteeing these rights. Even though discrimination on the basis of sex was illegal, the federal government was not taking an active role in enforcing the constitutional amendments and the new policies. [ 8 ] NOW sought to apply pressure to employers, local governments, and the federal government to uphold anti-discrimination policies. Through litigation, political pressure, and physical marches, NOW members held an authoritative stance leading to recognition in court cases, such as NOW v. Scheidler and Weeks v. Southern Bell. [ 36 ]

NOW v. Scheidler revolved around the issue of racketeering to gain support for anti-abortion groups. NOW was suing the groups for utilization of violence and the threat of violence for garnering support. The violence varied from physical barriers into entrances of abortion clinic to arson and bombings of those clinics. The plaintiff accused the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) for unethical seizing the right of women to make decisions about their own bodies, and that this right needed to be defended. The case was a success in terms of the class action suit “brought against terrorists by those they had terrorized”. [ 37 ]

However the case was dismissed based on the mere definition of racketeering because racketeering must have an economic inclination, and there was no evidence to prove PLAN had this financial intention. This does not mean it was not a significant case. It brought light and recognition to National Organization for Women and its goals. If anything, it galvanized the organization to strengthen its tactics. [ 38 ]

Weeks v. Southern Bell had the same effect, but this is an example where those galvanized efforts proved beneficial. This concerned discriminatory practices against women in the workplace. Lorena Weeks, employee of Southern Bell, claimed she was being discriminated against via exclusion to higher paying positions within the company. Sylvia Roberts acted as her attorney, supporting Week's grievances with the accusation of the company's violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964). Title VII is enabled to "protect individuals against employment discrimination on the bases of race and color, as well as national origin, sex, and religion". With this premise, Weeks, with the aid of Sylvia Roberts, succeeded in 1969 after making an appeal. The trial not only served as the triumph of National Organization of Women, but brought to life legislation made to the intentions of organizations, such as NOW. [ 39 ]


National Organization of Women-1966 - History

Journalist, activist, and co-founder of the National Organization for Women, Betty Friedan was one of the early leaders of the women’s rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Her 1963 best-selling book, The Feminine Mystique, gave voice to millions of American women’s frustrations with their limited gender roles and helped spark widespread public activism for gender equality.

Bettye Naomi Goldstein was born on February 4, 1921 in Peoria, Illinois, the oldest of three children of Harry Goldstein, a Russian immigrant and jeweler, and Miriam Horowitz Goldstein, a Hungarian immigrant who worked as a journalist until Bettye was born.

A summa cum laude psychology graduate of Smith College in 1942, Friedan spent a year on a graduate fellowship to train as a psychologist at the University of California Berkeley. There, she dropped the “e” from her name. As World War II raged on, Friedan became involved in a number of political causes. She left the graduate program after a year to move to New York, where she spent three years as a reporter for the Federated Press. Next, she became a writer for the UE News, the media organ for the United Electric, Radio, and Machine Workers of America. Her politics increasingly moved toward the left, as Friedan became involved with various labor and union issues. Glimmers of her later interest in women’s rights also emerged at this time, as she authored union pamphlets arguing for workplace rights for women.

In 1947, Friedan married Carl Friedan, a would-be theater producer and advertising maven. Friedan had three children — in 1948, 1952, and 1956 — continuing to work throughout. In 1956, the couple moved from Queens, New York, to suburban Rockland County, where Friedan became a housewife, supplementing her family’s income with freelance writing for women’s magazines.

Friedan also began the research for what would become The Feminine Mystique in the late 1950s. After conducting a survey of her Smith classmates at a 15-year reunion, Friedan found that most were, as she was, dissatisfied with the limited world of suburban housewives. She spent five years conducting interviews with women across the country, charting white, middle-class women’s metamorphosis from the independent, career-minded New Woman of the 1920s and 1930s to the housewives of the postwar era who were expected to find total fulfillment as wives and mothers.

Published in 1963, The Feminine Mystique hit a nerve, becoming an instant best-seller that continues to be regarded as one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20 th century. Women everywhere voiced a similar “malaise” from what Friedan dubbed, “the problem that has no name.” The book helped transform public awareness and brought many women into the vanguard of the women’s movement, just as it propelled Friedan into its early leadership. In 1966, Friedan joined forces with Pauli Murray and Aileen Hernandez to found the National Organization for Women (which remains a leading feminist organization), with Friedan as its first president. She also authored NOW’s mission statement: “… to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.” The organization’s first action: to demand that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforce the provisions of Title VII guaranteeing equality in employment. Specifically, NOW successfully sought to end the long-standing practice of sex-segregated help wanted advertising.

A busy activist throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Friedan helped found t he National A ssociation for the Repeal of Abortion Laws in 1969, later renamed National Abortion Rights Action League and more recently NARAL Pro-choice America. She organized the Women’s Strike for Equality on August 26, 1970 on the 50 th anniversary of women’s suffrage, to raise awareness about gender discrimination. In addition, in 1971, Friedan was a co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus with Congresswoman Bella Abzug, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, and feminist Gloria Steinem. Through these organizations, Friedan was influential in changing outdated laws such as unfair hiring practices, gender pay inequality, and pregnancy discrimination.

As more diverse voices emerged within the women’s movement, Friedan not only struggled to retain her leadership but was criticized by other feminists for focusing on issues facing primarily white, middle-class, educated, heterosexual women. Radical feminists also blasted Friedan for referring to lesbian women in the movement as the “lavender menace,” and for Friedan’s willingness to cooperate with men. Ever politically expedient, Friedan believed the only hope for change was by retaining the movement’s mainstream ties and veneer. This alienated her from younger, radical, and visionary feminists who were increasingly becoming the vanguard of the movement.

Friedan nonetheless remained a visible, ardent, and important advocate for women’s rights who some dubbed the “mother” of the modern women’s movement. Since the 1970s, she published several books, taught at New York University and the University of Southern California, and lectured widely at women’s conferences around the world. Friedan died in 2006 of congestive heart failure.


Watch the video: National Organization for Women 50th Anniversary Preview