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Feminist Chronicles - 1975

Events

President Ford signed an executive order which established a National Commission on International Women's Year. The government allocated $350,000 to finance the Commission; both Australia and Canada allocated $2 million. During the signing ceremony, President Ford urged the ratification of ERA in 1975. (01/10/75)

The Vietnam War ended-after 14 years and 56,559 American dead. (01/10/75)

The first attempt to stop Medicaid abortion funding was defeated. (01/75)

Margaret Thatcher, 49, was elected leader of Britain's Conservative Party, the first woman to serve in that capacity. (02/11/75)

The United Nations' World Conference on International Women's Year was held in Mexico City. The conference was attended by representatives of member governments and its official purpose was to consider a 10-year UN World Plan of Action. The plan developed covered education, employment, population control, child marriages, etc., but it did not agree on a general condemnation of sexism, nor did it include the right of women to control their own bodies. Nothing in the plan was legally binding on any country and each nation was left to work out the details in its own way. Another conference, called the Tribune, was put together by a small committee of NGO's (non-government organizations) and was structured in panels and workshops in order to contain the feminists who poured in from around the world; estimates exceeded 7,000. (06/23/75-07/04/75)

At the Eighth NOW Conference in Philadelphia in October, in a bitterly contested election, Karen DeCrow was reelected president and Eleanor Smeal was elected chair of the board. Candidates of their Majority Caucus slate won a dominant majority on the executive committee and board of directors. Resolutions were passed calling for a constitutional convention to amend NOW's by-laws and on ERA ratification. (10/24-27/75)


Lifestyles

NOW's Older Women Task Force chair, Tish Sommers, coined the phrase "Displaced Homemaker" and defined the problems besetting such women, in the January Older Women Task Force newsletter. (01/75)

Ann Scott, NOW Vice President Legislation, died of cancer on February 17. Scott was a founder of the Buffalo (NY) Chapter of NOW and was elected to the National Board of NOW in 1970. She served as Vice President Legislation from 1971 until her death. She left her work as teacher, scholar and poet at the State University of New York to open NOW's legislative office in Washington, D.C. (02/17/75)

The first national conference on rape was held at University of Alabama. Tuscaloosa NOW Rape Task Force coordinator Mary Ann Largen worked with the University's Center for Correctional Psychology to set up the conference, and many task force members were speakers at the conference. (01/20-22/75)

Legislation to assist Displaced Homemakers, developed by Tish Sommers and Laurie Shields of the NOW Task Force on Older Women, was introduced in California. (04/10/75)

According to a survey conducted by the Working Women United Institute, sexual harassment was widespread; over 70% of respondents reported experiencing it at least once, and the incidence of harassment was found to cut across age, economic, marital, and experience categories, although waitresses and clerical workers were more likely to be harassed than women in other job categories. The survey also reported that 56% of the reported cases involved some form of physical harassment, and that one-third of all reported incidents carried some variety of negative repercussions (further harassment, firing, etc.) with them. (05/75)

Lansing (MI) NOW achieved one of its highest legislative priorities for 1975 when the Michigan House passed one of the country's most progressive housing acts. The House substitute for Senate Bill 13 amended the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to prohibit discrimination in the renting, leasing or selling of real estate based on sex, marital status, age, or handicap. (05/28/75)

The American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. (1975)

NOW Labor Task Force Coordinator Sara Nelson met with the U. S. Justice Department on the Karen Silkwood cover-up, and urged them to reopen the investigation. Four men represented the Justice Department, and told the NOW representative that Karen Silkwood might have been a "kook"and suggested the reason NOW members raised concerns about the unsolved aspects of the case was because they "watched too much television."(08/26/75)

NOW called all members to the streets to protest against violence against women and to "claim the night and the streets as ours." Deborah Hart, Coordinator of the first "Take Back the Night" action, also called for vigils in memory of "our sisters who have died in the streets." (08/26/75)


Education

At a meeting with HEW Secretary Caspar Weinberger and 13 national women's groups- including NOW LDEF's PEER project-Weinberger suggested that he preferred to leave final Title IX decisions to the courts and implied that once final regulations were issued, HEW would avoid making policy decisions in order not to "prejudge" the court cases. In February, the group sent him a letter charging him with "clear abdication of HEW's legal responsibility to enforce" Title IX, maintaining that "the statute directs the Executive Departments providing federal educational aid, not the courts, to enforce the law." (01/21/75)

Title IX regulations barring sex discrimination in intercollegiate athletics and broadening opportunities for women were signed by HEW Secretary Caspar Weinberger and sent to President Ford. (02/28/75)

Congress passed legislation opening the U.S. military academies to women. NOW pushed for a September 1976 effective date. (05/20/75)

