Part II – 1988

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


Canada’s high court ruled that a Canadian 1972 anti-abortion law restricting abortion violated a woman’s right to control her body. (01/88)

Over President Reagan’s veto, Congress finally passed the Civil Rights Restoration Act (CRRA) for which NOW had been fighting. It reversed the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1984 Grove City decision and restored full coverage of Title IX provisions prohibiting sex discrimination in education by recipients of federal funds. The Act also restored full coverage of statutes prohibiting discrimination based on minority status, disability, or age. The CRRA included the Danforth Amendment under which federal funds recipients may, but need not, pay for abortion benefits or services but are prohibited from penalizing any individual who seeks a benefit or service related to a legal abortion. (01/88)

The fashion industry’s attempt to revive the mini-skirt was a maxi-disaster in 1988. Though a minority of trend-conscious women did buy some of the short skirts, the vast majority stopped buying all together, resulting in a sharp drop in fall and winter sales to the lowest level since the 1982 recession. (03/88)

France became the first Western nation to approve the use of RU-486, the abortion pill. It would be available in family planning centers and was expected to reduce by 50% the 150,000 surgical and suction abortions performed each year in France. (10/88)

Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as the first woman to lead an Islamic country, Pakistan. She announced a program to end restrictions on women and promised maternity leave, equal pay for equal work and a minimum wage. (12/02/88)

Republican George Bush was elected President, and Dan Quayle Vice President, winning 40 of the 50 states, in one of the most negative campaigns in U.S. history. All the major exit polls showed a clear Gender Gap of 7% with men favoring George Bush and women essentially dividing their votes evenly between Bush and Dukakis. (11/08/88)

NOW revealed that “the anti-abortionists were pursuing a strategy organized by a five-member steering committee of the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN), a group which, since at least 1984, had trained extremists in clinic invasions, sit-ins, and other illegal tactics.” According to NOW, the all-male steering committee of PLAN included Joseph Scheidler from Chicago, IL, John Ryan from St. Louis, MO, Andrew Burnett from Portland OR. Peter Lennox from Atlanta, GA and Randall Terry from Binghamton, NY. (12/88)

Pope John Paul issued an apostolic letter “On the Dignity of Women.” The letter narrowly defined a woman’s role in the church and society, listing women’s two vocations as “virginity and motherhood.” (09/88)


In a first for the country, a Boston Licensing Board rule went into effect prohibiting clubs serving food and liquor for commercial purposes from treating women and men differently. The rule outlawed such practices as separate dining and/or drinking areas for women. Failure to comply could lead to penalties such as loss of food and liquor licenses. (01/88)

American Demographics magazine released important statistics, including: 50% of new mothers returned to jobs within one year of giving birth (a 60% increase since 1976); in 1986, women age 30-34 were the only group to record a fertility rate increase; the percentage of female high school graduates exceeded male high school graduates for the first time in 1985; and the Bureau of Labor Standards predicted that between 1986-1100 women would account for two-thirds of labor market growth (02/88)

NOW held a memorial service in Washington, D.C. for Angela Carder, coerced by a court order to undergo a Caesarean while she was terminally ill with cancer, over the objections of her own doctors, her husband and her parents. Both she and the fetus died. The memorial service was attended by Carder’s parents and was followed by a candlelight processional to George Washington University Hospital where a memorial wreath was placed to protest the hospital’s actions in seeking the court order. (02/21/88)

Lambda Delta Lambda, a lesbian sorority, was officially recognized by University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). It was the first Greek-letter system gay sorority or fraternity to be approved by a university. (02/88)

Susan Butcher won the 1,158 mile Anchorage to Nome, AK, Iditarod sled-dog race and became the first person to win the race three consecutive years. (03/88)

American women brought home Olympic medals in archery, basketball, cycling, diving, equestrian events, gymnastics, rowing, swimming, synchronized swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball and yachting. (09/88)

Becky Bell was the first teen-age victim of an abortion law that required her to get her parents consent for an abortion, or ask permission from a judge in the state of Indiana. Unwilling to disappoint her parents by telling them and aware that judges in Indiana were not giving permission, Becky sought an illegal abortion and died as a result of a massive infection on September 16. (09/16/88)

The $2.5 billion Act for Better Child Care (ABC Bill) died when Senate Democrats failed to end a Republican filibuster. The Act would have improved the quality of child care centers and provided assistance to low-income parents paying for child care. (10/88)

In Michigan, anti-abortion forces won (58%-42%) a referendum banning the use of state funds for abortion. In Colorado, pro-choice forces lost a referendum to reverse such a ban by a 60%-40% margin. Both the Michigan and Colorado referenda were put on the ballot by pro-choice forces (to restore Medicaid funding in Colorado after a 1984 referendum loss and to keep medicaid funding in Michigan after a legislative loss). In Arkansas, anti-abortion forces succeeded (52%-48%) in amending the state constitution to define life as beginning “at conception.” If Roe v. Wade were reversed, the Arkansas constitutional amendment would immediately be invoked to make all abortion illegal in Arkansas. (11/08/88)


