The Feminist Chronicles, 1953-1993
The first of these issues to surface was the sex-segregated help wanted advertising.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act read: “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to publish or cause to be . . . published any notice or advertisement relating to employment . . . indicating any preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination, based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” except where a BFOQ existed.
The Commission had no second thoughts about ruling that a job ad specifying race would violate Title VII but convened a special 17 member committee (13 men and four women, 10 of whom represented newspapers or advertising agencies) on August 18, 1965, to consider the sex question. Composed disproportionately of business interests, this committee quickly concluded that want ads segregated by sex in newspapers did not violate Title VII. 27
But even as these deliberations were still in process, the supposedly liberal press, kept up the drum beat of trivialization. “Why,” asked the New Republic, “should the mischievous joke perpetrated on the floor of the House of Representatives be treated by a responsible administrative body with this kind of seriousness?” 28
At first, the EEOC itself split 3-2 in favor of ruling that sex-segregated help-wanted ads did violate Title VII, with Richard Graham, Aileen Hernandez, and Sam Jackson in the majority and Commission Chair, Franklin Roosevelt Jr., and Vice Chair, Luther Holcomb in the minority. But then Jackson changed his vote and the Commission issued its ruling on September 22, 1965, that sex-segregated advertising was permissible. All that was required was for the newspaper publishers to print a disclaimer in a prominent place:
“NOTICE: many listings in the ‘male’ or ‘female’ columns are not intended to exclude or discourage applications from persons of the other sex. Such listings are for the convenience of readers because some occupations are considered more attractive to persons of one sex than the other. Discrimination in employment because of sex is prohibited by the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act with certain exceptions. . . .Employment agencies and employers covered by the Act must indicate in their advertisement whether or not the listed positions are available to both sexes. . . . In the absence of such a statement in the advertisement, readers may assume the advertisers prefer applicants of a particular sex.. . .”29
As Hernandez pointed out, “the Commission’s tortuous reasoning was in marked contrast with a guideline proposed by the Wisconsin Industrial Commission in the same month which stated simply: ‘It shall be deemed a discriminatory practice because of sex to designate help-wanted columns ‘male’ and ‘female’ except where the exclusive employment of one sex is in positions where the nature of the work or working conditions provide valid reasons for hiring only men or women.'”30
On October 12, the National Council of Women of the United States held a conference attended by some 300 women from across the country at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City on Title VII and the EEOC.Both Dr. Pauli Murray, professor of law at Yale University and a member of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, and Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., chair of the EEOC, were speakers.
In his speech, Roosevelt defended his agency’s policy of permitting sex-segregated help-wanted ads, saying that enforcement of the law to protect women against employment discrimination had to proceed “gradually.” He pointed out that in introducing the amendment, Rep. Howard Smith had wanted to create “ridicule and confusion.” The last minute introduction of the amendment meant no Congressional hearings had been held, so it had no legislative history, Roosevelt contended.
Murray flatly declared that the EEOC’s policy on job advertising was a violation of Title VII and a product of subtle opposition to the new law.
“If it becomes necessary to march on Washington to assure equal job opportunities for all,” Murray said, “I hope women will not flinch from the thought.”
One of those who read the news coverage of this event in the NewYork Times the following morning was Betty Friedan; she made immediate telephone contact with Dr. Murray, establishing one of the many historic linkups that led to a re-emergence of an overt feminist movement in the U.S.
