Part II – 1979

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


By a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a Pennsylvania law that required a doctor performing an abortion to choose the abortion method most likely to save the life of a fetus that might be old enough to survive outside the womb. The decision was rendered in the case of Colautti v. Franklin, with Justices Blackmun, Brennan, Stewart, Marshall, Powell and Stevens voting pro-choice, and White, Burger and Rehnquist voting anti-choice. (01/09/79)

Money magazine reported that the two-paycheck household, in which both husband and wife work, had become “one of the major economic phenomenons of the 1970’s.” Working couples earned 55% more than their one-paycheck counterparts-but the second earner in the family was the most heavily taxed of all Americans. The first dollar of a working wife’s income was taxed at the same rate as the last dollar of her husband’s. (01/79)

NOW Membership-100,000 (1979)

Bella Abzug was summarily fired as chair of the National Advisory Committee for Women after a 90-minute meeting with President Carter, who objected to the Committee’s press release issued ahead of the meeting criticizing some of his policies. Her co-chair Carmen Votaw, committee member Eleanor Smeal, President of NOW, and 26 of 40 other members resigned in protest. (01/12/79)

A Lou Harris poll showed 57% support for ERA nationally. The poll was done for ABC news. (02/19/79)

The first of the Susan B. Anthony dollar coins was struck at the San Francisco Mint. (02/02/79)

The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP’s) of World War II finally received military status from the Defense Department after almost 35 years. Although the WASP’s flew over 60 million miles in wartime service from 1942 to 1944, they were considered “civilians” by the military, meaning that neither they nor their families were ever eligible for military retirement or educational benefits. Thirty eight of the women died in the line of duty and the government did not even pay to send their bodies home. (05/22/79)In a major decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an individual has the right to bring a private lawsuit to uphold the anti-discrimination provisions of Title IX. NOW’s LDEF had filed an amicus curiae brief in the suit. Because of the decision, individuals need not go through HEW (a cumbersome process) to file suit. The effect was expected to encourage institutions to bring themselves into compliance with Title IX more quickly. (05/14/79)

Tens of thousands of demonstrators walked from New York’s Christopher Street to Central Park to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the “Stonewall Riot,” which many consider to be the beginning of the gay rights movement. (06/24/79)

Dan White, convicted of killing San Francisco mayor George Moscone and gay Supervisor Harvey Milk, was given the incredibly lenient sentence of seven years, eight months after a defense of temporary insanity resulting from eating too many Twinkies. He was convicted only of voluntary manslaughter the least possible offense in his case. (05/21/79)

A green light was given by the U.S. Supreme Court to private, voluntary affirmative action which promotes the hiring and advancement of women and minorities in traditionally seg-regated job categories, when it ruled in the case of U.S. Steelworkers of America and Kaiser Aluminum v. Weber. (06/27/79)

A critical abortion decision was reached by the U.S. Supreme Court 8-1 in Belliotti v. Baird, in which they overturned a Massachusetts law that required parental consent or judicial approval for a minor to obtain an abortion. The decision invalidated large segments of anti-abortion ordinances in states such as Louisiana, Kansas and Ohio, but 1980 was expected to see a flurry of introductions of more restrictive state legislation. (07/02/79)

The Department of Justice filed a Motion to Disqualify Judge Marion J. Callister on the basis of his high position in the priesthood of the Mormon Church. (08/21/79)

“Pornography is a Feminist Issue” was the message to Times Square smut merchants, as more than 5,000 feminists and friends assailed the sex shops, peep shows and porno-graphic movie houses among “Fun City’s” 42nd Street. The demonstration, sponsored by New York City’s “Women Against Pornography” group, drew college students and feminists from several states, and local members of unions, theater groups and neighborhood associations. The marchers chanted “Two-Four-Six-Eight, Pornography is woman-hate,” and “Clean it up/Shut it down,/ Make New York a safer town.” (10/20/79)

