A Brief History
On June 30, 1966, the Women’s movement took a giant leap forward when the National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded by 28 women’s rights activists. Soon, terms like feminist and Women’s Liberation became common, and a new force in the civil rights movement flexed its muscles.
Activists for women’s rights were frustrated by new laws and rules that supposedly protected the rights of women that were blatantly being ignored in the real world. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were supposed to equalize pay and hiring of men and women, but the reality was drastically different.
The first president of NOW (and one of the founders) was the author of 1963’s The Feminine Mystique, Betty Freidan. NOW members were less than satisfied by the efforts of Washington politicians to make real changes rather than just posture and merely look like they were accomplishing something. NOW campaigned for abortion rights (at that time, abortion was illegal in most states), the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, equity in hiring and promotions in the workplace, maternity leave, and increased access of women to college and graduate school as well as equity between men’s and women’s athletics in school and college.
NOW today claims 550,000 members in all 50 states, with 550 local chapters in each of those states plus Washington, DC. The fight over abortion rights (and “reproductive rights“) and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) continues, as does the demand for “equal pay for equal work.” Other issues such as gay rights, eliminating racism, domestic violence, economic justice, and constitutional equality (through the ERA or other means) remain as “core issues.” Sexual harassment in the workplace or elsewhere is also a topic under attack by NOW.
NOW is not without its enemies, and is opposed by anti-abortionists and conservative religious groups that believe women are ordained by God to occupy an inferior and submissive role in society. Father’s rights organizations advocating for the father’s equal say so about abortion and perceived unfairness regarding child support and custody also go head to head with NOW (and other women’s rights groups) as well.
If there ever was a doubt that “you can’t please everybody” the fact that even some ardent feminists criticize NOW as being “too inclusive” and not radical enough. How about you? Do you support an Equal Rights Amendment? Let us know.
For more information, please see…