Part II – 1978

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. government said that it would finance abortions for poor women who were victims of rape and incest if the incidents were reported to the proper authorities within 60 days. The ruling was by Joseph Califano, a personal opponent of abortion, and head of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW).(01/26/78)

NOW’s National Board voted unanimously to declare a State of Emergency on the ERA, committing almost all the organization’s resources to the state ratification campaigns and a national campaign to win a seven year extension of the ratification deadline (HJ Res 638), an action without precedent in NOW’s history NOW President Eleanor Smeal explained to the Board that evidence in recent months made it clear the ERA had become a political football, and that ratification had been sabotaged in 1977 state campaigns by “backroom power brokering.” (02/26/78)

The U.S. Department. of Labor’s Women’s Bureau released statistics which indicated that women continued to receive less than their fair share of the economic pie. (1978)

In the second year of women’s eligibility for the Rhodes Scholarship, 12 of 32 American college student recipients were women. (1978)

After a national referendum, by a vote of 160 to 148 in the Senate, Italy adopted the most liberal abortion law in Europe. (05/17/78)

Pope Paul VI endorsed a campaign of Italian bishops to use excommunication to fight Italy’s new law legalizing abortions. (06/07/78)

President Jimmy Carter announced the appointment of Bella Abzug and Carmen Votaw, president of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, to be co-chairs of his 40-member National Advisory Committee for Women. Judy Carter, his daughter-in-law, was named Honorary chair. NOW President Eleanor Smeal was among those appointed to the Committee. (06/21/78)

The U.S. Supreme Court threw the concept and practice of affirmative action into doubt in its Bakke decision, upholding the general principles of affirmative action but striking down specific quota systems in higher education admission programs. Legal experts could not predict what impact the decision would have on affirmative action programs in other areas. (06/28/78)

Naomi James, second woman in history to circumnavigate the globe by herself, discovered she would be ineligible for admission to the Circumnavigators Club because she was a woman. (07/78)

Pope Paul VI died (08/06) and was succeeded by Albino Cardinal Luciani who chose the name, Pope John Paul I. ((08/26) Pope John Paul I died 33 days later (09/29) and there are those who suspect he was murdered to keep him from pursuing changes at the Vatican Bank and in the Church’s position on birth control. He was succeeded by John Paul II, the former Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, a conservative and the first non-Italian in 455 years. (10/23/78)

In the closing hours of the 95th Congress, passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Bill overturned the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Gilbert vs. G.E. (1976) and Satty vs. Nashville Gas Co. (1977). Both decisions had approved discrimination against “pregnant people,” the former in the payment of disability benefits for women recovering from childbirth and the latter in denying women the use of their earned sick leave for hospitalization and recovery from childbirth. The hard-won victory was the result of a two-year massive campaign by NOW and a coalition of labor, feminist, and pro-choice groups. (10/15/78)

In San Francisco, Mayor George Moscone was shot to death in his office at City Hall, and a few minutes later gay Supervisor Harvey Milk was also shot and killed. Dan White, who had recently stepped aside as a Supervisor but then sought to withdraw his resignation and remain in office, surrendered to the police, and was booked on two counts of murder. Dianne Feinstein became the city’s mayor. (11/27/78)


The Missouri House reversed itself and voted to exclude rape victims from collecting money for abortions under a bill that would compensate other victims of violent crimes. (02/03/78)

A House subcommittee heard testimony from experts that violence occurs between family members more often than it occurs in any other setting except armies in war and police during riots. More than 1.8 million wives are beaten every year by their husbands, most of them at least twice, the experts stated. (02/78)

San Francisco Mayor George Moscone-with gay Supervisor Harvey Milk at his side-signed into law a landmark gay rights ordinance that prohibited discrimination in employment and housing because of sexual orientation. (04/11/78)

NOW President Ellie Smeal was among several distinguished spokespersons urging a Senate subcommittee to act favorably on the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. Smeal’s testimony was strong and to the point about the need for using a real woman instead of “Miss Liberty” or some other mythical figure on the coin. Said Smeal: “Susan B. Anthony was an active participant in the great social change movements of her time. She expended her life’s energy in the fight for the causes of freedom, justice and equality – a fight which goes on today. It is important that we recognize and pay suitable tribute to her work.” (06/78)