The NOW National Board, at its December meeting in New York City, voted unanimously to recommend to the NOW Political Action Committee (NOW/PAC) that it oppose the nomination and re-election of President Jimmy Carter. The recommendation was unani-mously passed by the PAC the same weekend. The primary factors in the decision were that the President had failed to use the power of his office effectively for ratification of the ERA; that significant and substantial ground in the area of reproductive rights was lost during his administration; and that to remain silent was to support the President by covering up the inadequacy of his performance. (12/79)


On the sixth anniversary of the landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on abortion, Eleanor Smeal, national president of NOW, invited leaders of both sides of the issue to a meeting on February 15 to discuss the formation of a comprehensive reproductive health program to seek ways to lessen the need for abortion, to reduce the incidence of unwanted pregnancy, and to end the polarization and violence surrounding the abortion issue. (01/22/79)

Sue Von Lackum took a leave of absence from IBM to work for NOW during the drive to ratify the ERA. (01/79)

After NOW President Eleanor Smeal called for a dialogue to discover any interests in common with anti-abortion groups, 60 representatives from 30 groups, (10 anti-choice and 20 pro-choice), met in Washington, D.C. Smeal chaired the five-hour meeting. Leaders attending included: Karen Mulhauser, National Abortion Rights Action League; Faye Wattleton, Planned Parenthood; Edie Van Horn, United Auto Workers; Dr. Mildred Jefferson, Right to Life Crusade; Thea Rossi Barron, former lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee; and Sean Morton Downey, Life Amendment PAC. Despite the attempt to have a reasonable dialogue, three members of People Expressing a Concern for Everyone (PEACE) disrupted the press conference with displays of so-called pickled fetuses. (02/15/79)

Virginia legislature passed the Family Protection Act, a domestic violence intervention measure which was the primary legislation supported by West Virginia NOW. (03/10/79)

Los Angeles NOW held its second annual Mother’s Day Champagne Brunch, with special guests Lily Tomlin and her mother; actress Jean Stapleton; Lorne and Nancy Greene; and School Board member Kathleen Brown Rice. The event emphasized the message that mothers need the Equal Rights Amendment and recognition of the economic value of their work – not just flowers and candy for a day. (05/13/79)

NOW joined forces with the Department of Defense in testifying before a Congressional Committee against restrictions on abortion funding for military personnel and their dependents. (05/22/79)

A study prepared by the Harvard-based Project on Human Sexual Development found that many men agreed that they should help with housework and child care, even though most didn’t follow through. Even in households where the woman had a full time job, in less than 3% did the father do most of the household tasks, and only in 12% were the tasks shared equally. (07/17/79)

New York NOW members expressed their disapproval of a Tiffany’s ad promoting the store’s Brides Registry Service by wearing bridal veils along with street clothes, and handing out leaflets to passers-by explaining the legal rights of wives in New York State. Among other things, the Tiffany ad asserted that the three most important decisions a woman had to make concerned “her silverware. . . her china. . . her crystal.” (06/16/79)

The National Women’s Hall of Fame was dedicated in Seneca Falls, NY, 131 years after the convening of the First Women’s Rights Convention by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott in the same village. The first 20 selections, chosen in 1973, included: Jane Addams, Marian Anderson, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Mary McLeod Bethune, Elizabeth Blackwell, Pearl Buck, Rachel Carson, Mary Cassatt, Emily Dickinson, Amelia Earhart, Alice Hamilton, Helen Hayes, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Chase Smith, Florence Sabin, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Helen Crooke Taussig and Harriet Tubman. The three 1976 honorees were Abigail Adams, Margaret Mead and Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias. (07/21/79)

NOW National, State and Chapter Events honored Margaret Sanger, feminist pioneer in the fight for reproductive rights, on the 100th anniversary of her birth. These Events marked a major step-up in visible national action for reproductive rights and pro-choice. (09/14/79)

The women of California’s State Assembly got in some feminist jabs at their male counterparts when they brought in a muscle man for an introduction of the type usually reserved for beauty queens. “Mr. Golden Bear, 1979” was dressed in shorts and a tank top, and introduced by Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles). (09/10/79)

Quad Cities (IL) NOW sponsored a “Take Back the Night” rally with approximately 150 persons participating. Those in attendance marched five miles from the Rock Island County Courthouse to Lincoln Park and back, carrying candles, flashlights and picket signs. (09/79)