Murray had still more to say and she did so in collaboration withMary Eastwood, then employed in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice. Together they wrote an article, published in December 1965, in the George Washington Law Review, entitled,”Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII.”At the outset they declared, “That manifestations of racial prejudice have been more brutal than the more subtle manifestations of prejudice by reason of sex in no way diminishes the force of the equally obvious fact that the rights of women and the rights of Negroes are only different phases of the fundamental and indivisible issue of human rights.” 31
Among the points they made in reviewing the legal discriminations against women was that “. . . great scientific and social changes have already taken place, such as longer life span, smaller families, and lower infant death rate, with the result that motherhood consumes smaller proportions of women’s lives. Thus, the effects of sex discrimination are felt by more women today.”We are entering the age of human rights,” they wrote. “In theUnited States, perhaps our most important concerns are with the rights to vote and to representative government and with equal rights to education and employment. Hopefully, our economy will outgrow concepts of class competition, such as Negro v. white, youth v. age, or male v. female, and, at least in matters of employment, standards of merit and individual quality will control rather than prejudice.”32
In January 1966, historian Dr. Carl N. Degler, who had participated in the American Academy of Arts and Science Conference in 1963 with Alice Rossi, further developed his ideas for a new symposium in Dallas, Texas entitled, “American Women in Social and Political Affairs – Change and Challenge.”
In this presentation, he declared, “We have to restructure the attitudes of women as well as men as to what is the proper place of women in society; we have to broaden the expectations of young women; we have to expand our conception of what a woman may become. As a society we have to act as if we believe that women are entitled to careers as well as to babies and husbands. This is not to say that every woman will want a career or will even have one. But if the paths are to be kept open for those who do and if we are to make maximum use of the talents of women, then we have to abandon the prevalent notion that a girl must choose between a career and marriage. And even for those young women who do elect not to take a job or pursue a career when they marry, they should know that in the modern life-pattern of American women raising a family is, in fact, not a lifetime job.” 33
Aileen Hernandez circulated copies of this paper to her colleagues on the EEOC in the hope of enlarging their vision.In the meantime, however, the second issue surfaced at the EEOC – the discrimination against women that resulted from state protective legislation.
“. . . In A Class By Herself”
The major types of state laws regulating the employment of women were: laws prohibiting the employment of women in certain occupations, such as in bars and mines; maximum hour laws that women could work; minimum wage laws for women; laws prohibiting the employment of women during certain hours of the night in certain industries; laws limiting the weights women could lift on the job (from a low of 15 pounds in Utah to 35 pounds in Michigan); and laws requiring special facilities for women employees such as chairs and restrooms.
The U.S. Supreme Court case that provided the legal precedent for the passage of a mushrooming number of these laws by the states was Muller v. Oregon in 1908. The Oregon law had limited the number of hours women could work and had been hailed by trade unions, some of which had originally pushed to have the law cover both men and women. In upholding the Oregon law, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision declared “. . . women’s physical structure and the performance of maternal functions place her at a disadvantage in the struggle for subsistence. . . [her physical well-being]becomes an object of public interest and care in order to preserve the strength and vigor of the race. . . [she] is properly placed in a class by herself, and legislation designed for her protection may be sustained even when like legislation is not necessary for men and could not be sustained.”
Being in “a class by herself” however was being perceived by many women in the work force less as a protection than as a major obstacle to better job opportunities and higher pay, including the higher rates paid for working overtime. And the EEOC began receiving an increasing number of complaints filed by women that raised the issue of the conflict between Title VII and these state laws.
On November 22, 1965, the Commission released the guidelines covering these complaints: “The Commission will not find an unlawful employment practice where an employer’s refusal to hire women for certain work is based on a state law which precludes the employment of women for such work, provided that the employer is acting in good faith and that the law in question is reasonably adapted to protect women rather than to subject them to discrimination.. . .”
In his comments at the press conference at which the guidelines were released, EEOC Chair Roosevelt said the Commission could not assume Congress intended to strike down state legislation, though “study demonstrates that some of this legislation is irrelevant to the present day needs of women.” However, he went on to say that until the laws were revised, the Commission”will consider qualifications set by state laws or regulations to be bona fide occupational qualifications and not in conflict”with Title VII.
Coffee, Tea or Me
The third issue to surface during the first year of the EEOC’s operations involved the entire airline industry. Flight attendants – then called “stewardesses”- filed an escalating number of complaints charging that the airlines were violating Title VII by hiring only women for that job, by discharging them if they married, and by firing or grounding them when they reached the age of 32 or 35.