NOW’s presence was felt in cities across America on Gay Freedom Day. In San Francisco, where some 240,000 people gathered to commemorate the day, the California NOW banner was cheered by spectators. NOW President Smeal addressed the crowd and emphasized NOW’s commitment to fight the right-wing forces behind the anti-gay, anti-feminist backlash. In New York, Kay Whitlock, chair of NOW’s Lesbian Rights Committee, addressed a crowd of 85,000 gay rights supporters. (06/25/78)

Thirteen-thousand people watched 3700 participants march in the eighth annual Gay Pride Parade on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles (CA). The theme of the rally was “Stop the Briggs Initiative.” (07/02/78)

Attorneys for 10 Los Angeles Mexican-American women who underwent sterilization procedures at USC Medical Center announced they would appeal the decision dismissing their suit against the doctors who performed the operations. The women claimed, after the procedures were done, that they had been forcibly performed without proper consent, since the release papers were signed when the women were in active labor. The judge dismissing the case, Jesse Curtis, failed to see the point as relevant. (07/08/78)

Dr. Margaret Mead, 76, anthropologist expert on primitive cultures, died of cancer. (11/06/78)

Golda Meir, Israel’s first woman Prime Minister from 1969-1974, died at the age of 80. (12/08/78)


Carl Rubin, a Federal District judge in Dayton, OH, called the Title IX regulation as it related to contact sports unconstitutional, and ordered that the Ohio High School Athletic Association change its rules to allow physically qualified girls to participate with boys in interscholastic contact sports. (02/78)

According to a report by NOW’s Project on Equal Education Rights (PEER), from June 1972 to October 1976 HEW managed to resolve a total of 179 complaints covered under Title IX-one out of every five filed. Two and three year delays were not uncommon, and the average wait on a case was 14 months. In 3/4 of the cases the government took on, HEW staff never even visited the school district charged. In more than four years after the bill’s passage HEW had independently investigated a grand total of 12 of the country’s 16,000 school districts. Overwork wasn’t the explanation. For each staff investigator on the payroll, HEW received fewer than two complaints per year. The real problem, according to PEER was indecision over whether to enforce the law. (04/78)


Two hundred and fifty-two women employees of the U.S. Department of Energy won more than $6 million in back pay in a major job discrimination suit. The amount was the largest judgement ever obtained against the U.S. government in such a case. (01/14/78)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its findings that Associated Press (AP) was guilty of violating federal laws prohibiting discrimination against women and minorities in its employment practices. (04/14/78)


“Who Remembers Mama?” a documentary about displaced homemakers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, was broadcast on KERA-TV, Dallas, TX. (01/11/78)

More than 30 prominent Chicago-area Catholics announced the formation of a new organization called the Illinois Catholic Committee for the ERA. (06/05/78)

Despite opinion polls showing 73% of the American Catholic population in support of reproductive freedom and 68% in favor of ERA, the administrative committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops unanimously rejected a proposal for endorsement of the ERA as a separate issue from abortion. (06/78)

Four thousand Catholics, mostly women, marched on the streets of Baltimore, MD, calling for admission of women to the priesthood prior to attending the Women’s Ordination conference. (11/10-12/78)


“Who Remembers Mama?” a documentary about displaced homemakers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, was broadcast on KERA-TV, Dallas, TX. (01/11/78)

The Columbia (SC) chapter of NOW picketed Playboy magazine’s photograph sessions at the Carolina Inn. NOW member Janet Elsinger said the picketing was to protest sexual exploitation of women. (04/06/78)

NOW took out a full-page signature ad in the New York Times urging passage of legislation to extend the deadline for the ERA. (06/22/78)

Lee Anne Schreiber was appointed sports editor of the New York Times. She headed a staff of 50 reporters, as well as took overall charge of the Sunday sports section and Sports Monday. She was the first woman to hold that position. (11/09/78)


NOW LDEF voted to appropriate funds to establish an ERA litigation program focusing on suits brought in states which had added an ERA to their state constitutions. (01/29/78)

In Lemons v. City and County of Denver, a U.S. District court judge ruled against nurses who claimed their jobs were undervalued, saying the idea of comparable worth was “pregnant with the possibility of disrupting the entire economic system of the United States.” (1978)

The Louisiana Supreme Court let stand a state law that called the husband “head and master” and said he could make all the decisions about the property he shared with his wife. By a 4-3 vote, the court reversed a judge who said the law was unconstitutional because it assumed that husbands were smarter than wives. The case involved a husband who had taken out a second mortgage on the family home over the objections of his wife, who was the breadwinner. Her name was Selina Martin. (04/10/78)