“NOW More Than Ever” was the theme of the National NOW Conference held in Los Angeles with 3,000 members attending. The persistent concern of the conference was the nearness of the cut-off date for ratification of the ERA (June 30, 1982). Smeal was re-elected president along with her team of officers: Sandra Roth, Secretary; Jane Wells-Schooley, Vice President Action; Judy Goldsmith, Executive Vice President; and Alice Chapman, Treasurer. (10/05-06/79)

More than 2,000 community, business, labor, academic and government leaders met in New York City to participate in the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund’s National Assembly on the Future of the Family to find practical and workable solutions to the prob-lems being encountered in the rapid transition to a society of “non-nuclear-family” families. (11/19/79)

The National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights attracted over 100,000 marchers to Washington, D.C. It was the first national march for gay rights. Experienced march organizers were assigned by NOW President Eleanor Smeal to help stage the event. (10/14/79)

Running through the city streets of Los Angeles and neighboring communities, over a course last used for the 1932 Olympic marathon, Beverly Shingles of New Zealand outdistanced a pack of 56 competitors and won the first annual 20th Century Fox Los Angeles Women’s Marathon. However, the Women’s Marathon was not scheduled as an event in the 1984 Olympic Games. Conservative forces on the International Olympic Committee maintained that women were not physically suited to running the 26-mile marathon. (11/03/79)

Eleanor Smeal, President of NOW, testified before the Washington, D.C. hearings of the White House Conference on Families. (12/01/79)


NOW, AAUW, PEER, WEAL, and the League of Women Voters began a campaign to counter a strong lobbying effort against Title IX, directed towards Congress by approximately 300 universities and colleges to exempt revenue-producing sports from Title IX guidelines. (01/79)

Male strongholds persisted in the nation’s schools, according to a study made by the Project on Equal Education Rights (PEER) of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. A PEER study, “Back-to-School Lineup: Where Girls and Women Stand in Education Today,” reported on female participation in three traditionally male areas of school life: top-level school administration, vocational courses leading to higher-paying jobs traditionally held by men, and interscholastic athletics. (09/04/79)

The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare found that the Duval County (FL) School District was not in compliance with the regulation implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The district was notified that of the eight charges levied against the school system by Jacksonville (FL) NOW on December 13, 1977, three were sustained in their entirety and three were being analyzed further for their discriminatory effects on women employees and students. (11/07/79)


Declaring that “the Social Security system as it now stands is institutionalized sexism at its worst,” President Eleanor Smeal presented NOW’s testimony before the Department of Health, Education and Welfare Social Security Advisory Council in Washington, D.C. Appearing on a panel with leaders of other women’s organizations, Smeal led off the presentations with an impassioned statement on the plight of older women in this country, citing the failure of the Social Security System to provide a “measure of security in old age for the majority of our senior citizens.” (01/04/79)

As a result of a suit by New York NOW against the New York City Waterfront Commis-sion, more than 100 women received temporary work permits from the New York Harbor Commission and were set to become the first women dockworkers in that city’s history. (01/79)

Johnson County/Iowa City (IA) NOW and other groups joined in helping Firefighter Linda Eaton fight sex discrimination at work. Eaton’s request to be allowed to nurse her infant son, who would be brought by a family member to the firehouse during her personal time, was denied by the Firechief. The denial was reinforced by Iowa City officials who threatened to take disciplinary action if any breast feeding took place at the fire house. (01/22/79)

Charging that Congressional Budget Committees are “going the President one better in abandoning human need considerations,” Ellie Smeal, President of NOW, urged Congress to appropriate Fiscal Year 1980 funds for human needs programs at least at current policy levels. In testimony before the HEW/Labor Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Smeal focused on CETA, AFDC, Social Security, and reproductive health programs. Citing public opinion polls that showed that the vast majority of Americans want “value for their tax dollars, but not drastic cuts that would create hardship and unemployment for the disadvantaged,” Smeal called on Congress to “consider the needs of the people” in its deliberations on the FY 80 Budget. (04/79)

