Part II – 1985

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


A “classic male sexist charge” was U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick’s response to a remark by her White House opponents that she was “too temperamental to hold higher office.” In addressing the Women’s Forum, a group of New York business and political women, Kirkpatrick stated that “sexism is alive in the U.N., in the U.S. government, in American politics-where it is bipartisan-but it’s not unconquerable.” (01/85)

The Reagan Administration’s projected 1986 budget again placed a disproportionate share of the budget burden on those who could least afford it. The budget as introduced would transfer $30 billion from domestic spending to the military. The proposed cuts would adversely affect such programs as education, health, housing, nutrition, employment, and training. (02/04/85)

The National Committee on Pay Equity released a national poll showing very high public awareness about the problem of wage-based discrimination. Of those surveyed, 69% believed that women were not paid as fairly as men for the work they did, and 79% supported pay equity as a solution. (02/12/85)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged with enforcing laws against discrimination in employment, said it would no longer represent entire classes of employees who might have been subject to discrimination; instead, it planned to focus on cases of individuals who had to prove that bias directly affected them at their jobs. (02/13/85)

Mikhail Gorbachev succeeded to leadership of the Soviet Union. At age 54, Gorbachev was the youngest man to take charge in the country since Stalin and represented a new generation. (03/13/85)

In a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Alabama law that permitted a daily one-minute period of silent meditation or prayer in public schools. The Court thus reaffirmed its insistence that “government must pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion.” (06/04/85)

Ellie Smeal was reelected national president of NOW at the 1985 National Conference in New Orleans on a platform that called for action and visibility, including back to the street demonstrations and marches. “It’s time to put a lot more heat on the right wing and the reactionary policies of the right wing,” said Smeal after her victory. “I intend to raise a little hell.” (07/19/21/85)


In 1979, only five states – Oregon, Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey and Delaware – had statutes permitting the prosecution of husbands who raped their wives. Since 1979- and the growth of the feminist movement-new laws or court decisions made marital rape a criminal offense in 18 additional states and the District of Columbia. In 1985, 15 more states were considering similar statutes. (1985)

The New York Court of Appeals revoked the state’s “marital exemption” law, finding “no rational basis for distinguishing between marital rape and non-marital rape.” Under that ruling, husbands found guilty of raping their wives could receive the same sentence as anyone convicted of rape – two to eight years in jail. An amicus brief to abolish the marital rape exemption was filed by New York City NOW and New York State NOW in the case, People v. Mario Liberta. (01/85)

NOW Chapters all over the country conducted around-the-clock vigils in 30 abortion clinics in 18 states to guard against potential violence over a weekend when federal officials had warned that they expected attacks to occur. The NOW Chapters continued all year providing escort services for patients entering clinics through crowds of harassing, anti-abortion pickets. (01/17/85)

NOW’s “Lesbian and Gay Rights`85” project broadened its focus to include efforts to pass lesbian and gay rights legislation in New York state as well as in New Jersey. (02/85)

Wilma Scott Heide, 64, third national NOW President, died of a heart attack in Norristown, PA. Heide was president of NOW from 1971 to 1974 and Chairone of the Board and National Secretary prior to that. One of the founding forces of the feminist movement, Heide had just completed a book entitled Feminism for the Health of It and a biography focusing on feminist ethics. entitled A Feminist Legacy. Heide was a driving force in the Pittsburgh Press case that ended sex-segregated help wanted ads and she led the action that finally won hearings on the ERA in the Senate. During her presidency, NOW played a key role in the passage of ERA through Congress, pressured the EEOC to act on sex bias cases, waged a campaign against AT&T’s discriminatory policies that ended with a $38 million settlement for employees, and played a major role in making affirmative action programs a requirement for federal contractors. (05/08/85)

Young, unmarried women were most frequently the target of the estimated 1.5 million rapes or attempted rapes which took place between 1973-1982, the Justice Department said, in a report that it conceded “underestimated” the crime. (03/24/85)

155,000 NOW Members: $5,100,000 Annual Budget. (1985)

A controversial bill to require most unmarried minors to get parental consent before having abortions was narrowly approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. (05/15/85)

At Nairobi, Kenya, “Forum `85,” a 10-day conference of non-governmental organizations as well as the U.N.-sponsored Decade for Women conference, ended the officially sponsored decade for women. The 12,000 attendees at the Forum identified religious fundamentalism and fundamentalism as a philosophy as diametrically opposed to feminism. The official conference, with 2,100 delegates from 160 countries, produced a document, “Forward Looking Strategies,” a plan of action for the years 1986- 1100, emphasizing legal, educational, and employment rights for women. (07/10-26/85)