The Louisiana High School Athletic Association decided girls could play competitive contact sports with boys if there were no girls’ teams. The old rules of the Association allowed only mixed doubles in tennis. The change allowed Melanie Dube, 17, to play on the boys’ soccer team at her New Orleans High School where she hoped college recruiters would see her and offer a college scholarshiip. (01/29/88)

FairTest (National Center for Fair and Open Testing) charged that women and people of color were denied their fair share of college scholarships because of persistent bias in the standardized tests used to award more than $23 million of financial aid annually. (04/88)

By the end of 1988, the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education had received over 1,000 complaints against colleges and universities for discriminatory health services and insurance plans. (12/88)


A favorable ruling for Sears, Roebuck and Co. in the case charging sex discrimination in hiring and promotion (and in which NOW had been involved) was upheld by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Chicago. Sears’ defense was based on the argument that stark statistical disparities between Sears’ employment of’ men and women derived not from Sears’ discrimination based upon sex but from women having different interests than men and preferring less competitive jobs, even when such jobs pay significantly less. Two feminist historians testified for opposing the sides in the case: Rosalind Rosenberg testified for Sears and Alice Kessler-Harris testified for the women plaintiffs. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, under Clarence Thomas, did not take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. (01/88)

Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) settled a Title VII class action systemic discrimination case for $6 million. The agreement included seniority adjustments for 370 women and Blacks who applied for jobs with Honda between 1983-86. (03/88)

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court ruled that a 1986 Pennsylvania law allowing the use of gender in determining rates for automobile insurance violated Pennsylvania’s Equal Rights Amendment. The State Insurance Commissioner announced her intention to apply to all types of insurance the ruling requiring non-gender based rate-making. (04/88)

President Reagan issued an executive order deleting gender references from the official code of conduct for military service personnel. Naval Reservist Stephanie Ann Augustine had urged the change in a 1985 letter to the Department of Defense. (04/88)

The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates approved a resolution recognizing that the “persistence of both overt and subtle barriers denies women the opportunity to achieve full integration and equal participation in the work, responsibilities and rewards of the legal profession . . . .” The resolution called upon members to eliminate these barriers. (08/88)

The issue of comparable worth surfaced on Capitol Hill when a study of 25 House committees found two-thirds of the female congressional staffers earned less than $40,000, while three-fourth of the male staffers made more. (08/05/88)

More than 20% of lawyers were women and 80% of those entered the field since 1970. An ABA commission reported that “opportunities in the legal profession remain less available to women at all levels than their male colleagues.” (08/10/88)

Congress passed the Women’s Business Ownership Act, extending protection of the Federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act to applications by women for commercial credit. The Act also created a National Women’s Business Council to serve as an advocate for women who deal with government agencies. (10/88)


The U.S. Catholic Bishops issued the first draft of a pastoral letter addressing women’s concerns, labeling sexism a sin and stating that a sexist attitude should weigh against a candidate for the priesthood. The letter also called for further study on the question of ordaining women as priests. The draft was to be under discussion until at least November, 1989, at which time, if approved, it would become part of the church teachings. (04/88)

Rev. Barbara Harris was elected the first female Bishop of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, breaking 454 years of a male-only tradition. Rev. Harris, who is Black, was scheduled to become the next suffragan bishop of Massachusetts. (09/88)


It was the 25th anniversary of the publication of The Feminine Mystique, the book by Betty Friedan that helped launch the revitalization of the women’s rights movement. (02/88)

A report by the National Commission on Working Women noted that only seven of 43 leading roles in the fall 1987 TV shows were held by women; moreover, 19% of the new shows had no female characters. Women over 40 got even shorter shrift from TV writers, producers, and executives according to figures supplied by the Screen Actors Guild. Only 10% of all TV and feature film roles were filled by women over 40. In 1983, 8% of all TV and feature film roles were filled by women over 40. (02/88)

The Rev. Pauli Murray, Episcopal priest, feminist lawyer, author, granddaughter of a slave, and one of the founders of NOW, received posthumous recognition for her autobiography, Song From A Weary Throat as one of the recipients of the 1988 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. (03/88)

Mathilda Publishing Inc., headed by Editor Sandra Yates, bought Ms. magazine from Fairfax Publications Ltd. Fairfax put the magazine up for sale after purchasing it for $10 million in 1987. (05/88)


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that although state judges were immune from lawsuits concerning their judicial rulings and acts, they could be sued for alleged discrimination in their administrative and employment decisions, reversing the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Forrester v. White. (01/88)

