Part II – 1971

1953 | 1954 | 1955 | 1956 |1957 | 1958 | 1959
1960 | 1961 | 1962 | 1963 | 1964 | 1965 | 1966
1967 | 1968 | 1969 | 19701971 | 1972 | 1973
1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980
1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987
1988 | 1989 | 1990 | 1991 | 1992 | Epilogue, 1993


The U.S. Supreme Court held a two-hour hearing on its first-and key-abortion case. Although the case did not involve a woman’s right to control her own body, it had the potential for abolishing abortion laws of 39 states which allowed abortion “when necessary for the preservation of the mother’s health.” In the Washington, D.C. ruling, then on appeal to the Supreme Court, Federal District Judge Gerhard Gesell held that the city’s 1901 abortion law was unconstitutionally vague because it did not tell physicians what constituted the “health” of the mother. Similar constitutional challenges were being brought in Colorado, Indiana and New Jersey. In Ohio, a federal tribunal ruled that the state abortion laws were constitutional. Federal courts returned decisions favorable to existing abortion-control laws in Minnesota, Missouri, Louisiana, Iowa, Vermont and Massachusetts. (01/12/71)

President Nixon ordered limits on the freedom of military physicians to perform abortions on military bases by requiring them to observe the laws of the states in which they were based. (04/03/70)

In Washington, D.C., more than 7,000 people demonstrating against the Vietnam War were arrested. (05/03/71)

NOW’s Legal Defense and Education Fund (NOW LDEF) received tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. (05/24/71)

The U.S. Supreme Court by a vote of 6-3 said the the N.Y. Times, Washington Post and other newspapers could resume publication of The Pentagon Papers, a secret study of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. (06/30/71)

The 26th Amendment to the Constitution, giving 18-year-olds the right to vote, was ratified. (06/30/71)

The National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) was organized at a conference attended by some 2,000 women; 40% of the attendees were NOW members. The objective of the Caucus was to field women candidates, to influence both parties to support women, and to organize women at the state and local levels, based on the development of local caucuses. Among the organizers were Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm and Betty Friedan. (07/10/71)

At the National NOW Conference in September, Wilma Scott Heide was elected President and Muriel Fox, chair of the National Board.The conference passed historic resolutions on lesbianism “as a legitimate concern of feminism,” voluntarism, and the double oppression of minority women. (09/03-06/71)


NOW made the attainment of child care legislation the priority issue of the year. (1971)

New York Radical Feminists held a “Speakout on Rape.” Women told about their experiences and analyzed societal assumptions about rape. (01/24)

The Fayetteville (NC) Chapter of NOW held a press conference at which wheels were presented to two girls, Deborah Boisseau and Sandra Sosa, who were the first to break the sex barrier for the Soap Box Derby Grand Prix. Chapter President Carol Forbes, Deborah’s mother, initiated the action against the National Soap Box Derby when the two girls were refused entrance locally. In an out-of-court settlement, the rules limiting the Soap Box Derby to boys were abolished by Derby Officials and Chevrolet. Any child 11-15 became eligible to compete. (03/29/71)

NOW conducted a write-in campaign to the New York Legislature for a child care tax deduction. (03/31/71)

President Nixon announced his opposition to abortion at any time during pregnancy based on his “personal and religious beliefs.” (04/03/71)

A Louis Harris poll found that 42% of women “favor efforts to strengthen and change women’s status in society” while 43% opposed those efforts. Among Black women, the poll showed 62% approved and only 20% opposed. (05/20/71)

Los Angeles NOW adopted a resolution declaring lesbianism a “legitimate concern of feminism” after a series of “rap” meetings at the Los Angeles NOW Center extending over some months in which both gays and straights participated. (05/18/71)

Dr. David Harris, speaking to the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, said that the maternal death rate in New York City had been cut by half since the state’s abortion law was liberalized. (10/12/71)

NOW initiated a campaign in support of the Mondale-Javits Comprehensive Child Care Act. The legislation called for a new national child development program costing $7 billion annually within several years. It’s passage by Congress initiated a behind-the-scenes battle at the White House where then Budget and Management Director, George P. Schultz (later Reagan’s Secretary of State), urged Nixon to veto the bill. (11/01/71)


The New York NOW Chapter published a 55-page, “Report of Sex Bias in the Public Schools.”(04/21/71)

NOW urged the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), to require goals and time-tables for women graduate students on the grounds that acceptance to graduate school is a pre-condition for employment at that level. The issue was referred to the Department of Labor which decided against their inclusion. (04/71)

In a class-action suit the Professional Women’s Caucus sued every law school in the U.S. receiving federal funds because of discrimination against women. (03/26/71)

