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3/6/1997 - Oscar Winner Marleen Gorris to Direct Major Studio Picture

Dutch filmmaker Marleen Gorris, who won the foreign language Oscar in 1996 for directing Antonia's Line, has will direct her first major studio picture. 20th Century Fox has contracted with her to direct Come West With Me, a movie based on the play Abundance by Beth Henley. The nineteenth-century drama deals with the story of two women who journey west as mail-order brides. Gorris has most recently completed her English-language directing debut with the bigscreen version of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.


3/6/1997 - Mitsubishi Allegedly Interfering in Sex Discrimination Case

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has accused Mitsubishi Motors Manufacturing with interfering with the government's sex discrimination lawsuit against the company. In a brief filed with the U.S. District Court in Peoria, Ill., the government's lawyers allege that the company improperly asked women workers whether they planned to join the class-action lawsuit, whether they took notes of the harassment, copies of any notes and further misinformed the women that they could be eligible for damage awards even if they did not participate in the suit. The EEOC is seeking approximately $300,000 in damages for each of the 700 persons involved in the class action suit, thus making this case one of the biggest government sex discrimination suits ever brought. The company is accused of allowing its workers to habitually grope, touch and harass women employees while managers stood by and did nothing.


3/6/1997 - Bettina Hollings First Woman to Head New Zealand Network

Bettina Hollings will become New Zealand's first female to head a major network when she assumes the reign of General Manager of CanWest Global Communications Corp.'s second network. Hollings will continue to serve as the Associate Director of Programming for TV3, the Corp.'s existing channel. Gerry Noble, Vice-President of Operation for CanWest, commented on the appointment, "Bettina, who has been with CanWest and TV3 for the past two years, has made a huge contribution to the growth of TV3, and this appointment recognizes her outstanding ability and proven record of success. TV4, which will go to air later this year, will be focused on entertainment programming, which is widely recognized in the industry as Bettina's specialty."


3/6/1997 - Domestic Violence Advocates Urge Committee to Reject Limits on Offender Gun Ban Law

Before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Domestic Violence Action advocates urged rejection of bills that would gut the domestic violence offender gun ban law. Proposed legislation in Congress would amend the law, which currently prohibits those indicted for domestic violence to own or carry guns, to exclude police officers and military personnel and others convicted of domestic violence before the law's passage in September 1996. Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, commented on the proposed legislation, "Batterers fall into a category of criminals who are likely to reoffend. Guns are often the weapon of choice for those who commit acts of domestic violence. And studies show higher rates of domestic violence within police families than in the general population. Knowing this, how can we accept any change in the law that would put guns back into the hands of abusers?"

Those who propose the amended legislation argue that the ban will unfairly cost officers their jobs, even though, in reality, the officers will simply be reassigned to jobs (i.e. desk jobs) which do not require guns. In response to the allegation, Penny Harrington, the director of the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Center for Women and Policing, commented, "Rather than trying to seek an exemption for police officers and military personnel who are abusers, we should be concerned with why we are recruiting so many abusers for these positions. One half of all 911 calls are related to domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence should expect a sympathetic officer responding to 911 calls, not one who has committed domestic violence himself."


3/5/1997 - Two Insurance Executives Resign in Harassment Scandal

The president and president’s deputy of CNA Life insurance company resigned after the sexual harassment allegations of two female employees came to light. The female employees complained of sexual harassment committed by president, Jack Kettler, to the company’s deputy president, Robert Teske. Teske failed to act in the matter, and Roger Morris, a spokesperson for the company commented, "Mr. Kettler made the comments that were offensive and they were brought to Mr. Teske’s attention. Our policy is that employees can take complaints to management and they will be acted on. They were not acted on." Refusing to discuss the exact comments, Morris continued, "This was serious enough that he should have immediately stopped making those comments; harassment is prohibited and these policies were obviously violated." David J. Bowman, president of TTG Consultants in Los Angeles reflected, "A few years ago, a corporation very well might have tried to cover this up or they might have just laughed it off as horseplay. This insurance company did exactly what they should have."


3/5/1997 - Poll Shows Ferraro Could Easily Defeat D’Amato in '98

According to a poll conducted by Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Connecticut, ex-vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro would easily defeat incumbent Senator Alfonse D’Amato in the 1998 New York Senate race. The poll interviewed 1,071 registered New Yorkers from February 24th to March 2nd. Ferraro came out ahead of all other possible Democratic contenders and ahead of D’Amato. For D'Amato's part, 50% of respondents do not approve of D’Amato’s job performance while only 40% do approve.


3/5/1997 - Abortion Pill" Closer to U.S. Use

On March 4th, The Population Council announced that plans to use a company called Advances for Choice to market mifepristone (formerly known as RU 486). The step came after The Population Council settled legal issues with a business partner and created a new company to introduce the drug into the United States. The company said in a statement, "Together, we hope to achieve both FDA approval and drug availability by the end of 1997."