On October 25, 1965, Judith Evenson filed a sex discrimination complaint against Northwest Airlines because it required women, but not men, to sign an agreement to resign after they got married.
Aileen Hernandez, the decision commissioner on this complaint, found “reasonable cause” that Evenson was the victim of sex discrimination and directed a Commission conciliation team to attempt to restore her to her job, in spite of her marriage, and get her back pay for the period since she had been discharged by Northwest.
The conciliation effort failed and Northwest and other airlines petitioned the EEOC for a public hearing on their request fora BFOQ exemption for the position of flight attendant.
At the first hearing on May 10, 1966, and for months afterward, the airlines attempted to make their case that being female was essential to the job. They did so primarily by citing surveys that indicated a customer “preference” for young, unmarried women as flight attendants.
In the meantime, on March 27, 1966, the New York Times reported that a spokesperson for the EEOC had said that the EEOC was moving carefully on sex discrimination issues because of the absence of legal precedent, out of its concern for upsetting protective labor legislation and because “it did not want this area to interfere with its main concern, racial discrimination.”
Then, a month later on April 27, the majority of the EEOC buckled completely under pressure from newspaper publishers and advertisers and amended its guidelines to lift even its mild requirements, essentially permitting the advertising of jobs in sex-segregated columns.
Reaching the Boiling Point
On May 19, Michigan Congresswoman Martha Griffiths challenged the guidelines in a letter to the EEOC that declared, “I assume you will agree that the heading ‘white’ or ‘Negro’ or ‘Protestant’ would be prohibited by the statute, and therefore I have difficulty seeing how advertisements under the headings of ‘male’ or ‘female’ could be in compliance with the very clear prohibitions of Section704(b). . . I am convinced that advertising columns labeled by sex. . . is most pernicious because it reinforces prejudicial attitudes limiting women to the less rewarded and less rewarding types of work.”
Luther Holcomb, then serving as Acting Chairman of the EEOC because Roosevelt had resigned to run for governor of New York, responded by letter, contending, “Column headings do not prevent persons of either sex from scanning the area of the jobs-available page.”
On June 20, Griffiths took to the floor of Congress to castigate the Commission for its approach to sex discrimination issues, characterizing it as “nothing more than arbitrary arrogance, disregard of law, and a manifestation of flat hostility to the human rights of women.” She termed its ruling on sex-segregated want ads as a “peak of contempt.”
“I would remind them,” she said, “that they took an oath to uphold the law, not just the part of it that they are interested in.” To Holcomb, in particular, she responded pointedly, “I have never entered a door labeled ‘Men,’ andI doubt that Mr. Holcomb has frequently entered the women’s room.”
Catherine East, now serving as the Executive Secretary of both the Interdepartmental Committee on the Status of Women and theCitizen’s Advisory Council on the Status of Women, fanned the growing dissatisfaction with the EEOC’s handling of sex-discrimination complaints by seeing that copies of Griffiths’ speech were distributed to the delegates of the state commissions assembled for the third annual conference of Commissions on the Status of Women on June 28 in Washington, D.C.
Presiding at the conference were the small hierarchy of women then prominent in government, mostly from the Department of Labor and the Women’s Bureau. These included Esther Peterson, Mary Keyserling, heading the Women’s Bureau, and Marguerite Gilmore, chief of the Bureau’s field division.
Margaret Hickey, public affairs editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal, who had been on the President’s Commission and was also just retiring as chair of the Citizen’s Advisory Council, actually conducted many of the conference sessions.
Hickey was, in reality, one of the only women in the leadership of the conference who was a free agent; most of the others were subordinates in the male-dominated Department of Labor and members of the political administration then in power. They were subject to discipline as well as instructions from its upper echelons.Their leeway for encouraging or even entertaining expressions of dissent with administration policies was obviously minimal.