NOW protested the Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s (HEW) handling of individual complaints of discriminination against universities under Executive Order 11246 and its lack of communication with women’s groups though it maintained full communication with academic institutions. NOW was invited to comment on HEW’s proposed policy guidelines for affirmative action for the universities. (06/71)

During Congressional hearings on discrimination against women, Rep. Martha Griffiths (D-MI) testified that in Virginia in 1970, 21,000 women and no men were turned down for admission to state schools. (09/71)

By a vote of 50-32, the U.S. Senate approved an $18 billion higher education bill, but turned back an attempt to bar sex discrimination in public undergraduate and graduate school admissions, ruling that the amendment was “not germaine.” (09/71)


NOW President Aileen Hernandez expressed NOW’s outrage to the President of Southern Bell at the continued harassment of Lorena Weeks, warning that NOW had committed itself to a national action campaign against Southern Bell and AT&T. (01/18/71)

NOW petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to have women included in affirmative action programs for radio and television as a condition for renewal of their broadcast licenses. (01/71)

Lorena Weeks was finally given the switchman’s job she sought but was then subjected to harassment on the job. A supervisor in her area told workers to treat her “just like any nigger” and co-workers began calling her “Switch Bitch.” Her union, Communications Workers of America (CWA) condemned the use of the term “nigger” but dismissed “Switch Bitch” as “humorous office camaraderie.” (03/04/71)

The Pittsburgh Press and Post Gazette were given 30 days to end the sex segregation of their “Help Wanted” classified ads. The state court ruling was the first in the country on the legality of sex classified job advertising and was handed down in response to an appeal by the Pittsburgh Press of an order from the Pittsburgh Human Rights Commission directing the newspaper to comply with the city ordinance forbidding sex discrimination in employment practices. Both the rulings by the commission and the court were victories for Pittsburgh NOW which had first initiated action against the Press in 1969 and continued to exert pressure until the court decision. The court ruling was appealed by the Pittsburgh Press. (03/25/71)

NOW staged demonstrations at local telephone companies in 15 cities across the country, protesting AT&T’s discriminatory practices toward women in hiring, promotions, fringe benefits and executive appointments. The demonstrations also protested Southern Bell’s handling of the Lorena Weeks case. NOW chapters in Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, Bethlehem, (PA), Miami, Chicago, Huntsville,(AL), Milwaukee, Youngstown, (OH), St. Louis, New Orleans, Albuquerque, Houston, Los Angeles and Seattle participated in the action which was coordinated nationally by Dr. JoAnn Evansgardner of Pittsburgh NOW. (03/29/71)

The Chicago Chapters of NOW and the ACLU filed complaints with the EEOC against five Chicago daily newspapers which persisted in printing sex-segregated “Help Wanted”ads. (04/71)

Twenty days after NOW’s nationwide demonstration, Southern Bell surrendered when the U.S. District Court ordered the company to pay Lorena Weeks $30,761 in back pay and made the job title of switchman effective from April 24, 1966. Bell attorneys signed the order which also provided Weeks with pension credits. The U.S. Circuit Judge who signed the court order was Griffin B. Bell, who became U.S. Attorney General in 1976. (04/19/71)

Speaking before more than 300 corporate personnel executives at the first conference on “Equal Pay and Promotion: Corporate Affirmative Action Programs for Women Employees” sponsored by the Urban Research Corporation of Chicago, NOW’s National President Aileen Hernandez disclosed that NOW planned to file suit against the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCC) for not enforcing Executive Order 11246, as amended – unless they met the July 30 deadline for issuing regulations on sex discrimination and guidelines for affirmative action goals and timetables for federal contractors. Doris Wooten of the OFCC, who spoke later , declared that the OFCC “had every intention” of making the deadline. (05/13-14/71)

Three young women – Julie Price, Paulette Desell and Ellen McConnell – were finally approved as pages for the U.S. Senate by unanimous vote. They had been nominated by Senators Percy, Javits and Harris in December and January, but the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms had refused to swear them in until the Rules Committee directed him to do so. (05/13/71)

Success finally crowned NOW’s two-year campaign to have sex discrimination included in the guidelines for Federal contractors when Secretary of Labor J. D. Hodgson finally issued Revised Order #4. It required Federal contractors to devise and implement affirmative hiring and promotion programs with goals and timetables for women. (12/02/71)

As NOW testified at FCC hearings on an AT&T request for a rate increase, the EEOC filed a 23,000-page report with the FCC charging that AT&T was “without doubt the largest oppressor of women workers in the U.S.” (12/01/71)