Representative John Burton (D-CA), chair of a House Select Committee on Aging, announced his support of a “Home-makers’ Bill of Rights” at the second day of hearings on the problems of women in midlife. Burton responded to the urg-ings of NOW through its President, Ellie Smeal, that such legislation was absolutely mandatory to ensure that women working in the home would have financial security in their own names and in the Events of widowhood or divorce. (06/79)

In an unprecedented move the city of Los Angeles barred J.P. Stevens Co. from doing business with the city. NOW’s Southwest Regional Director Mary Margaret Smith testified against Stevens at public hearings documenting the company’s long history of discrimination agains women and minorities. The company was termed an “irresponsible bidder” by L.A.’s Board of Public Works for its persistent failure to comply with the city’s affirmative action and equal employment opportunity ordinances. (06/26/79)


Sister Mary Theresa Kane, a high-ranking leader of American nuns, publicly challenged Pope John Paul II to reconsider his stand against women becoming priests. The unprece-dented action occurred in Washington D.C. when Sister Theresa introduced the Pontiff at a prayer service for 5,000 nuns in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. (10/07/79)

The New Testament “points toward the admission of women to priestly ministry” said a task force of Roman Catholic biblical scholars after concluding a three year study for the Catholic Biblical Association of America. “While male leaders may have been more prominent and num-erous in the early church, and while women’s activities may have been somewhat limited by what was culturally permissible, many roles which ultimately were associated with the priestly ministry were evidently never restricted to men,” the report said. (12/79)

Sonia Johnson, founder of Mormons for the ERA, was tried by the Church of the Latter Day Saints for the “crime” of supporting the ERA. NOW activists on both coasts called attention to her plight by bearing witness through vigils and by appearing on radio and television to spread the truth about the issues involved in Johnson’s trial and banishment from the Mormon Church. In Los Angeles, 125 NOW members and friends from Oxnard to Orange County gathered in front of the Mormon Temple in West Los Angeles in a silent vigil. Many members wore gags to symbolize the attempt to silence Johnson by the male hierarchy of her church. In an emotional ceremony, Mormon Christine Chapman burned her baptismal certificate in front of the TV cameras. Johnson’s supporters also surrounded the church where Sonia Johnson was on trial in Virginia. (12/01/79)


“Females constitute 27.7% of the U.S. population. Half of them are teenagers or in their 20’s. They wear revealing outfits, jiggle a lot, but don’t do much else. More than a third are unemployed or without any identifiable pursuit or purpose. Most others are students, secretaries, homemakers, household workers or nurses. For everyone who’s in law enforcement, at least two are criminals.” That’s the composite portrait television drama painted of the American woman, according to a study released by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. (02/15/79)

Rochester (MN) NOW voted to establish a task force for equal treatment of women and children in the news media and to establish a special fund to carry out the work of this task force. The decision was made at a meeting with Wisconsin attorney Priscilla MacDougal who was in Rochester to advise NOW on its case pending with the Rochester Human Rights Commission against the Rochester Post-Bulletin. NOW charged the newspaper with sex discrimination because the Post-Bulletin refused to identify a woman by her own name in the birth announcement of her child. The Post-Bulletin routinely used only the father’s name in the announcement. (03/79)

NOW President Ellie Smeal and Phyllis Schlafly debated on the popular Phil Donahue TV show before 5,000 people in the St. Louis (MO) Civic Arena. (07/11/79)

According to a study released by the Screen Actors Guild, men were over-represented and women and minorities under-represented on TV network programming. The study was based on 1,365 prime time and Saturday morning programs from 1968 – 1978. They also observed that programming was dominated by males, masculine values and questions of power, with women’s concerns depicted as marriage, romance and the family. (10/29/79)

Thirty-four national women’s magazines dedicated a portion of their issues to the ERA in the month of November. (11/79)

A two-and-a-half year war on lurid album covers depicting violence against women culminated in a public renunciation of such promotional tactics by Warner Communications, Inc. (WCI). “The WCI record group opposes the depiction of violence against women or men on album covers and in related promotional material,” WCI President David H. Horowitz said in a joint statement issued by WCI and Women Against Violence Against Women. (11/08/79)