Even the state commissioners in attendance could be subject to intimidation or reprisal. Many came freshly aware of what had happened to the Illinois Commission on the Status of Women, which had been established with funding of only $10,000 for its activities.(Many commissions in other states had to fund themselves). The year after the Illinois Commission succeeded in getting and equal pay act passed in the state, it lost its funding in the state budget.
The Dissidents Assemble
However, among the conference attendees were a core of willing dissidents. For them, hope coupled with frustration had aroused an impatient passion for what at last seemed possible. Tolerance for any new frustration was at an all-time low.
Betty Friedan attended this conference as a writer/observer, and has indicated she arrived already persuaded of the need for a civil rights organization to represent the interests of women.
She had, Friedan wrote, “followed closely the valiant efforts of Richard Graham and Aileen Hernandez as Equal Opportunity EmploymentCommissioners to enforce the prohibition against sex discrimination in employment” and she had “learned how seriously handicapped they were by the absence of support or pressure from organizations who would speak out on behalf of equality for women as the CivilRights Movement had done for Negroes. The leaders of a number of major women’s organizations told me that they could not or did not wish to speak out in protest against sex discrimination or press for serious enforcement of the law on behalf of women, for fear of being called ‘feminist.’ ” 35
During this same period, EEOC Commissioners Richard Graham and Aileen Hernandez were “privately suggesting the need for an organization to speak on behalf of women in the way civil rights groups had done for Blacks.”36
The Darling of the Bureau
“I still remember running into Dorothy Haener [of the United Automobile Workers] and Pauli Murray on the escalator the first morning at the Washington Hilton,” Friedan wrote, “and agreeing, somewhat less than enthusiastically, that we would invite to my hotel room that night anyone we met who seemed likely to be interested in organizing women for action.”37
After hearing Kay Clarenbach, head of the Wisconsin Commission on Women, give what Friedan described as “a biting talk on how far from equality the very terms were in which the status of women was being discussed,”38 she invited Clarenbach to the meeting. According to Friedan, her co-conspirators were horrified, describing Clarenbach as “the darling of the Women’s Bureau.”39
Clarenbach’s status with the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau probably was cause for concern among the more militantly-minded women because of the prominence of representatives from the Women’sBureau in the machinery of the conference and the relatively “conservative” reputation of the Bureau itself.
Because of the Bureau’s origins in the trade union movement, it tended to reflect the traditional male-dominated biases of unions.Many union women were all too painfully aware that the unions had never been a dynamic force for opening job opportunities to women on an equal basis with men. Unions had a long history of opposition to the ERA because it threatened protective labor legislation for working women, which unions favored, though they depended on independent trade union negotiation and action to advance the rights of working men. Unions had in fact provided testimony opposing the inclusion of sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The Legendary Meeting
Some 15-20 women assembled in Friedan’s hotel room, among them: Catherine Conroy of the Communication Workers of America, from Wisconsin; Inka O’Hanrahan and Rosalind Loring from the California Commission on the Status of Women; Mary Eastwood from the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.; Dorothy Haener, Pauli Murray, Kay Clarenbach and, of course, Betty Friedan.
What happened in the now legendary hotel room meeting has been variously described by several of the participants. At a dinner honoring the founders of NOW at the 1971 national conference inLos Angeles, Dorothy Haener presented one account, excerpted here:
“The whole concept of the need in this country of an NAACP for women was really brought to me by women who worked in theLabor Department. One in particular, a Black friend of mine, made it very clear that what the women in this country really needed was an NAACP for women. And frankly, that night in Betty’s hotel room, when it almost didn’t come off because there were some women there who said, ‘Do you really think we need another women’s organization?’and I can recollect . . . that the session which up until then had been very productive, completely erupted and we really had a kind of all-out shouting match. And Betty ended up by opening the door and saying to one woman, ‘You know, this is my room and my liquor and you’re perfectly free to say anything you please, but you’re not going to use my room and my liquor while you’re doing it.’ And so, after she had left, some of us tried to smooth things over. And in the process of smoothing things over, we came up with the idea of allowing that group that thought they could just work within the establishment to try the following day to get a motion on the floor to reappoint Richard Graham, who had done such a wonderful job for women on the Equal Employment OpportunityCommission. Now those of us who were in the know knew that [President]Lyndon Johnson didn’t intend to reappoint him because he was doing a job for women and because, really, we had such a terrible time trying to make Title VII anything but the standard cocktail hour joke in Washington about [Playboy] bunnies. And so we said, ‘Well, let them try.’ ” 40
Another participant, Nancy Knaak, then a member of the Wisconsin Commission on the Status of Women and dean of women at the River Falls campus of the University of Wisconsin, who also became a founder of NOW, remembered it somewhat differently in an account written in 1973:
“On the second night of the conference, I crossed paths with Kay Clarenbach in the hotel lobby. There was to be a meeting in Betty’s room, she said, and I ought to come. I had no idea why there was to be a meeting, and was reluctant to appear without an invitation, but Kay assured me that it was quite an informal affair and the gathering a random one . . . .