3/5/1997 - Feminist Majority Opposes Gutting Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Feminst Majority President Eleanor Smeal joined Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) and other domestic violence advocates in condemning proposed legislation that would gut the 1996 Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, which currently prohibits individuals convicted on misdemeanor domestic violence offenses from owning or using firearms. "Putting guns back in the hands of wife beaters and child abusers is outrageous. The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban is a significant step forward in the drive to end domestic violence. We strongly oppose any attempt to weaken this pathbreaking law. Allowing those who already have been convicted of domestic violence to possess guns places the lives of women and children in needless jeopardy," Smeal stated.

S. 262 and H.R. 26 eliminate retroactive application of the Domistic Violence Offender Gun Ban. H.R. 350 exempts police officers and the military from the law’s coverage, allowing personnel convicted of domestic violence to have guns.

Smeal continued, "Batterers fall into a category of criminals that are likely to reoffend. Guns are often the weapon of choice for those who commit acts of domestic violence. And studies have found higher rates of domestic violence within police families -- 40% of police families experience physical marital violence compared to 16% of the general population. Knowing this, how can we accept any change in the law that would allow abusers to have guns?"

Opponents of the Domestic Violence Gun Ban argue that applying the law to police officers convicted of past and future misdemeanor domestic violence offenses will unfairly cost officers jobs. Responded Smeal, “Rather than trying to seek an exemption for police officers and military personnel who are abusers, we should be concerned with why we are recruiting so many abusers for these positions. One half of all 911 calls are related to domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence should expect a sympathetic officer responding to 911 calls, not one who has committed domestic violence himself.”

The Feminist Majority played a leading role in passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. Its sister organization, The Feminist Majority Foundation, sponsors the National Center for Women in Policing, an organization of women police officers committed to improving police response to domestic violence and increasing the representation of women in law enforcement.


3/5/1997 - Domestic Violence Affects Two-Thirds of Welfare Recipients

A study conducted by the McCormack Institute and the Center for Survey Research has found that two-thirds of welfare recipients have been victims of domestic violence. Approximately one fifth of welfare recipients have been victims of domestic violence within the past twelve months. Seven hundred thirty-four women participated in the first scientific study of its kind conducted in the United States at the Department of Assistance in Massachusetts. The director of the study, Dr. Mary Ann Allard commented, "Domestic violence is more the rule than the exception in the lives of TAFDC recipients in Massachusetts. Our data confirm what has long been described anecdotally. We now have overwhelming evidence that the issue of domestic violence will be hard to ignore in discussions of welfare reform at the state and federal level." The study also found that over 80% of the women had worked at a full-time job and over 90% wanted to work, be in training or attending school.


3/4/1997 - 1997 Women's NCAA Automatic Bid Teams Announced

The following teams have received an automatic bid to play in the 1997 women's NCAA tournament: Liberty (22-7), Harvard (19-6), Eastern Kentucky (24-5), Old Dominion (29-1), Marshall (18-11), St. Peter's (25-3), North Carolina (27-2), and San Francisco (25-5). Each team received its bid for winning its regional conference tournament.


3/4/1997 - Women Become Larger Force in Movie Industry

While many of the women nominated for Oscar's this year participated in films created by small, independent studios, mainstream Hollywood has also included a variety of women in films and women-oriented films during the past year. In 1994, the "Year of the Woman" in Oscars ironically exposed Hollywood's tendency to shut women out of executive roles and serious acting roles and showed that most women actresses were left to play girlfriends, wives, sex vixens and prostitutes. This year, however, a variety of women actors and executives have created such films as "Marvin's Room" (starring Diane Keaton as a cancer patient), "Fargo" (starring Frances McDormand as a pregnant police chief), "The First Wives Club" (an unexpected box-office smash oriented towards a female audience), and "Courage Under Fire" (starring Meg Ryan as a soldier posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor). Movies like "Waiting to Exhale" led to other female audience-oriented movies such as "Set It Off" and "The Preacher's Wife."

Most agree that the key to the shift has occurred because women are breaking through the ranks of movie studio executives. Paramount, Columbia-Tristar, Fox 2000, United Artists, and Fine Line Features all include either a female president or prominent board members. At Paramount, for example, 44% of the top creative executives are women, and 35% of 20th Century Fox creative executives are women. Lynda Obst, who is currently producer of "One Fine Day", and an upcoming movie starring Jodie Foster, commented, "There's a direct relationship there. That is the beginning of our seeing movies that would not have been made if women were not involved at the critical stage of development." Cynthia Leverhand, executive director of Women in Film, agrees but also points out that women are still underrepresented, especially in director's, writer's and editing roles, "Have we really broadened the base, or are we just more vertically visible? Can you really name more than 10 women directors? My perception is that the quality of women coming forth is so outstanding that you can't ignore them anymore. And it's these women who will truly broaden the base."