NOW began a “pilot project” with three objectives: to analyze equal opportunity pro-grams at broadcast stations in at least three states, to examine the role of women in station ownership, and to assume a major role in promoting the production and syndication of public affairs programs dealing with women’s issues. The project was conceived and carried out largely by Kathy Bonk, NOW Task Force Coordinator in media reform. (12/79)


A suit filed by Lakeland & Morristown, NJ, NOW in 1975 on behalf of eight employees and all other affected female employees of the Mennen Company of Hanover, NJ, which charged the company with discrimination against women in hiring, promotions, compensation, and other terms and conditions of employment, was finally settled out of court. (02/79)

The charges of trespass, disorderly conduct and assault against Virginia NOW ERA activists Jean Marshall Clark and Marianne Fowler were finally dropped. ACLU represented Clark and Fowler against the charges stemming from the activists’ forcible removal from the Virginia state capitol after the defeat of an ERA resolution in February, 1978. ACLU also filed suit on behalf of two Mississippi NOW members who were ordered to remove an ERA poster from the capitol rotunda. The state was forced to allow the Pro-ERA demonstrations to continue. (03/79)

woman is not morally unfit to practice law because she lives with a man who is not her husband, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled unanimously. Bonnie C. Cord, a 34-year-old lawyer for the Energy Department in Washington, DC, was denied permission by a state trial judge in 1978 to take the Virginia bar examination when he learned that Cord was not married to the man with whom she shared a house. The Supreme Court said that Cord’s domestic arrangement had no rational connection with her fitness to practice law. (04/20/79)

A federal appeals court found that the employment practices of the Los Angeles Police Department before 1973 did violate civil rights laws: the LAPD had maintained separate gender-based job classifications. The appeals court also found that the “unisex” system adopted by the Department July 1, 1973, had not been shown to justify its discriminatory impact. The system required that all officers-men and women-meet a height requirement of at least 5 feet 7 inches, later lowered to 5 feet 6 inches. (05/79)

The family of Karen Silkwood was awarded $10.5 million in a landmark decision, when Kerr-McGee Corp. was found liable for Silkwood’s plutonium contamination. Eleanor Smeal, NOW President, proclaimed “This victory is in honor of Karen Silkwood, who broke the stereotype that women on the job will tolerate exploitation.” The campaign led by Sara Nelson, coordinator of NOW’s Labor Task Force, kept the Karen Silkwood case alive. (05/18/79)

The U.S. Supreme Court struck a severe blow to equity for women when it upheld the Massachusetts law granting veterans an absolute, lifelong preference in state government jobs. Since the Massachusetts law was among the most extreme, the Court’s ruling implicitly upheld the constitutionality of veteran’s employment preference statutes in all states and in the federal government. NOW had filed an amicus brief in the case (Massachusetts v. Feeney) arguing that the preference had the effect of discriminating against women. (06/05/79)

The national NOW board, at its meeting in Denver, voted to enter an amicus curiae brief in the Pennsylvania Roe v. Casey Medicaid funding case, and in the Minnesota v. Continental Can Co., where NOW LDEF was listed as attorney. (07/28-29/79)

Twenty four out of 61 female crew members aboard the USS Norton Sound were accused of lesbianism. NOW Chapters rallied in their defense. (08/79)

NOW chapters throughout the country raised over $180,000 for the ERA in Walkathons on Women’s Equality Day. (08/25-26/79)

Seventy nine members of the House of Representatives filed a motion to intervene in the Idaho court case which challenged Congressional authority in extending the time period for ratifying the ERA. The Idaho suit was filed by the states of Idaho and Arizona. (11/15/79)

Twenty-eight women, charging that IUDs had lacerated their uterine walls and caused infection, filed lawsuits totaling $140 million against the makers of the Dalkon Shield. (12/20/79)


