Part II – 1972

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


President Nixon made his historic visit to Red China, the first visit ever made by a U.S. President to that country. (02/28/72)

Dr. Juanita Kreps was elected the first female governor of the New York Stock Exchange. (02/20/72) Rep. Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman to run for the U.S. presidency in the primary of one of the two major parties. She was endorsed by NOW and NOW members worked to organize her campaign in many states. (1972)

The Equal Rights Amendment passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 84-8 and was sent to the states for ratification-a major victory for NOW, Business and Professional Women (BPW), the National Woman’s Party and other feminist organizations. (03/22/72)

Alabama Governor George Wallace survived an assassination attempt made as he spoke at a presidential campaign rally, but a bullet wound in the spine would confine him to a wheel-chair for life. The gunman, Arthur Bremer, was seized moments after firing the shots. (05/16/72)

A jury in California found Black activist Angela Davis not guilty of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy charges. (06/04/72)

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty as usually enforced represented cruel and unusual punishment and was therefore unconstitutional. (06/29/72)

Richard Nixon was re-elected in a landslide – 60.7% of the vote – against Democrat George McGovern, whose complaints about a break-in at Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate were ignored. (11/08/72)

By the end of the year, 22 states had ratified the Equal Rights Amendment: (in alphabetical order) Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. (1972)


110 NOW chapters; Membership – 5800. (1972)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) allocated $32,000 for a project on women for the first time in its history. A program on women was arranged for the Board by a Director, Faith Seidenberg, who was a past vice President of NOW. Chairone and later President of NOW, Wilma Scott Heide, participated in the presentation. One of the functions of the project was to assemble information on unjust laws against women and other unfair practices. (01/72)

Vermont’s abortion law was invalidated by the state’s Supreme Court in the case of Beecham v. Leahy. (01/72)

The Florida Supreme Court overturned its old abortion law and gave the state legislature 60 days to pass a new one. The legislature passed one which made the principal criteria the woman’s physical and mental health, grave physical deformity or mental retardation of the fetus, or in the case of rape or incest. (02/14/72)

Fewer than one out of every 25 women graduating from Stanford University (CA) in June, 1972, expected to be a full-time homemaker in 1977, according to a survey released by the university. This contrasted sharply with a survey from 1965 when 70% of Stanford women planned not to work at all when their children were under six, and only 43% intended to work full time when their children were over 12. Only 3% of the 1972 grads planned to stop working when their husband finished school, and only 7% said they would stop work to raise children. Only 18.5% of the women mentioned the role of wife and mother as part of their main activities in the next five years. (06/72)

Mother Courage, the first feminist restaurant in America opened its doors at 342 West 11 Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The owners were two activists, Jill Ward, an organizer of the 1970 Women’s Equality March on 5th Avenue, and Dolores Alexander, a former reporter and executive director of NOW. For the next five years, the restaurant served as a kind of salon for feminists from around the world. ((05/72)

Ann Arbor, MI, passed legislation outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations. (07/72)

For the first time, a girl won a local Soap Box Derby. Upon winning, she apologized. (1972)


In a major victory for NOW and other feminist groups, Congress passed the Education Amendments of 1972, including Title IX, introduced by Rep. Edith Green (D-OR), which prohibited sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funds. If an institution did not comply with the law, the government might delay awards of money, revoke current awards, or debar institutions from eligibility for future awards. Also, the Department of Justice might bring suit at HEW’s request. Title IX applied to all schools: kindergartens, pre-schools, junior and community colleges, four-year colleges, universities and graduate and professional schools and private institutions if they accepted federal funds. Exemptions were made for religious organizations to the extent that anti-discrimination provisions conflicted with their religions’ tenets and for military schools training individuals for the U.S. military. (06/23/72)

NOW’s work in showing that women were either omitted or stereotyped in school textbooks began to have results. A leading publisher of textbooks, Scott Foresman and Co., published a booklet entitled Guidelines for Improving the Image of Women in Textbooks. “Sexism,” the booklet stated, “refers to all those attitudes and actions which relegate women to a secondary and inferior status in society. Textbooks are sexist if they omit the actions and achievements of women, if they demean women by using patronizing language, or if they show women only in stereotyped roles with less than the full range of human interests, traits, and capabilities.” (1972)

National NOW initiated action against sexism in elementary school textbooks. Dick and Jane as Victims, issued by New Jersey NOW Task Force, was a 78-page booklet that used 15 of the most widely-employed series of readers as sources to analyze the sex-role stereotyping pervasive in school books. (12/07/72)


Michigan NOW demanded $91 million in back pay for Michigan Bell employees, the wages they lost because of sex discri-mination. (01/20/72)

In a well-publicized national media action against AT&T, local chapters of NOW across the country presented a lump of coal in a Christmas stocking -the traditional holiday gift for naughty children-to local Bell System affiliates because of their failure to end sex discri-mination in company policies and practices. (01/03/72)