3/4/1997 - T.V.'s "Ellen" to Come Out

ABC has given the t.v. sitcom Ellen the go ahead to have its lead character come out as a lesbian on an April 30th show. Ellen will reveal to Oprah Winfrey, playing her therapist, that she is attracted to a lesbian. Ellen will be the first show to have a gay or lesbian lead character. A later episode will feature Ellen talking to her parents about her sexual


3/4/1997 - Hearings Finally Scheduled for Herman

After delaying Alexis Herman's Secretary of Labor confirmation hearings for weeks, Senator James Jeffords has finally scheduled the hearings. Commenting that he found her responses concerning questions about her private finances and conduct as a White House aide to be "adequate", the Chair of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Comittee scheduled the hearings for March 18th. A spokesperson for the White House commented, "We think when the full committee has a chance to hear from Alexis Herman, they'll agree that she'll be an outstanding secretary of labor."


3/3/1997 - United Nations Recognizes Top Women Environmental Leaders

Anita Roddick, Bette Midler and Bella Abzug were some of the twenty-five women recognized by the United Nations as world environmental leaders. On March 6th, the United Nations will host "Eyes on the Environment: 25 Women Leaders in Action" during which the women will receive the awards. Anita Roddick, CEO of The Body Shop, commented, "As leaders, we’ve got to lead by example. That’s why I’m more than happy to be included in this collection of women leaders to mark the UNEP 25th Anniversary. That’s a quarter of a century of achievement and we’ve only just begun." Other leaders honored include scientists, journalists, a nun, a queen and a politician.


3/3/1997 - United Nations Recognizes Top Women Environmental Leaders

Anita Roddick, Bette Midler and Bella Abzug were some of the twenty-five women recognized by the United Nations as world environmental leaders. On March 6th, the United Nations will host "Eyes on the Environment: 25 Women Leaders in Action" during which the women will receive the awards. Anita Roddick, CEO of The Body Shop, commented, "As leaders, we’ve got to lead by example. That’s why I’m more than happy to be included in this collection of women leaders to mark the UNEP 25th Anniversary. That’s a quarter of a century of achievement and we’ve only just begun." Other leaders honored include scientists, journalists, a nun, a queen and a politician.


3/3/1997 - Former McCall’s Editor Lerone Hershey Dies at 78

The former editor of McCall’s and Ladies’ Home Journal magazines died on February 27th due to complications resulting from Parkison’s disease at age 78. Hershey began her career by working at the promotion department of The New York Herald Tribune. In 1968 she left the position of executive director of McCall’s magazine to become the managing editor of The Ladies’ Home Journal. Three years after feminists staged a one-day sit-in demanding that the journal have a female editor, she became the magazine’s executive editor. In 1972, Hershey’s seminars on the role of women in the economy led to the creation of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Economic Role of Women, on which she served. In 1982, Hershey became the president and editorial director of a new multimedia subsidiary of the Journal’s parent company, Charter Publishing Co.


3/3/1997 - Women Successfully Integrated into Military

Among calls by some members of Congress for segregating the military after widespread allegations of sexual harassment have emerged, a reporter from The Washington Post spent a week with integrated troops in Bosnia and found that women and men worked together easily and for the benefit of the entire operation. Dana Priest found that there was much less sexual harassment when the troops were involved in a purposeful mission. Furthermore, the supposed problems involved in women and men living together (sleeping space, bathroom use, privacy, etc.) were easily resolved and did not amount into any barriers to effective work. More importantly, from serving as lawyers interpreting the Dayton Peace accords to working as military police protecting high ranking officials, from shooting machine guns to driving tanks and inspecting weapons sites, women have successfully undertaken the responsibilities of protecting the nation’s interests abroad and at home. Speaking of one female lieutenant, Captain Zane Jones recalled, "I had heard about Lt. Armendariz and had done some politicking to get her. I think there’s a fantasy among some guys that maybe women can’t do this. But then they get around them and find out they can."


3/3/1997 - Abortion Foes to Picket at High Schools

So-called Operation Rescue plans to begin targeting high schools starting March 3 through the end of the 1997 school year in order to harass young men and women. The group says it wants to "educate" women on the abortion issue. Critics of the campaign believe that the picketing is a scare tactic also being used to incite more people to commit violence against abortion providers and clinics. Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, commented "These kinds of offensive, almost intimidating tactics will not be successful with young people any more than with adults."


2/28/1997 - Bowing to Pressure from Feminist Groups, Vienna Philharmonic Agrees to Admit Women

An all-male institution since its foundation 155 years ago, the Vienna Philharmonic has agreed to admit women as players. In a vote which passed with a two-thirds margin, the group responded to pressures of feminist groups to boycott the Philharmonic's upcoming U.S. tour if it did not agree to admit women. Elena Osteleitner, an assistant professor at the University of Music in Vienna commented, "They were quite frightened by the feminist movements in the United States, and they realized it was no fun and no joking."