A so-called “null and void” resolution challenged the right of Congress to extend the ratification deadline and declared that if the ERA had not been ratified by the required number of states by the original deadline of March 22, 1979, then South Dakota’s ratification of the ERA was “null and void.” Most legal experts viewed the tactic, devel-oped by opponents of the ERA, as unconstitutional. Support came primarily from a South Dakota Right-To-Life group. The state’s NOW members became the core group of a statewide effort to defeat the resolution, led by State Coordinator Ronda Mason and State Legislative Coordinator Beverly Hills-Meyer. National NOW activists, Jennifer Klindt, Ruth Whitney and Debbie Erb went to South Dakota to assist with the campaign. They were among 35 NOW members from 16 states that National NOW recruited in 24 hours to help in the face of increasing recision threats in the embattled states. Like many members in these states, these activists took time from their jobs and families to organize, manage phone banks, work on vote counts, and generally roll up their sleeves to do whatever needed to be done. They became involved in every state where there was major recision or ratification activity. Among those who volunteered to fight recision efforts in 13 states were Patty Donaldson, Gloria Sackman Reed, Dixie White, Barbara Murrin, Zelle Andrews, Christie Klein, Dorothy Sales, Audrey Ghiazzoni and Barbara Davis. (01/79)

NOW launched a new National ERA Campaign for ratification and against illegal recisions. The campaign was designed to involve NOW members and thousands of other ERA supporters in ratified and unratified states. ERA action teams were set up in ratified states to focus on the prevention and defeat of any attempts to rescind in addition to maintaining a national pressure campaign on targets specified by an alert system. Meanwhile, campaigns in unratified states were set up to win three more states before the extended deadline for ratification. (01/01/79)

The AFL-CIO canceled plans to hold a convention in October in Miami Beach, citing the failure of Florida to ratify the ERA. (01/08/79)

For the second time in a week, Miami Beach lost a major con-vention because of Florida’s failure to ratify the ERA. Al Shanker, President of the American Federation of Teachers, (AFT) announced that his organization had decided to hold its 1982 meeting of 2,500 delegates in Honolulu, rather than in Miami as originally planned, because of Florida’s failure to ratify the ERA. (01/13/79)

The Wyoming Senate, by a vote of 16-13 voted to postpone indefinitely Senate Joint Resolution 1, thus rejecting a move to rescind its ratification of the ERA. (01/17/79)

The state of Mississippi again refused to enter the 20th century by defeating a resolution calling for the state to finally ratify the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. The Magnolia State was the single holdout among several states which, although late, finally added their names to the ranks of ratified states. Shortly thereafter the ERA was, not surprisingly, defeated in a Mississippi Senate Committee. (03/79)

Promising a “unified, massive campaign,” NOW President Eleanor Smeal led a major leadership news conference to mark the beginning of the extended period for ratification of the ERA. Representatives of 66 pro-ERA groups were on hand at the conference, which was Coordinated by NOW and ERAmerica. (03/22/79)

Some 250 people paid from $100 to $1,000 each to attend the ERA “Homestretch Campaign” reception at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, co-hosted by Dorothy Jonas for the Los Angeles Chapter and the San Fernando Valley Chapter of NOW to raise funds for NOW’s National ERA Strike Force. Among the ERA-supporting celebrities who attended and/or sponsored the event were: Frances and Norman Lear, Joan Hackett, Maureen Reagan, Lily Tomlin, Alan Alda, Marsha Mason, Neil Simon, Patty Duke, John Astin, Polly Bergen, Helen Reddy, Jeff Wald, Jean Stapleton, Mary Lasker and Joan Palevsky. (03/24/79)

The United Mine Workers, following the lead of the AFL-CIO, said that it was cancelling a planned fall convention in Miami because Florida had not approved the Equal Rights Amendment. (04/25/79)

North Dakota Citizens for the ERA, an alliance which included NOW, AAUW, BPW, Common Cause, The League of women Voters, North Dakota Presswomen, and the Home Economics Association, defeated a “null and void” bill after previously defeating a recision attempt. (1979)