The U.S. Census Bureau revised 52 sexist job titles under NOW pressure. (1972)

Following early NOW efforts, the EEOC issued guidelines stating that pregnancy and related disorders must be treated the same as other temporary disabilities, allowing pregnant employees to be granted leaves of absence and entitlement to reinstatement without loss of seniority and other benefits when they returned to work. (03/72)

The Rochester (NY) Junior Chamber of Commerce chapter, second largest in the nation, was suspended by the national organization for admitting women to its membership. The chapter had 750 members, of which 4 were women. (02/25/72)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 passed Congress. This law empowered the EEOC to take legal actions in federal courts to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an enlargement of the EEOC’s power that NOW had lobbied for intensively. (03/24/72)

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was extended to cover executive, administrative and professional personnel, a goal that NOW and other feminist organizations had sought. (07/01/72)

NOW and the Urban League filed a class-action suit against General Mills for sex and race discrimination. (07/26/72)

AT&T and the General Services Administration (GSA) held a press conference to announce a “sweetheart” agreement that amounted only to a promise by AT&T to employ and promote more women and minorities. NOW Legislative Vice President Ann Scott interrupted their press conference to attack the agreement, reading aloud and distributing a press release listing the agreement’s deficiencies. (09/20/72)

NOW, the NAACP, the Mexican American Defense Fund and the Women’s Legal Defense Fund filed a formal protest with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance about the AT&T/GSA agreement because, among other deficiencies, it made no provisions for award of back pay, provided no goals or timetables and perpetuated the Bell System’s discriminatory wage transfer policy that would continue to penalize women and minorities.(10/02/72)

NOW President Wilma Scott Heide, Legislative Vice President Ann Scott, and Dr. Sally Hacker, coordinator of NOW’s National Task Force on AT&T, met with AT&T President Robert D. Lilley and Vice Presi-dent for Human Resources Development David Easlick to discuss NOW’s objections to the AT&T/GSA agreement. In one exchange during the meeting, President Lilley said that the corporation had a firm position on the issue of back pay that amounted to “an emotional hangup.” Ann Scott responded, “So do we.” (10/25/72)

Mandatory pregnancy leave statutes, regulations, and policies were challenged in several cases. Those which were successful were: Doe v. Osteopathic Hospital of Wichita, Inc. 333 F. Supp. 1357 (Kansas); Bravo v. Board of Education, 345 F. Supp. 155 (Illinois); Heath v. Westerville Board of Education, 345 F. Supp. 501 (Ohio); La Fleur v. Cleveland Board of Education, 465 F. 2nd 1184 (Ohio); Pocklington v. Duval County School Board, 345 F. Supp. 438 (California); Williams v. San Francisco Unified School District 340 , F. Supp. 438 (California); Robinson v. Rand, 340 F. Supp. 37 (Colorado). (1972)


Women theologians called for the “castration of sexist religion” at the largest and most prestigous gathering of biblical scholars in history, the American Academy of Religion, meeting at the Century Plaza hotel in Los Angeles. Dr. Mary Daly, noted Catholic theologian of Boston College, told a seminar of women that historic sexist religion had led to patriarchal institutions whose teachings had amounted to “a gang rape of our minds.” (09/02/72)


Ms. Magazine, made its debut in a preview issue with Gloria Steinem as editor and Pat Carbine as publisher. (1972)

The FCC granted NOW’s petition that affirmative action programs for women be a condition for the renewal of a station’s broadcast license. The new guidelines followed a NOW proposal which required stations to file specific affirmative action programs with the FCC on the employment of women. (02/04/72)

Joseph Lash won the Pulitzer Prize National Book Award for Eleanor and Franklin. (04/13/72)

NOW filed a petition to deny the license renewal of WABCTV, New York, because of discrimination against women. This was the first petition filed solely on behalf of women and was also the first to charge Fairness Doctrine violations throughout all programming and commercials. (05/01/72)

For the first time, women became floor reporters at political conventions, as Catherine Mackin of NBC and Elizabeth Drew of Public Television covered the Democratic Convention. (07/1013/72)

The second issue of Ms. Magazine went into the mail at one dollar a copy and offered essays by Kate Millet and Angela Davis, fiction by Alice Walker. (07/15/72)

Pittsburgh NOW chapters led by JoAnn Evansgardner, Ellie Smeal, and Kathy Bonk threatened to challenge the license renewals of area TV stations and were successful in reaching a negotiated settlement with them on women’s employment and programming. (08/01/72)

Four NOW chapters and other feminist groups filed a second major petition to deny the license renewal of WRCTV in Washington, D.C. (08/21/72)

Detroit NOW announced the successful settlement reached with WXYZTV, the Detroit ABC-owned and operated station that provided for improvements in the employment of women, prime-time programming directed at feminist issues and goals, and a Woman’s Advisory Council to the stations. The station also agreed to prohibit sexism in its overall programming.(09/07/72)