“The meeting began at a late-ish hour . . . perhaps 10:00p.m. Though I did not count the house, it was my impression that 15 or 20 women were crowded into all available space, and I considered it fortunate to find a swatch of wall against which I could lean while sitting on the floor from a vantage point which required peering over two beds towards Betty and Kay who somehow were ensconced on chair or stool. Some of the women were drinking, but because the choice was limited and because I was a sort of unintended guest, I found a paper cup and settled for plain water.
“The discussion seemed to have just gotten underway. No clear leadership had been established, but the main conversants were Betty, Kay, and Pauli Murray. They seemed to think there was a need for still another kind of structure which could effectively meet women’s needs as the earnest souls present at the conference weren’t going to be able to. I was slow to offer an opinion, the evidence seeming to be that this was no random group at all. Rather, I had a hunch that several of the folk there might well have had a preliminary meeting for which the agenda for this one had already been outlined. This impression was confirmed when the acronym of NOW was so quickly proposed. Though Betty takes credit for it, and my own recollection may be inaccurate, I think it was Kay who suggested such a label – and several quickly gave assent. (Betty says she wrote the letters on a napkin earlier in the day: perhaps Kay was merely introducing the notion for her. But whatever else, it was Kay who said more than once that the objectives of such an organization would include bringing women into ‘full participation in the mainstream of American society’. . . and in full partnership with men.’ If credit for those phrases is ever due, it has to be accorded Kay and not Betty.”) 41
“This discussion was interesting, wide-ranging, and passionate,”Nancy Knaak remembered.
Rosalind Loring’s recollection was that much of the conversation was about how angry most of the women present were at what was happening at that conference and what they could do to change the way it was being conducted. The feeling was that the Women’s Bureau staff was “sitting on them and not letting them make strong enough statements about what they expected the Federal government to provide in the way of services, legislation, support, etc. Mary [Keyserling] was trying to keep it low key because there were other people there from the Department of Labor – male, more senior people, or higher-up-the-echelon people.”42
“It became clear,” Loring recalled, “that while all of us in the room were very uncomfortable with the way the conference was being conducted, because I really agreed with Betty – it was arbitrary – I guess the difference was in how we thought it should be handled.”43
The ostensible cause celebre – what they wanted from the conference -seems harmless enough in retrospect: passage by the conference of theCommissions of a resolution calling for the enforcement of TitleVII by the EEOC and for the reappointment of Richard Graham (his term expired July 2) as an EEOC Commissioner. Had they been permitted to pass this resolution, it might have convinced at least some of the dissidents that the existing mechanisms-the combination of state commissions and federal agencies- could be useful in advocating the interests of women.
“Finally,” according to Knaak, “it was Pauli Murray who seemed to have a course of action to suggest.” Knaak recalled Murray beginning to outline an organizational plan, speaking from notes on a large, yellow legal pad. At about this point, as she remembers it, Knaak interrupted to offer “the benefits of my great wisdom.”