Colorado NOW scored a significant victory when a State Senate Committee defeated a bill that would have cut off all State funding for abortion services and referrals. The vote was 10-4. The victory came on the heels of Colorado NOW’s massive organizing effort against the proposed funding cut off. Peg Ackerman, immediate past Colorado State NOW Coordinator, and Barbara Malsch Chase, newly elected state coordinator, became aware of a major assault being mounted against Medicaid funding for abortion during the `79 legislative session. “We vowed to make use of the organizing tools Colorado NOW had developed during the battle for the ERA extension,” said Ackerman. There were five phone banks and the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee alone received over a 1,000 public opinion messages opposing the funding cutoff bill. (04/79)

The United Steelworkers union said it would move its 1980 convention from Las Vegas to Los Angeles because Nevada had not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. (05/11/79)

Final action on a Montana nullification bill was taken by the House when it voted 59-30 to accept the Judiciary Committee’s “do not pass” recommendation. State and national NOW people led by Gloria Sackman Reed (PA NOW) were responsible for setting up the Montana phone bank operation which was credited with major impact on the successful outcome. (1979)

For the fourth time, the Florida House voted in favor of ratifying the ERA. The vote was 65 – 53. (05/17/79)

Opponents of ERA defeated the measure in the Florida Senate 21-19. The defeat was achieved by a few key Senators, among them Guy Spicola, (who had voted for ERA in 1973, 1975, and 1977), and Pete Skinner, (who voted against ERA in 1975, but for it in 1977). The switch-voting made it clear that ERA had been a political trading item in Florida for years. Vote-switching first surfaced in 1977 in the ERA campaigns in Nevada, Florida and North Carolina. (05/24/79)

Thanks to hard lobbying by NOW and many other feminist organizations, the New Orleans (LA) City Council voted unanimously to endorse the ERA and to urge the Louisiana legislature to ratify. The final vote was solidified, according to observers, by the contrast in behavior between ERA supporters and members of Stop-ERA, who stormed the Council meeting, grabbed microphones and screamed at Council members. (06/07/79)

More than 300 ERA supporters attended a NOW fundraising reception in Washington, D.C., to launch the National ERA Ratification Campaign. Senator Edward Kennedy addressed the function, speaking forcefully in support of ERA. NOW President Eleanor Smeal promised to take the ratification battle to the college campuses, to make young people aware of their stake in ERA as future fathers and mothers, and members of the business world. (06/25/79)

The Minority Women’s Leadership Conference held in Washington, D.C. was sponsored by the NOW Minority Women’s Committee. “Racism and Sexism-A Shared Struggle for Equal Rights,” was the theme of the conference. (08/25/79)

Texas NOW staged a creative demonstration when over 70 members participated in two locations at highways leading from Texas into the unratified states of Arkansas and Loui-siana. Members stationed themselves on the highways into Louisiana near Orange, TX, and into Arkansas near Texarkana. Sample Burma Shave-style messages: “Equal Rights Amendment-Entering Louisiana/ We sadly regret/ Women there do not have/ Equal rights yet/ Don’t spend in Louisiana/ Until ERA is ratified there.” And “Welcome to Texas/ Isn’t it great/That now you are in/An Equal Rights state/ Spend in Texas-Ratified in 1972.” (09/79)

NOW activists defeated ERA recision efforts in 13 states. (12/79)

NOW members demonstrated in the rain outside the White House to protest the Carter Administration’s inaction on the issue of disqualification of Judge Marion J. Callister, the high-ranking member of the hierarchy of the Mormon Church who was presiding over the Idaho case challenging the ERA extension and seeking validation of recision. The protest also was directed at the President’s 30-minute “showcase” multi-issue meeting with some 18 leaders of women’s groups. NOW had initiated the meeting with the President for the sole purpose of discussing the Idaho suit, the Callister disqualification and the Administration’s plans to win ERA ratification in 1980. (12/13/79)

The Backlash

Former Catholic seminarian Joseph Scheidler of Chicago, IL, formed the Pro-Life Action League and began abortion clinic invasions. (1979)

American Life Lobby was formed and headed by Roman Catholics Judy Brown and husband Paul Brown, formerly of the National Right to Life Committee. The American Life Lobby opposed both abortion and artificial contraception. (1979)