A two-part story line in which TV’s “Maude” (Bea Arthur), a 47-year old grandmother, found herself with a late-life, pregnancy and opted for abortion was shown on CBS. Produced by Norman Lear, “Maude’s Dilemma” was carried by all but two of CBS’ nearly 110 affiliates. It attracted some 7,000 letters of protest. (11/14-21/72)


In Eisenstadt v. Baird, a Massachusetts statute restricting the distribution of contraceptives to unmarried persons was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court as a violation of the rights of single persons under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. (03/72)

The Connecticut Liquor Control Commission revoked the liquor license for Mory’s, the tavern celebrated in the “Whiffenpoof Song,” because the tavern refused to serve women. The action was filed by attorney Kathryn Emmet on behalf of Yale faculty members, students, alumni, and five women. (01/31/72)

New Jersey’s abortion law was struck down by a three judge federal district court on grounds it was unconstitutionally vague and contravened the First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (02/72)

A U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania ruled that a fetus is not a “person” or “citizen” within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Civil Rights Act, and therefore not entitled to the legal rights and protections they confer. The case was McGarvey v. Magee-Women’s Hospital. (03/72)


The League of Women Voters endorsed the ERA after a campaign led within the League by NOW President Wilma Scott Heide and NOW activists within the League’s leadership. The endorsement came after the Senate vote sent the amendment to the states for ratification. (1972)

Two presidential candidates, Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) and Senator George McGovern (D-SD) refused invitations to attend the Gridiron Club’s annual dinner on April 8 because the prestigious journal-ism club excluded women from membership. “Gentlemen of the Gridiron Club,” replied Ms. Chisholm in a statement, “guess who’s not coming to dinner!” (02/23/72)

As a result of reforms that encouraged state delegations to include women, members of minority groups, and young people, women were 40% of the delegates at the Democratic Party’s convention in Miami Beach, FL, triple the 13% present in 1968 and constituted a large voting bloc. The convention was one of the most open and truly representative in U.S. history. (07/10-13/72)

At the Republican Party Convention in Miami, women were 30% of the delegates, nearly double the 17% they comprised in 1968. (08/22/72)

Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY) defeated anti-ERA, anti-feminist Emanuel Celler. She and 14 other women were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (nine were incumbents). (11/02/72)

Six states had Equal Rights Amendments to their state constitutions on their ballots. All six states voted to adopt the amendment. In Maryland, the vote was 2-1 in favor; in Hawaii, 6-1; New Mexico, 2-1; Colorado, 3-1; and Texas, 4-1. In Washington, the ERA was 10,000 votes behind before the absentee ballots were counted. After they were counted, the state ERA passed by 3,000 votes! (11/07/72)

The Backlash

For the first time, Phyllis Schlafly attacked the Equal Rights Amendment in her newsletter, The Phyllis Schlafly Report, and formed a new organization called “Stop ERA.” (02/72)

The Catholic Bishops Committee for Pro-Life Activities was established. (1972)

Judge Francis X. Smith served an injunction on New York Municipal Hospitals, barring them from performing abortions. The injunction had been sought by Robert Byrn, bachelor law professor and chairman of the New York Right to Life group who had earlier persuaded Judge Lester Holtzman to appoint him guardian of all four to 24 week old fetuses. (01/05/72)

In an effort to take over the organization, Coors funded the Robert Schuchman Foundation. The Schuchman board balked at Coors’ plans for lobbying and political action, fearing they would lose their tax exempt status. (1972)

Midge Decter, high priestess of neo-conservatism and wife of Norman Podhoretz (described as a “mandarin general in the neo-conservative camp”), produced a diatribe against the feminist movement in a book entitled, The New Chastity and Other Arguments Against Women’s Liberation.

The American Jewish Committee addressed a letter to the candidates of both parties asking for their position on racial, sexual and ethnic “quotas.” (08/72)

Mounting a defense by going on the offensive and seeking to exploit the American Jewish Committee’s position to his own political advantage, President Nixon attacked Democratic Party reforms in his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention. He triggered a backlash against statistical targets for the inclusion of women, Blacks and other minorities in affirmative action programs in American industry, labeling them with the perjorative code word “quotas” rather than “goals.” (08/23/72)

Pope Paul VI, spurning appeals from cardinals and feminist groups alike, barred women from even the smallest formal role in the ministry of the Roman Catholic Church. In a motu propio (a decree by his own hand), the Pope ruled that though women could continue to read the Bible during Mass and perform some altar services, as local needs required, they could never claim that performing such duties was a right. “In accordance with the venerable tradition of the Church,” he wrote, “installation in the ministries of lector and acolyte is reserved to men.” (09/14/72)

Jesse Helms (R-NC) was elected to the U.S. Senate. (11/72)

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