Loring’s recollection was that when Knaak spoke, it wasn’t in disagreement. “She was really asking League-like questions, such as, ‘Have we really explored all the alternatives? Have you told Mary [Keyserling] how you feel about this? Have we exhausted all the channels?’ “
“Betty, however, was not pleased,” Knaak remembered.”By the time I’d all but concluded. . . Betty was visibly annoyed, a response which grew in intensity. Finally, she interrupted my lecture to ask, ‘Who invited you?’ She said more, but what I really heard was Kay’s quick assertion that it had been she who’d done so, and that I somehow had a right to be where I was. ‘Get out! Get out!’ Betty shouted.
Knaak can’t remember what verbal response, if any, she made, but Loring recalled that she replied, “I will not. I’m having too good a time!” Knaak remembered feeling “entitled to disagree . . . it seemed to be justified in a fluid situation.”
“So I was not about to get out. In fact, had it taken a herd of camels, I’d not have moved from my uncomfortable spot if I could have helped it. Voices were raised in my defense – Kay’s and others – not on the grounds that I’d said anything worth considering, but purely on the matter of the right to speak, invited or not. Betty noted the conflict, saw my failure to leave, and she thereupon stomped to the bathroom, entered, slammed its door, and noisily snapped the lock. What a pickle. Perhaps I really didn’t belong in that room . . . . [But] I also considered Betty’s demonstration to be childish, so I decided to wait her out. If I had to leave before she would come out of the bathroom, then, by gum, she could stay in there all the rest of the night.
“What Dorothy Haener later described as ‘some of us tried to smooth things over’ occurred then-and not after my departure.We lowered our voices, I retreated from the certainty of my stance, and the meeting continued. It had lost some of its momentum: after all, our hostess was locked in her bathroom! But discussion was quieter, arguments modified, and we did move on to other considerations.I timed it on my watch: Betty returned to the group after a 15-minute period of isolation, ignored my presence, and gradually resumed her role as an important participant. And in awkward concession, I remained until she seemed sufficiently distracted by the business at hand, so that I could inch toward the exit and leave, generally unnoticed.”44
Symbol of Constancy
“Among the limited legends of NOW,” Knaak commented,”the woman ‘thrown out who never returned’ has been a sort of symbol of constancy of those who remained. That I am still among the membership does make me feel a bit subversive sometimes.”
“. . . I have regret that I am still that legendary woman.She serves a purpose, I suppose, in showing that there was deviation within the charmed circle, but I’m really rather tired of being her. I was there. I cared a whole lot. And I’m still among the people who consider justice for all human beings to be a worthy goal.”45
Friedan identified Clarenbach as among those who resisted the idea of forming a new organization. Knaak’s memory is that no one really opposed the idea and there was general agreement that it had to be done. Her recollection was that part of the plan agreed on that night was to meet again at lunch the next day to further develop the idea and recruit more support before they all had to leave for home.
Knaak remembered that while it was agreed that Clarenbach would make another formal attempt at getting the conference leadership to accept the resolutions, no one expected her to succeed. It would just be one last confirmation that “we were not going to be allowed to move” and a new organization was necessary.
Some Not Ready
Loring’s recollection was that she and a friend, who was also present at the hotel room meeting, shared the same reaction and weren’t as ready as some of the others “to go all the way.” But their objection was not to the idea of forming an organization (they both joined NOW later), but to “the tone of voice” which she remembered as uncomfortably “strident.”
“It sounded to us more energized than the occasion called for,” Loring said. “In fact, now that I look back on it, I am sure that that much energy wasn’t caused just by that conference. That was a catalyst. But there was a lot of feeling building in a lot of women then and, depending on their other experiences, they were more-or less-ready.”46 Friedan recalled,”. . . they left, in what I felt was sanctimonious disapproval of me for suggesting anything so radical as an independent organization.And Pauli Murray, the Black scholar who’d triggered me first, and my indefatigable friends from the Washington underground, and Dorothy Haener from UAW and I just looked at one another and shrugged, ‘Women – what can you expect?’ “47
The next day, as expected, the leaders of the conference-Hickey,Peterson and Keyserling – ruled the Clarenbach resolutions “out of order” because the participants in the conference were not really official delegates and “government commissions cannot take action against other government departments.” What they were really saying was that they did not want resolutions being passed at the conference that would embarrass or criticize its sponsor-the Johnson Administration-an angered Clarenbach reported back to Friedan and the others who had been at the meeting the night before.
