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


Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 26, 2015
Betty Friedan (1960)

Betty Friedan (1960)

August 26, 1970: The Women’s Strike for Equality takes place. The strike was held on the fifty year anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, giving women the right to vote. The strike was sponsored by the National Organization of Women (NOW) which was founded in 1966 by Betty Friedan and 48 others. Betty Jameson Armistead, historian, sent a letter to Friedan and others proposing a strike. Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, and leader of the feminist movement, planned the event to coincide with the landmark decision and highlight the issues of the day. These included lack of equal pay for the same job, regardless of the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, as well as numerous other employment inequities.

Women were paid about 59 cents per dollar earned by men for similar jobs. They were also forbidden to enter certain occupations and made up only 5-10% of college admissions. Sandra Day O’Connor, future Supreme Court Justice graduated at the top of her class at Stanford Law School and yet was only offered secretarial positions after passing the bar. There were 43 states which limited the amount of weight a woman could pick up on the job at 25 pounds (apparently not necessary if a mother was carrying a small child and his/her accoutrements). There were laws in some states forbidding women from obtaining credit cards, making wills, or even owning property in her own name. Some states prohibited women from sitting on juries.

Friedan first proposed the strike to NOW, but they were hesitant, fearful of failure and setting themselves up for mockery. Friedan did not back down and spent months organizing. The planning was not smooth and the group was clearly divided between younger “radical” and older “bourgeoisie” women. Friedan never gave up even after asking New York City to close Fifth Avenue and being refused. Around 5 PM, women began to gather – this allowed working women to participate. About 20,000 women gathered at the main event in New York City, but other smaller protests were held across the country.

Reactions were mixed. A National Celebration of Womanhood was held in response with many women dressed in frilly dresses and doing “women’s work” to support traditional roles. Even national news coverage was derogatory, including Eric Sevareid, who called  the women a “band of braless bubbleheads”. Women were upset at the media, claiming bias and a condescending attitude. The women were portrayed as angry and their message and cause of their distress was ignored. President Nixon supported the women and issued a proclamation calling the day to be known as “Women’s Rights Day”. Even with mixed reviews, the day’s event were seen as a watershed moment and brought the cause to the nation’s attention.

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 has got to be able to say, and not feel guilty, ‘Who am I, and what do I want out of life?’

Protectiveness has often muffled the sound of doors closing against women.

The only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own. There is no other way. – all from Betty Friedan

Also on this day: The Terminal Man – In 1988, Merhan Karrimi Nasseri hit the airport.
Explosive – in 1883, Krakatau began to erupt.
Negligence – In 1928, the first negligence case was started.
Big Chuck – In 1966, Charles de Gaulle entered Paris.
Up In Smoke – In 1980, Harvey’s Resort was damaged by a bomb detonation.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 19, 2014
Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan

February 19, 1963: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan is published. The book is often cited as a spark for the beginning of the second-wave of feminism in the US. In 1957, Friedan was asked to conduct a survey of her former Smith College classmates in order to present it for their 15th class reunion. While speaking with many of the women, she was interested to learn that many were dissatisfied with their role as housewife. She went on to conduct interviews with other suburban housewives as well as research of the media and advertising and the current findings among psychologists. She intended to write a magazine article but couldn’t find anyone to publish it. So instead, she wrote a book.

The 239 page book has fourteen chapters discussing various aspects of “the problem that has no name” or the widespread unhappiness of women in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The role of housewife was not fulfilling the promise of women even as the culture insisted that the road to happiness was marriage and children. Women’s magazines (created mostly by men) showed women as happy housewives or unhappy and neurotic careerists. These messages created a “feminine mystique” based on what women wanted and needed for their happiness. Unfortunately, it didn’t hold true. Women were not fitting the mold created by a variety of men including Sigmund Freud. As women gained more education, they were less satisfied with their lot.

Friedan was born in 1921 in Illinois. When her father fell ill, her mother began working outside the home and seemed to find satisfaction in the role. Friedan was active in both Marxist and Jewish circles even as a teenager. When she wanted to write for the school newspaper, she was turned down and she got six friends together and they began their own paper. She went on to the all-girls Smith College where she became editor-in-chief of the newspaper there. In 1943, she spent a year at the University of California, Berkeley working with Erik Erikson. She claimed that her boyfriend of the time pressured her to turn down working on a Ph.D and abandoning her academic career.

After leaving school, she began writing in earnest. She married Carl Friedan in 1947 and continued to work. She claimed to have been let go when she was pregnant with her second child and so began working freelance. She and her husband divorced in 1969. Friedan is credited with changing the world single handedly. She shaped our definition of what a happy woman is. She strongly defended the equality of women. She was known for her aggressive attitude and never forgot that women are adult humans and have the right to living their lives in the way they see fit. She died in 2006 at the age of 85.

Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.

Men are not the enemy, but the fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves.

The feminine mystique has succeeded in burying millions of American women alive.

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. – all from Betty Friedan

Also on this day: Cracker Jack – In 1912, Cracker Jack began to include prizes in every box.
Bollingen Prize – In 1949, the prizes were first given out.
Rockin’ the World – In 1600,  the most powerful volcano in South America erupted.
Soaps – In 1985, the EastEnders was first broadcast.