Little Bits of History

June 30

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 30, 2017

1966: The National Organization for Women (NOW) is founded. NOW was founded at the Third National Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women by 28 women. These included Shirley Chisholm and Betty Friedan. In October an additional 21 men and women also joined and were credited with founder status. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 contained eleven sections or Titles. Title VII of the Act (Subchapter VI of Chapter 21) prohibits discrimination by covered employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This applied to any employer who has 15 or more employees for each working day. There are some exceptions, but they are very well defined and must be met in all criteria.

The law was not being enforced and women were still being flagrantly discriminated against in the workplace. The Third National Conference was unable to issue a resolution to recommend the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) address the situation vis a vis women’s employment. The women gathered in Betty Friedan’s hotel room to form a new and hopefully more active organization. It was felt the women’s movement needed a pressure group akin to the NAACP’s efforts on behalf of Americans of color. The focus of NOW was to mobilize women to combat discrimination and promote full equality for both sexes. There was a hope that women’s college enrollments would increase in both undergrad and graduate level disciplines.

NOW hoped to have fewer women employed in “pink collar” jobs and get them into a more skilled work environment, commensurate with their skill levels. Equal pay for equal work was also an issue. Springing from the Civil Rights movement, NOW was also one of the first women’s movements to include the issues of black women in their efforts. Betty Friedan and Pauli Murray authored NOW’s Statement of Purpose in 1966. Friedan had scribbled some notes on a napkin and the two women fleshed out their concerns and goals for the group. The overall purpose was to ensure women were treated as a full human beings with all the rights and responsibilities accorded to any adult male, supported by the law’s ability to enact redress for infringements.

In 1968, NOW created their own Bill of Rights with eight rights they wanted for all Americans, regardless of gender. One of their goals was to pass and Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution. First brought forth as an idea in 1923, nearly a hundred years later, this Amendment has not passed and women’s rights are less secure than other classes of US citizens. The ERA was finally passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. The deadline for the required number of states to ratify it passed without the requisite 38 states approval. The 35 states who ratified the ERA were not enough. Five states had ratified it and then rescinded their vote. Nine states passed it in one chamber of the state legislature, but not both. Six states simply defeated the amendment.

Men weren’t really the enemy – they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.

A woman is handicapped by her sex, and handicaps society, either by slavishly copying the pattern of man’s advance in the professions, or by refusing to compete with man at all.

We need to see men and women as equal partners, but it’s hard to think of movies that do that. When I talk to people, they think of movies of forty-five years ago! Hepburn and Tracy!

Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength. – all from Betty Friedan

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