Except for contact sports, schools and colleges getting federal aid were required to give boys and girls equal access to physical education classes and facilities, decreed Health, Education and Welfare (HEW ) Secretary Caspar Weinberger. "Equal education opportunity for women is the law of the land and it will be enforced," he said. (06/02/75)

HEW announced plans for its Office of Civil Rights to stop investigating individual complaints within 90 days and to concentrate instead on identifying patterns of discrimination in higher education. In 1969, HEW received 14 complaints but in 1974, it received 444. (06/03/75)


Economic

The Rochester, (MN) NOW chapter filed a class action suit against Sears with the EEOC for firing five full-time saleswomen who Sears said were dismissed as part of cutbacks forced by the poor economy. The saleswomen and NOW believed they were let go because they were near retirement and pension benefits; four of the five were over 55 years old and the fifth was nearing a major boost in profit-sharing benefits. (1975)

Atlanta NOW filed suit with EEOC against three banks-C & S Bank, First National, and Trust Company of Georgia for sex discrimination in hiring, promotion and training after the chapter had conducted a seven-month study of employment conditions. (1975)

Lt. Col. Grace King, dismissed in 1975 as WAC Commander in Virginia for feminist activities, was reinstated. King, NOW's top military advisor, testified many times at Congressional hearings. (1975)

Denver NOW filed a complaint with EEOC & OFCC & U.S. Air Force charging sex discrimination against Martin-Marietta. (1975)

AT & T agreed to pay an additional $2.5 million to about 2,500 employees, mostly women, because AT & T had not met its agreed 1973 intermediate targets for ending job discrimination. (05/03/75)

Chicago NOW demonstrated at the Sears stockholders meeting and, through public embarrassment, forced Sears to put the question of affirmative action on its agenda. (05/19/75)

Despite tremendous community pressure, Kiwanis International members voted for the third straight year to ban women from membership in the organization and revoked the charters of two U.S. chapters which had admitted women. (06/24/75)

Capitol Hill NOW filed the first formal complaint of sex discrimination under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973. (1975)

New York NOW and Queens (NY) NOW sponsored an Older Women's Conference with 19 workshops and featured NOW's Older Women Task Force Chair Tish Sommers, Representative Bella Abzug, and actress Viveca Lindfors. (06/07-08/75)

NOW sponsored "Alice Doesn't Day" women's strike. (10/29/75)


Religion

Bishop Leo T. Maher of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, CA, issued an order denying communion to Catholics who were "members of pro-abortion groups such as the National Organization for Women." The pastoral letter, which was read or distributed at every Mass in the 512,000-member diocese the following Sunday, singled NOW out for its "shameless agitation" in favor of abortion and stated NOW members were not to receive the sacraments. (04/08/75)

About 350 persons attended a demonstration to protest an order by San Diego Roman Catholic Bishop Leo Maher denying communion to Catholic members of NOW who advocate abortion. At least a dozen San Diego NOW women wearing conspicuous NOW buttons were denied Communion at St. Brigid's Church in Pacific Beach CA, site of the demonstration, after they told the parish priest they did not support the church's anti-abortion views. Other demonstrations included pickets from the Pro-Abortion League in front of St. Joseph's Cathedral in downtown San Diego, and 50 pickets from Women in Law demonstrating in front of the University of San Diego's Immaculata Chapel. (04/13/75)

Mothers' Day of Outrage brought 4,000 pro-choice demonstrators to the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C. The action was called by the Eastern Region of NOW to publicize the amount of money the Catholic Church had spent to enforce compulsory pregnancy. (05/11/75)


Media

The NOW Media Task Force testified against a five year funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) because of its poor record on women. Testifying before the Communications Subcommittee of the House, Kathleen Bonk, Task Force Chair, also testified against nominees of President Ford to CPB Board of Directors who were up for Senate approval, especially the nomination of Joseph Coors, VP of Coors Brewery, founder of TVN, a politically conservative news service, and a supporter of reactionary causes. (1975)

U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for D.C., in an extraordinary move, ordered the FCC to take action after two and a half years of delay on claims by NOW that WABC-TV (NY) and WRC-TV (DC) were guilty of sex discrimination in programming and employment. The FCC was ordered to act within 60 days or provide the court with a clear statement of the FCC's reason for further delay. The court also dismissed a motion made by the FCC which would have imposed highly technical procedural rules on the petitioner. (01/24/75)

A sex discrimination suit filed with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights against WBRW radio by Somerset County NOW was settled, with "probable cause" found for discrimination. (1975)

"Shoulder to Shoulder," a brilliant documentary series by Midge Mackenzie on the militant suffrage movement in Great Britain led by Emmeline Pankhurst, was broadcast on Public Television. (10/75)