Ti-Grace Atkinson was physically attacked by Patricia Buckley Bozell (William F. Buckley’s sister) in response to Atkinson’s criticism of the Catholic Church’s attitudes towards women. Atkinson was a former president of New York NOW. (1970)


NOW petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to have women included in affirmative action programs for radio and television as a condition for renewal of their broadcast licenses. (01/71)

NOW launched a campaign against National Airlines’ offensive advertising campaign: “I’m Cheryl, Fly me to Miami.” New York NOW picketed National’s advertising agency. (10/71)

The first of a flood of books on women’s issues began to appear, including Sexual Politics by Kate Millet, Revolt of the Second Sex by Julie Ellis, The Bold New Women by Barbara Allen Wasserman, which included Vivian Gornick’s moving essay, “The Next Great Moment In History Is Ours,” and Woman Power, The Movment for Women’s Liberation by Celestine Ware. (1971)

American photographer Diane Arbus, 48, died. (07/26/71)

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White died of Parkinson’s disease. For three decades, she photographed the historic events, people and places ranging from the Dust Bowl, to the horrors of Buchenwald. (08/27/71)


The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a “substantial constitutional issue” was involved in the case of Mengelkoch v. IndustrialWelfare Commission of California. NOW attorneys had been involved in this case since 1966, arguing that the state protective laws covering women in fact violated women’s constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the district court for decision. (01/11/71)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Phillips v. Martin Marietta that employers cannot refuse to hire women solely because they have small children unless fathers of small children are also denied employment. But on this first ruling on a Title VII case, the Court sent it back to the lower court for hearings on whether Phillips could be denied a job because of bona fide occupational qualifications. (01/25/71)

New York NOW formed a “Baby Carriage Brigade” for a demonstration in support of Elizabeth Barrett, a widow who was fighting in the U.S. tax courts defending her right to deduct child care expenses. Their slogan: “Are Children As Important As Martinis?” (1971)

The California Court of Appeal ruled that a woman could obtain an abortion in any licensed California hospital if her doctor judged the operation was required to preserve her physical and mental health. The court’s 2-1 decision struck down the the 1967 California Therapeutic Abortion law’s requirement that every abortion receive advance approval by a hospital committee of physicians. (07/22/71)

By unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court found in Reed v. Reed that an Idaho law giving arbitrary preference to men as executors of estates could not be allowed to “stand in the face of the 14th Amendment” and was unconstitutional. This was the first time the Supreme Court invoked the 14th Amendment to overturn a distinction based on sex, but the Court clearly stopped short of making all laws incorporating sex bias “inherently suspect” as it had on racial issues. Feminist attorney Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court. (11/22/71)


A U.S. House subcommittee opened hearings on the Equal Rights Amendment, the first hearings in that legislative body since 1948. (03/24/71)

Led by Pennsylvania NOW chapters, Pennsylvania added a state ERA to its constitution by a large margin in a statewide referendum. (05/71)

The ERA in its original form (without a series of amendments that NOW and other women’s organizations had been working to oppose) passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 354-23. (10/12/71)

The Backlash

Beer tycoon Joseph Coors sent his aide, Jack Wilson, to Washington, D. C. to investigate projects that he might support that advanced his very conservative views. Coors met Paul Weyrich when Weyrich was a press aide to Senator Gordon Allot of Colorado. Weyrich became Coors unofficial agent in Washington. From 1971 to 1974, Coors contributed funds to organizations that were not as effective as Coors and Weyrich envisioned. They established Analysis and Research, Inc. in Washington, D.C. as a political research entity. (01/15) The group failed to attract other supporters. (1971)

Father Michael Collins, pastor of St. Barbara’s Church in Santa Ana (CA) urged his Democratic parishioners to switch parties because of the California Democratic Party’s position on abortion. A few days later, a Roman Catholic assemblyman, Joe A. Gonsalves, a fellow opponent of abortion law liberalization, nevertheless strenuously objected to this fusion of church and state. (1971)

The synod of Roman Catholic Bishops recommended that Pope Paul establish a pontifical commission on the role of women in church and society. (11/71)

In New York, a Roman Catholic law professor and abortion opponent was appointed guardian for a fetus in order to prevent its abortion. (12/04/71)

President Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Child Care Act which NOW and a coalition of feminists and child care advocates had lobbied, nursed, and coerced through Congress. In his veto message, written by Pat Buchanan, Nixon described it as “the most radical piece of legislation to emerge from the 92nd Congress” and said it would “commit the vast moral authority of the national government to the side of communal approaches to child-rearing” and “would lead to the Sovietization of American children.” (12/09/71)

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