A national march in Washington D.C. and “Witness for Women’s Lives” rallies, there and in 13 cities across the country, organized by NOW protested the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to abortion and contraception. The events also protested the fact that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops was holding the Civil Rights Restoration Act hostage, lobbying for an anti-abortion amendment to the bill. (06/08/85)

Christa McAuliffe, 36, a high school teacher in Concord, NH, was chosen to be the the first “average citizen” in space. The eldest of five children, McAuliffe married her high school sweet-heart, Steve, a lawyer, in 1970, had two children and originally studied to be a historian, but was lured to teaching in the early ’70s. She taught courses in law and economics and one on “The American Woman.” Asked how it felt to have been chosen for this program, McAuliffe replied, “I’m still kind of floating. I don’t know when I’ll come down to earth.” She told another interviewer later that the space flight didn’t scare her. “I really see the shuttle as a safe program.” (07/19/85)

Tish Sommers, 71, who told us all, “Don’t agonize – organize!” died at her home in Oakland, California on October 18, after a six-year resistance to the inroads of cancer. Sommers chaired NOW’s National Task Force on Volunteerism until 1973, the year she completed a book entitled, The Not So Helpless Female, an activists handbook for social change. She chaired NOW’s National Task Force on Older Women from 1973 to 1980, when with her associate on many of the displaced homemakers projects, Laurie Shields, she founded OWL (Older Women’s League), which focused exclusively on the problems of older women. (10/18/85)

The Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, 74, lawyer, writer, teacher, poet, civil rights activist, Episcopal priest, and founder of NOW, died of cancer at her home in Pittsburgh. Dr. Murray became a priest in 1977, was admitted to the bar in 1945, and had been a civil rights activist since 1940. (1985)


A survey of college campuses found that women students continued to be the victims of both subtle and blatant sexual discrimination on many campuses. The study, “Out of the Classroom: A Chilly Campus Climate for Women?” was conducted by Bernice R. Sandler and Roberta M. Hall of the Project on the Status and Education of Women. (01/85)

The Civil Rights Restoration Act, restoring Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination in federally-funded education, was reintroduced in the 99th Congress. The legislation was necessitated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Grove City College v. Bell, which virtually gutted Title IX as legislative protection against sex discrimination in education. (01/24/85)


Montana activists engaged in a fierce battle to defend their state’s comprehensive law prohibiting sex-based rates in all lines of insurance from legislative sabotage. Insurers had won a two and one half year delay in its effective date, October 1, 1985, “to allow time to prepare new rates and tables.” Insurers were using the time to lobby the legislature to weaken or repeal the law. (01/85)

The Hotel and Motel Trade Council filed charges of “blatant and deliberate sex discrimination” against 11 of New York City`s largest hotels. New York City NOW President Jennifer Brown joined the Trades Council at their press conference announcing the lawsuit and commented, “These hotels don’t charge women less for sleeping in a bed, so why should they pay less for making it?” 4,000, mostly female, hotel room attendants were paid $14 less per week than male housekeeping attendants for essentially the same work. This wage discrimination resulted in a $730 yearly pay differential. (01/09/85)

Pennsylvania auto insurers drew on industry-wide support to overcome the historic ruling by the state Supreme Court that sex-based auto insurance rates were “unfairly discriminatory” and illegal under the Pennsylvania ERA. The industry strategy called for delaying implementation of the ruling while they built public relations and media campaigns to misrepresent the Pennsylvania ERA as hurting women. (01/85)

Striking clerical and technical workers at Yale University won a victory in their fight for pay equity. The Yale contracts represented the first successful conclusion of a pay equity organizing drive involving a major private sector employer. NOW President Judy Goldsmith joined Connecticut NOW and State Coordinator Gayle Brooks in supporting this effort. (01/23/85)

A study by the Potomac Institute in Washington, DC, found that women and minorities made significant progress toward equal opportunity in the work force during the 1970’s. That progress was in large part due to affirmative action and adoption of affirmative action by private industry – a method for achieving equality under fire from the Reagan Administration. (03/20/85)

Responding to the plight of married and divorced women whose financial health was being decimated by unfair marital property laws, NOW President Ellie Smeal appointed Dorothy Jonas to chair the new NOW Task Force on the Rights of Women in Marriage. Together with her daughter, Bonnie Sloane, Jonas launched a campaign to win improved legal protection over the rights of non-managing spouses. (11/85)