NOW’s LDEF received a grant from MS. Foundation to carry on and expand its program to increase the number of women judges in the U.S. judiciary system. (06/78)

Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman’s (D-NY) bill, protecting the privacy of rape victims in Federal trials by preventing cross examination into their prior sexual experience, was passed by the U.S. Congress. NOW had lobbied for passage of the legislation. (10/06/78)

U.S. District Judge Constance Baker ruled that women sports writers had a constitutional right to enter the locker room of the New York Yankees after a game to conduct interviews. The judge ruled that the policy of total exclusion of women from the Yankee locker room did not violate the players’ right to privacy, but did deprive women sports writers of their rights to equal protection of the laws. (09/24/78)

NOW’s National Board voted unanimously to join the legal brief being prepared by NOW’s LDEF in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Massachusetts v. Feeney, the challenge to the state’s veterans-preference hiring guidelines. (12/78)


The Equal Rights Amendment was killed for the 1978 Georgia legislative session in a unanimous Senate committee vote which a woman legislator labeled “history in the unmaking.” (01/16/78)

NOW activist Marianne Fowler, a longtime Democratic worker in Virginia, was stripped of her party responsibilities – including Treasurer of the Alexandria, VA, Democratic Committee – as punishment for her support of Republican Gary Myers, a pro-ERA candidate. Myers had defeated anti-ERA leader Democrat Jim Thompson for the State Senate. Two other women members of the Committee resigned immediately in protest. (01/78)

Four thousand demonstrators, including NOW President Eleanor Smeal and Virginia NOW members, marched to the state Capitol in Richmond, to demand passage of the ERA in the Virginia legislature. Organized by LERN, a coalition of Virginia labor groups, it was the largest pro-ERA march ever held in the state. (01/22/78)

The South Carolina State Senate voted 23-18 to table the ERA ratification bill. Three legislators tipped the balance from victory to defeat when they switched votes from “aye” to “nay” on the morning of the roll call. (02/07/78)

Adopting the theme of “No Turncoat Will Return,” the NOW Political Action Committee (PAC) announced the goal of targeting key races in unratified states. (02/24/78)

The District of Columbia government banned payment of expenses for any of its employees attending conventions in states that have failed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. It was the first such action taken by a major U.S. city. (02/01/78)

Despite strong public support, including a poll showing 59% state electorate support for ERA, the Virginia House Privileges and Elections Committee defeated the ERA before it got a chance to be heard by the full House. NOW activists Marianne Fowler and Jean Marshall Clark (Virginia NOW Coordinator) were arrested on charges of civil disturbance during the chants of protest which followed the vote. NOW President Smeal commented “I have never seen such behavior on the part of the police. I think they (Fowler and Clark) were targeted.” (02/09/78)

Kentucky Lt. Gov. Thelma Stoval, acting for Governor Julian Carroll out of state on vacation, vetoed a resolution to rescind the ERA passed by the state legislature. “Sixty four percent of the people of Kentucky are for ERA,” Stoval explained. (03/20/78)

Don Edwards (D-CA) subcommittee chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY) in the House and Senator Birch Bayh (D-IN), chairman of the judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, the chief Senate sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment, introduced resolutions that would extend by seven years the deadline for ratifying the amendment. (05/17/78)

Although the Illinois House of Representatives voted 101-64 for ERA, the measure failed ratification by six votes because five Black male, pro-ERA representatives from Chicago failed to cast their votes as a protest on another issue. (They later switched their votes back). The 107th victory vote was expected to come from any one of a number of fence-sitters. (06/07/78)

The Concerned Children of Congress, composed of the daughters of members of Congress began actively lobbying for passage of the ERA. (08/78)

Arriving not by hundreds or thousands, but by the tens of thousands, over 100,000 women and men of all ages and races marched down Constitution Avenue to the D.C. Capitol steps to deliver their message: the people of America want ERA and they want the extension! The NOW-organized march halted traffic and eclipsed the entire Capitol Mall in a sea of purple, gold, and white (the old suffragist colors). Marchers struggled through 95 degree heat to hear NOW President Smeal and other celebrity speakers congratulate them on their perseverance and dedication to ERA. (07/09/78)

In a victory for NOW and other feminist organizations, the House voted 233 to 189 to extend until June 30, 1982, the ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment. (08/15/78) The U. S. Senate voted 60-36 to extend the deadline a few months later. (10/06/78) However, the extension voted was only half of the seven years that had been requested in the original bill-a compromise that doomed the ratification effort.