Against Our Will by Susan Browmiller was published by Simon and Schuster. (1975)


Legal

The Washington Supreme Court ruled in the case of Washington v. Koome that the requirement that an unmarried minor under 18 who is seeking an abortion have the consent of a parent or guardian violated due process and equal protection principles. The Court ruled that it encumbered the minor's right to choose abortion and it discriminated between pregnant women in terms of their right to obtain an abortion. (01/17/75)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for states to deny women equal opportunity for jury service, thus striking down by a vote of 8-1 a Louisiana statute which automatically excluded any woman from jury service unless she applied for it in writing.(01/21/75)

In Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, a case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court held unconstitutional the Social Security provision that gave widows with minor children monthly benefits based on their deceased husbands' contributions but denied similar benefits to widowers with minor children. (1975)

A Utah law, requiring divorced fathers to support sons until age 21 but daughters until only 18, was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in an 8-1 decision. Justice Harry Blackmun wrote "No longer is the female destined solely for the home and the rearing of the family and only the male for the market place and the world of ideas. Women's activities and responsibilities are increasing and expanding." Justice William Rehnquist was the only dissenting vote. (04/15/75))

Joanne Little was acquitted, and a precedent was set for the right of self-defense of rape victims. Many NOW members had raised money for her defense and NOW had publicly supported her. (08/15/75)


Political

At a press conference arranged by NOW and Men for ERA in Washington, D.C., NOW President, Karen DeCrow, TV's "M.A.S.H." star Alan Alda, Democratic Party Chair Robert Strauss, and the representative of Republican Party Chair Kathy Plowman expressed strong support for the 1975 campaign to pass the ERA. (02/30/75)

The Freedom of Information Act became law. NOW began an investigation into government documentation of NOW activities and members by Secret Service, IRS, CIA, Civil Service Commission, FBI, Department of Justice and others. (02/01/75)

"The day after the November elections, we said we'd be #34, and we did it!" declared Anita Wasik, NOW State Coordinator for North Dakota. The North Dakota House voted 52-49 for the ERA. The Senate had passed the ERA two weeks before, 28-22. (02/28/75)

NOW's national Secretary Charlene Suneson was notified by the IRS that "So long as your support of a political candidate is not the primary activity of your organization, it will not jeopardize your exempt status under section 501(c)4. (03/31/75)

Florida NOW sponsored the ERA People's Parade in Tallahassee. One of the marchers, Madine Steele, was suspended from her teaching position for participating in ERA activities. (04/14/75)

NOW chapters in Missouri held a symbolic ERA vigil on the steps of the Capitol building in Jefferson City. Action originated with and was approved by the Missouri State Conference. (05/21/75)

At year's end, only one state, North Dakota, had ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, for a total of 34. (1975)


The Backlash

The National Right to Life PAC was organized. (1975)

Phyllis Schlafly organized the Eagle Forum. In addition to opposition to the ERA, the organization, which Schlafly described as "the alternative to women's lib," offered a broad agenda that ranged from support of voluntary school prayer, to opposition to busing, federally funded child care, abortion support of "law and order" and a strong national defense. (1975)

Gun Owners of America was established. H.L. Richardson, former John Birch Society staff member and a California state senator, organized Gun Owners of California. (1975)

The first anti-ERA editorial appeared in a Mormon publication, the Church News. (01/11/75)

Maurine Startup, Mormon mother of 11 and grandmother of 32, launched a petition drive to rescind California's ratification of the ERA. Joining her was her own mother. Both agreed that the 19th amendment was "unnecessary" and took the same attitude toward the ERA. (05/11/75)

In California, the Coalition of Christian Citizens announced a referendum drive aimed at repealing newly enacted legislation legalizing all private sex acts between consenting adults. They hoped to block the law from taking effect by gathering 312,404 signatures to put the issue on the June 1976 primary election ballot. One of the Coalition founders was State Senator H.L. Richardson. (05/19/75)

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia severed its support of the city's 8,000 church-sponsored Girl Scouts in protest of a planned series of sex education workshops in which scouts would discuss birth control and abortion. (1975)

Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah ran large newspaper advertisements explaining why it intended to ignore some of the Federal regulations issued under Title IX, which the Mormon Church considered unconstitutional. BYU contended that six of the rules violated the constitutional right to freedom of religion. (10/18/75)

Bishop Bernardin of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops met with President Ford, HEW Secretary Weinberger and officials of the State Department to urge the President to produce a Constitutional amendment and to continue the prohibition against U.S. aid for abortion services abroad. (06/19/75)

At its national conference, U.S. Catholic Bishops adopted a Pastoral Plan calling for citizen's lobbies by congressional district on a national scale to oppose abortion and lobby for an amendment to the Constitution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion. (11/24-27/75)

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