The group voted to admit Anna Lelkes, a harpist who had long played with the group, as an official member, thus granting her full payment and privileges after 26 years of service. In June, women will be able to audition for the positions available; the group needs a violist, tuba player and trumpet player. Last week, the new Austrian chancellor, Viktor Klima publicly told the group that there was, "creative potential in the other half of humanity and this should be used."


2/28/1997 - Women's History Month Begins

The first International Women’s Day was March 8, 1911. In 1981, Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) cosponsored a Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming the week of March 8 National Women’s History Week. In 1986, the National Women’s History Project (founded in 1979 by Molly MacGregor) helped expand the celebration to the entire month of March. In 1987 and subsequent years, the National Women’s History Month Resolutions have been approved with broad-based, bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, and signed by the President.

Today, schools and communities celebrate the month with special curriculum and events, and many states and cities have extended the observance year-round by creating Women’s Halls of Fame.

For women's history calendar events, a quiz, links, and facts about the last 25 years of the women's movement, see our special section on Women's History Month 1997.


2/28/1997 - Defense Secretary Sees No Reason to Segregate Military Training

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said on February 26th that he saw no reason to segregate military training on the basis of sex. He said he was still open to comments regarding the issue, but that any changes must not cause women to lose any gains they have made in the military. After a series of sex scandals, some conservative legislators have asked for the segregation, saying that the co-ed training led to rape, sexual harassment and other types of abuses against women. Cohen commented after touring Lackland Air Force Base, "Based upon my observations here today, one would have to come up with some very compelling evidence why (training) should be handled differently."


2/28/1997 - Bowing to Pressure from Feminist Groups, Vienna Philharmonic Agrees to Admit Women

An all-male institution since its foundation 155 years ago, the Vienna Philharmonic has agreed to admit women as players. In a vote which passed with a two-thirds margin, the group responded to pressures of feminist groups to boycott the Philharmonic's upcoming U.S. tour if it did not agree to admit women. Elena Osteleitner, an assistant professor at the University of Music in Vienna commented, "They were quite frightened by the feminist movements in the United States, and they realized it was no fun and no joking."

The group voted to admit Anna Lelkes, a harpist who had long played with the group, as an official member, thus granting her full payment and privileges after 26 years of service. In June, women will be able to audition for the positions available; the group needs a violist, tuba player and trumpet player. Last week, the new Austrian chancellor, Viktor Klima publicly told the group that there was, "creative potential in the other half of humanity and this should be used."


2/28/1997 - Amelia Earhart Flight to be Recreated

A Texan woman, Linda Finch, is planning to recreate Amelia Earhart’s last and most perplexing around the world. Finch found one of only two twin-engine Lockheed Electra 10E’s, the type Earhart used, known to exist and will fly it around the same path with many of the same stops as did Earhart. Pratt & Whitney is financing the $4.5 million project: $1.5 million was used to restore the plane and finance the project and another $3 million was used to create and distribute educational packets about Earhart, science, flight and geography. Finch commented that she will make many of the same stops along the way and hopes to "teach children they can and should dream big dreams."

Earhart, born in 1897, was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and across the United States. On March 17, 1937 she attempted to become the first person to fly around the world at the equator. She made it three fourths of the way but then failed to arrive at a scheduled stop at Howland Island. They left absolutely no trace, and speculation remains to this day as to what happened to her and her navigator Fred Noonan.


2/28/1997 - Women's History Month Begins

The first International Women’s Day was March 8, 1911. In 1981, Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) cosponsored a Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming the week of March 8 National Women’s History Week. In 1986, the National Women’s History Project (founded in 1979 by Molly MacGregor) helped expand the celebration to the entire month of March. In 1987 and subsequent years, the National Women’s History Month Resolutions have been approved with broad-based, bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, and signed by the President.

Today, schools and communities celebrate the month with special curriculum and events, and many states and cities have extended the observance year-round by creating Women’s Halls of Fame.

For women's history calendar events, a quiz, links, and facts about the last 25 years of the women's movement, see our special section on Women's History Month 1997.


2/27/1997 - Vast Majority of British Support Abortion Rights

A recent MORI poll has found that 64 percent of British women and men support "legal abortion for all who want it." This number represents a ten percent increase in support of abortion rights over the past 17 years; an even larger number of persons approve the right for an abortion in cases of rape and incest, or when the woman's life is at stake. The poll found that 50 percent of Roman Catholics also approve the right to an abortion. David Paintin, Chair of the Birth Control Trust commented, "Politicians and policy-makers need to be aware that the option of abortion is essential for women's health and well-being in many circumstances and that there is support from a majority of people in this country for this."