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Feminist Chronicles - 1964

Events

The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, ending the poll tax. (01/23/64)

The Beatles arrived for their first tour of the United States. (02/07/64)

President Johnson submitted a proposal to Congress for a $1 billion "War on Poverty." (03/16/64)

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Congress and signed by President Johnson. It included in Title VII a prohibition against discrimination in employment on the basis of sex as a result of action by Congresswoman Martha Griffiths (D-MI) and in an attempt by Southern members of Congress to block its passage. (07/03/64)

Lyndon Johnson was elected President and Hubert Humphrey Vice President in a landslide victory over the Republican ticket headed by Senator Barry Goldwater. (11/03/64)


Lifestyles

Between 1964 and 1966 there was an epidemic of rubella, commonly known as German measles and documented since the 1940s as the cause of deformities if contracted by a pregnant woman in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. Hearings were held on a therapeutic abortion bill introduced in California by Anthony Bielenson. Among those testifying in favor of the bill were the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees). Testimony against the bill came predominantly from an array of Catholic organizations, convincing those in favor of liberalizing abortion laws that opposition was largely religious. (1964)

From their apartment windows in a middle class Queens, NY, neighborhood, 37 people witnessed the murder of Kitty Genovese and did nothing to help her. (03/27/64)

Geraldine Mock of Columbus, Ohio, was the first woman to complete a solo flight around the world. (04/16/64)


Education

May Craig, life-long feminist member of the White House press corps and regular on "Meet the Press," asked Rep. Howard W. Smith of Virginia during the television show if he would put equal rights for women in Title VII. "Well, maybe I would," Smith replied. Craig persisted, asking, "Amendment on the floor?" And Rep. Smith said: "I might do that." (02/64)

Rep. Howard W. Smith, in a "southern strategy" to defeat the Civil Rights Act, moved to add "sex" to one of its provisions. After heated debate, the House of Representatives voted to pass the amendment, which added the word "sex" to the discriminatory bans of race, color, religion, and national origin in Title VII of the bill. (02/08/64)


Religion

Fifteen women "auditors" were invited to attend sessions of the Roman Catholic Church's Ecumenical Council (Vatican II), which had convened October 11, 1962. (09/23/64)


Media

Rachel Carson, 56, the author of Silent Spring, died. (04/14/64)

Sidney Poitier was the first Black to win an Oscar for Best Actor. Actress Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1939. (1964)


Political

While the phenomenal Marie Sklodowska Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (1911) in chemistry, British crystalographer Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin became the second female to receive that honor for determining the molecular structure of Vitamin B12 and penicillin. (1964)

Lady Astor, the first woman ever to sit in the British House of Commons, who kept her seat for 25 years through seven consecutive elections, died just before her 85th birthday. She had retired from office at age 65 after a political career in which she advanced the interests of women and children. (05/02/64)

The first National Conference of State Commissions on the Status of Women was held in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Citizen's Advisory Council and the Interdepartmental Committee. Twenty-four state commissions were represented by 73 delegates. Eight of the states without state commissions also sent delegates. (06/12-13/64)

Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to be elected to both the U.S. House and the Senate, was also the first woman to run for the Presidential nomination of a major party. She declared her candidacy in January and received 27 delegate votes at the Republican Convention in San Francisco, more than anyone else except the GOP nominee, Senator Barry Goldwater. (07/13-18/64)

By the end of the year, 33 states had established Commissions on the Status of Women and at the federal level, an Interdepartmental Committee on the Status of Women and a Citizen's Advisory Council were established by Executive Order to follow up on the report of the President's Commission. (1964)

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments reported favorably on the ERA. (09/12/64)

The Backlash

At a Student Non-Violent Coordinating Council (SNCC) staff meeting, Ruby Doris Smith presented a paper on "The Position of Women in SNCC." SNCC leader Stokley Carmichael declared, "The only position for women in SNCC is prone." (1964)

Phyllis Schlafly wrote and self-published A Choice, Not An Echo to support Barry Goldwater as the Republican Presidential nominee. In the March 1960 issue of the John Birch Society Bulletin, Robert Welch, the organization's founder, described her as "a very loyal member of the JBS." (1964)

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