The Second Annual ERA Walk raised $170,000 nationwide in pledges for the NOW ERA Strike Force. (08/26/78)

In a mood of celebration because of passage of the extension, the First NOW Bi-Annual Issues Conference (under NOW’s new by-laws) was held in Washington, D.C. The Conference took action in many areas, including extension of the State of Emergency on ERA; a position against sterilization abuse; an inclusive statement on labor; development of a comprehensive reproductive rights campaign; adoption of the Homemakers’ Bill of Rights; opposition to the Briggs initiative in California; support for D.C. voting representation; and recognition of the special problems of rural women and women in nursing homes. (10/05-08/78)

Feminists “held their own” in the 1978 elections, with neither dramatic gains or losses. Improvements were seen in state-house elections, where the percentage of women rose from seven to 11%. Six women were elected to Lieutenant Governorships. But the representation of women in Congress dropped to 17, down two from 1976. (Yvonne Burke ran unsuccessfully for Attorney General of California and left her Congressional seat and Barbara Jordan retired). Nancy Kassebaum, the daughter of Alfred Landon, was elected the only woman Senate member. NOW’s analysis: women remain tokens in the nation’s political houses. (11/78)

At their midterm Conference in Memphis, TN, the Democratic Party’s Executive Committee responded to 10 years of lobbying by NOW and other feminist organizations by voting to require that half the delegates to the party’s 1980 national convention must be women. (12/78)

As the year closed, NOW’s boycott of unratified states had gained the support of 321 organ- izations (compared to 66 in January) and 35 cities and counties (compared to one municipality 12 months before). (12/78)

The Backlash

Literature describing lesbian love-making was distributed in the Kentucky House by opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment, outraging some legislators and bringing demands for an investigation. Carol Maddox, a member of Stop ERA, said she had assembled the material in booklet form and had it distributed to support her argument that passage of the ERA would encourage lesbians to advertise their sexual preferences, which she said were immoral.(02/11/78)

The Concerned Women’s Clinic in Cleveland, OH, an abortion facility, was attacked by an arsonist wearing a delivery uniform and carrying a plastic bag of gasoline. He set fire to an operating room while an abortion was in process, temporarily blinding a technician and forcing evacuation. The facility suffered $30,000 in damage and was forced to close. (02/15/78)

Missouri Attorney General John Ashcroft and Nevada Attorney General Robert List filed suit in Federal District Courts against NOW, alleging violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act in NOW’s coalition boycott of unratified states. The Nevada suit charged that the boycott had injured the state’s tourist business. (02/27/78)

The city council of Akron, OH, voted 7 to 6 to institute severe restrictions on the operation of abortion clinics in Akron, including several procedural restraints clearly designed to harass and frustrate the operation of the clinics. Pro-choice advocates in Ohio uniformly declared the provisions of the ordinance were a “blatant attempt to intimidate women who seek abortions.” (02/28/78)

Violence against reproductive choice clinics continued as the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City was fire-bombed following intensive picketing by anti-abortionists. (06/14/78)

Thea Rossi Barron, chief lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee, resigned to protest the growing collaboration between the anti-abortion movement and the right-wing. (09/78)

The formation of Concerned Women for America (CWA), a “pro-family” organization, was begun by Beverly LaHaye, wife of pastor Timothy LaHaye, the founder and president of Family Life Seminars. The LaHaye’s conducted those seminars and authored several books on marriage together. Timothy LaHaye was also the founder of the San Diego (CA) Christian Unified School System and Christian Heritage College. To swell its membership total, CWA adopted the practice of counting as members anyone who contributed money to the organization or signed petitions. (1978)

Californian’s voted in favor of Proposition 13, a referendum measure that cut property tax revenue by $7 billion. The measure was part of a conservative backlash against “excess government spending.” (06/06/78)

Nine adults and four juveniles were arrested after they invaded the offices of the Hillcrest Abortion Clinic and Counseling Service in Washington, D.C. and refused to leave. (1978)

The Institute for Educational Affairs (IEA) was set up to fund right-wing campus newspapers, known as the Collegiate Network, and received financial support from Coors. The Coors Corporation also bought ads in all the Collegiate Network papers. (1978)

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