With time running out on the conference, about 15 of the “dissidents” gathered at several tables during the final formal conference luncheon and under the very noses of the conference’s leadership planned the formation of the new organization.
The recollections of another founder, Gene Boyer, of Beaver Dam, WI, provides some of the ambience of those now historic moments:
“My own memories of those fateful days at the National Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women in Washington are still very vivid,” she wrote in 1971, “although I was among the ‘lesser lights’ attending the event as chairwoman of one of the two municipal commissions on the status of women which existed at that time. . . .
“I was at a nearby luncheon table, straining to overhear the heavily whispered conversation, but the word about ‘getting organized to take action’ was soon buzzing around the conference, and I knew I wanted to be part of it. There were allusions to ‘reaching the grass roots’ which struck a respondent note in me.Why, I had grass roots hanging out of my ears. Perhaps more than any other woman there, I was aware of the undiscovered hordes of frustrated feminists buried alive in the small, dusty corners of our nation. . . .
“For me, the most exciting moment was just before we all ran off to catch our planes when a few of us gathered in a small meeting room to start the ball rolling. Catherine Conroy pulled out a five-dollar bill from her wallet and, in her usual terse style, invited us to ‘put your money down and sign your name.’NOW was a reality, and I think we all felt somehow we had participated in a significant beginning.”48
What the women had agreed upon, sitting at those tables during the luncheon and at the second quick gathering before they left for the airport, was documented in a memorandum of record by Analoyce E. Clapp, dated June 29, 1966:
“In a hurried gathering on the final day of the Third National Conference of the Commissions on the Status of Women . . . 28 women met to set up a temporary organization for this purpose:
“‘To take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, assuming all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.’
“These agreements were arrived at in informal manner:
- That Kathryn Clarenbach act as temporary chairman.
- That members join as individuals; it will be a voluntary organization, speaking only for ourselves.
- That the group be called the National Organization for Women (N.O.W.).
- That NOW will recommend action in the areas of equality for women.
- That we begin with the assumption that we will not have unanimity on all questions.
- That NOW will be an action organization for the advancement of women into equal participation in the whole spectrum of American life.
- That each member contribute $5 per month toward the expenses of the organization. The ultimate financing will be decided later.
- That NOW keep in touch with all similar groups, both action and non-action groups.
- That a telegram be sent to each of the EEOC Commissioners urging them to rescind the Commissions ruling that help-wanted ads again be labeled Male and Female.
“These agreements came after a discussion of the ruling that government commissions cannot take action against other departments.It was felt that this was the time for action in this field. That the problem cannot be tackled through existing apparatus was confirmed by talking with Margaret Hickey, retiring chairman of the Citizen’sAdvisory Council on the Status of Women, Mary Keyserling, director of the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor, and MargueriteGilmore, Chief Field Division, Women’s Bureau, U. S. Department of Labor.
“Everyone agreed that in forming NOW, there be no implied criticism of any existing group or conference, but rather a realization of the limitations of various organizations. Further, an organization is needed that can supply nationwide pressures on an immediate basis, an organization that will identify the problems (in the field of equal rights) and relay the information to other interested organizations.
“Recruiting of membership will continue until August 1, 1966, when the charter list will be closed. [Clarenbach recommended this date be extended to September 1, according to a footnote].
“Simple rules of operation will be set up by mail and phone.
“An executive committee may be selected by the chairman to help her in any way necessary.
“There was agreement on three areas of immediate concern:
- Jury participation
- Title VII (Civil Rights Act of 1964)
- Newspaper ads.”