A firebomb destroyed the Bill Baird Abortion Clinic in Hempstead, Long Island, NY. The clinic was believed to be the first in the United States. (02/15/79)

Paul Weyrich formed the Religious Roundtable under Ed McAteer as the Right Wing counterpart of the liberal National Council of Churches. McAteer later arranged a meeting between Jerry Falwell, Weyrich and Howard Phillips, who set Falwell up as media spokesman for the organization they had devised: The Moral Majority. Weyrich also provided the organization’s first executive director, Robert Billings. (1979)

A new lobby, Christian Voice, opened in Washington, DC, and promised an intense anti-gay campaign in Congress. (03/19/79)

ERA opponent Phyllis Schlafly, at a cocktail dinner at the Shoreham-Americana hotel in Washington, D.C. on March 22, the original deadline for ERA ratification, declared, “It’s all over.” Guests entered by passing a wreath of yellow and white mums with a black ribbon across it bearing the words “Rest in Peace – ERA.” (03/22/79)

The “Pro-Family” movement began forming as an alliance of Right Wing groups. With Connie Marshner, head of the Family Policy Division of Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, they drafted the “Family Protection Act,” as a smokescreen for a range of social and political goals. Senator Paul Laxalt (D-NV) introduced the bill in Congress. (1979)

Idaho et al v. Freeman was filed in federal District Court in Boise, ID, by the states of Idaho and Arizona to challenge the constitutionality of the ERA extension and to seek validation of a state’s power to rescind a prior ratifi-cation. The presiding judge was Marion J. Callister, a Regional Representative in the hierarchy of the Mormon Church. (05/09/79)

Perhaps the most offensive turnaround in the Florida campaign was committed by Sen. Vernon Holloway, who had promised the results of a straw poll from his constituency would be decisive in how he voted on the issue. His constituency responded in favor of ERA by 2 to 1, yet Holloway voted “no.” (05/24/79)

Massachusetts Governor Edward J. King appointed two anti-choicers to head a new state Commission on the Status of Women. The old panel was fired for criticizing his rejection of a one-time 6% cost-of-living bonus to welfare families. (06/25/79)

The National Catholic Conference of Bishops and the U.S. Catholic Conference,went to court in Washington, D.C., seeking to delete the provision of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which said that employers only had to provide medical coverage for abortions when the life of the woman was endangered. The Bishops contended that the provision violated the Church’s First Amendment Rights as well as those of employers who held religious, moral, or ethical objections to abortion. The EEOC agreed not to enforce the abortion coverage provisions until the case was decided. The Catholic Bishops delayed passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act when it was before Congress in 1978 by their insistence on an amendment to the bill that would have empowered employers to discriminate against women who had abortions not only in benefits, but also in hiring, promotions and other incidences in employment. (06/79)

In Idaho et al v. Freeman, the suit challenging the ERA extension, Judge Callister issued an order denying the Department of Justice’s Motion to Disqualify himself, thereby refusing to withdraw from the case. (10/04/79)

Arsonists set several fires in a Rockville, MD, abortion clinic, and stole $1000 worth of medication. (09/07/79)

The American Life Lobby and the central New York Right to Life Federation initiated a nationwide boycott of United Airlines, contending that the company had made a $7,000 donation to Planned Parenthood. The donation was actually from employees of United Airlines, and not a corporate gift. (09/17/79)

Anti-ERA activist Phyllis Schlafly testified against proposals to split earning credits for Social Security evenly between husbands and wives, including in the event of divorce, claiming “anti-family forces” were behind the proposed changes. Social Security Commissioner Stanford G. Ross testified that “a program that basically views women as dependents in lifelong marriages is out of step with reality.” (11/01) NOW President Eleanor Smeal testified in favor of the changes and pointed out that Social Security perpetuated in retirement the sex discrimination that women faced in the job market. (11/02/79)

Sonia Johnson, 43, a fifth-generation Mormon and mother of four, was excommunicated from her church. Convicted by a three-man Bishops Court on the charge of “apostasy,” Johnson now faced-according to the tenets of her own faith-eternal separation from her family for her work for equal rights for women. (12/05/79)

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