Before approximately 300 members of the Washington, DC press corps, NOW President Judy Goldsmith accused the anti-abortion leadership of “moral bankruptcy” and of pursuing an anti-abortion campaign based on “emotional manipulation, willful deception, vicious harassment, threats and outright terrorism” at a hard-hitting debate on the video, “The Silent Scream,” with Moral Majority President Jerry Falwell, sponsored by the Nation Press Club. (02/12/85)

Six installments of “Doonesbury” that satirized “The Silent Scream” were allegedly “too controversial to be distributed” according to a Universal Press Syndicate official. (05/25/85)

A federal appeals court in St. Louis, MO, overturned a $325,000 jury award to Christine Craft. The jury had found that a station in Kansas City, MO, had engaged in fraud and sex discrimination. (06/28/85)]

Cecily Coleman and the ABC network reached an out of court settlement in a $15 million suit charging sexual harassment. The settlement was rumored to be around $500,000. (07/02/85)

NOW and NOW LDEF filed a $20 million dollar class action lawsuit against Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, the largest life insurance company in New York state, charging sex discrimination against women in life insurance and disability in-come insurance policies. (10/09/85)


Sixty-two years after it was first presented, the Equal Rights Amendment was re-introduced in Congress on the first day of the legislative session. Peter Rodino (D-NJ), Patricia Schroeder (D-CO), Don Edwards (D-CA) and Hamilton Fish (R-NY) sponsored the ERA in the House, where it was designated HJ Res. 2. On the Senate side, the Amendment was introduced by Edward Kennedy (D-MA) as SJ Res. 2. (01/03/85)

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to reverse a Reagan Administration ban on U.S. funding for organizations that included abortion in their overseas population control programs. (03/27/85)

Supporters of Montana’s pioneering 1983 law, that applied the state’s constitutional ban on sex discrimination to all types of insurance, successfully withstood the full force of the national insurance industry’s campaign to repeal the law. The Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 7 to 3 rejected the House bill to repeal it. The final action in the industry’s effort to modify the law came with a vote to reconsider which failed by 24 to 26. (04/85)

Emily’s (Early Money Is Like Yeast) List, to raise early political money for Democratic pro-choice women candidates, was founded by Ellen Malcolm. (12/85)

The Backlash

A factually inaccurate and highly emotional anti-abortion video entitled “The Silent Scream,” prepared and narrated by Dr. Bernard Nathanson, was released. (01/22/85)

The six-week lull in abortion clinic bombings that surrounded NOW’s National Vigil for Women’s Lives ended abruptly when the Women’s Clinic of Mesquite, TX, was set on fire. Because of high winds, the fire destroyed an entire shopping center in the Dallas suburb, and two firefighters were injured fighting the blaze. (02/22/85)

Police in Bridgeport, PA, arrested 51 anti-abortion demonstrators from nine states after the protesters stormed an abortion clinic and occupied examination rooms, offices, and waiting areas. Forty eight of those arrested were physically carried from the Womens Medical Center building, and three more outside were charged with disorderly conduct. (02/22/85)

Legislation intended to give civil rights protection to fetuses was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Orrin Hatch (R-UT). (03/25/85)

The Birth Control Institute, a San Diego, CA, abortion clinic, was bombed the second time in six months. The San Diego NOW chapter responded swiftly by organizing a four-night vigil at Womancare, another local clinic, to protect it. (03/16/85)

An unemployed gardener was arrested on suspicion of felony arson in connection with the March 16 firebombing of an abortion clinic. The bombing, which caused more than $10,000 damage, was the clinic’s second in seven months. (03/30/85)

The California Coalition for Traditional Values launched a massive direct mail campaign to defeat AB-1, homosexual rights legislation that would prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation. (04/12/85)

The restructured U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, packed with Reagan appointees, rejected as “profoundly and irretrievably flawed” the concept of pay equity by a vote of 5-2. (04/11/85)

Thomas Eugene Spinks, one of three men accused of bombing 10 abortion clinics in Washington, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and malicious destruction. (05/04/85)

The Reagan Administration, pressured by the fundamentalist new right, mounted a major attack on family planning in the rest of the world. In a break with long-established policy, the Agency for International Development agreed to fund groups that promote only natural family planning in underdeveloped countries. (07/08/85)

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Anthony H. Kennedy reversed a federal district court decision granting back pay for wage discrimination to Washington State employees. (09/85)

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