In Washington, D. C., Judge Charles Richey detailed remedies for the successful plaintiffs in a case against the U.S. Information Agency, (USIA) found in 1984 to have had hiring practices which discriminated against women in six job categories. The USIA had to notify more than 4,400 women originally denied employment that they might be entitled to back pay, preferential hiring, and retroactive promotions. (01/88)

Haffer v. Temple University was settled with an agreement requiring that the women’s athletic budget be in proportion to the percentage of athletes who are women. The agreement ended an eight-year-old Title IX lawsuit, litigated by the National Women’s Law Center, against the Philadelphia university and stated that women athletes were entitled to comparable treatment in participation, expenditures, promotion, and scholarship. (06/88)

The U.S. Courts of Appeal for the Sixth and Eighth Circuits disagreed on the Constitutionality of parental notification statutes for minors seeking abortion. The Sixth Circuit invalidated an Ohio statute primarily because of the cumbersome judicial procedure for bypassing the parental notification requirement. A Minnesota scheme requiring a minor to notify both parents or submit to a judicial bypass procedure was upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court. (08/88)

A jury found G.D. Searle Co. liable for negligence in distribution of the Copper-7 intrauterine device (IUD). The plaintiffs in the case were awarded $8.75 million-the largest award to date in a Copper-7 case. (09/88)

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Conn v. Conn, leaving intact an Indiana state court decision denying a husband’s right to block his estranged wife from having an abortion. (11)


The April Gallup poll indicated a significant Gender Gap with more women showing a clear preference for the Democratic Party’s eventual Presidential nominee and men’s votes evenly divided. By summer the Gender Gap had become a gender gulf providing a huge lead in public opinion polls for Michael Dukakis. But by September, a Louis Harris poll showed the gender advantage among women had been reduced to a marginal 2%. Dukakis did not campaign on Gender Gap issues. (01/88)

National NOW’s Annual Susan B. Anthony fundraising event at the beautiful French Embassy in Washington, D.C. drew more than 300 guests including 10 international feminists. Countries represented included Australia, Eritrea, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Korea, New Guinea, and England. (02/15/88)

The Fund for the Feminist Majority introduced a new campaign symbol at the Boston Feminization of Power event-the 5% button-a white 5% on a bright raspberry background, referring to the fact that only 5% of the members of Congress were women. (03/28/88)

At the California Democratic Party Convention in Palm Springs, CA, feminists led by NOW activists Kathy Spillar, Don Cannon, Lucienne Renni, and Shelly Mandell successfully added a plank to the 1988 State Party Platform committing the party to equal representation for women in elected and appointed office. Spillar was also the National Coordinator of the Fund for the Feminist Majority. The amended platform read: “The California Democratic Party is committed to equal representation for women in local, state and national elected and appointed office. To achieve equal representation for women in elected and appointed office, the California Democratic Party is pledged to affirmatively recruit and support women candidates, to achieve parity in endorsements in Democratically-held seats, and to provide training and resources to women candidates.” (03/18-20/88)

Women went from 12.1% of statewide elected offices to 13.6%. The percentage of women state legislators went from 15.6% to 17%. But women remained just 5% of the members of Congress. (11/08/88)

For the fourth straight Congressional election, the Gender Gap advantage among women was key for Democrats and provided the gain for Democrats in the Senate. In three Senate races, Joseph,Lieberman (D-CT), Richard Bryan (D-NV), and Herbert H. Kohl (D-WI), the majority of women supported the winning Democrat and the majority of men supported the losing Republican. (11/08/88)

The Backlash

An extensive article in the March issue of Regardie magazine revealed in lurid detail the depth of National Conservative Political Action Committee, (NCPAC) leader Terry Dolan’s deception. Though he had used gay-baiting as a favorite NCPAC tactic, Dolan’s own homosexuality was revealed only after his death from AIDS. The article described the protection provided by the gay male community to him and to others, even those who publicly engaged in anti-gay rhetoric and actions. The article, entitled “Fear and Self-Loathing on the Far Right,” described the group of conservative gay men who tolerated and often advanced the gay-bashing so pervasive in Far Right circles. The closet right-wing gays, collectively known as the “Lavender Bund” to other gays, served, in the words of Ellen Hume, the article’s author, “to help the church and state to ostracize homosexuals and establish the nuclear family as the only acceptable way of life.” (03/88)

Phyllis Schlafly led a Baby Buggy Brigade in front of the Dirksen Senate Office Building In Washington, DC, “to protest the Dodd-Kildee day-care bill.” In the usual excess of rhetorical gibberish the Eagle Forum’s press release claimed that “. . . our legislators are attempting to use babies as pawns in a political power grab to establish a federal vote-buying bureaucracy. . . .” (03/14/88)

“Operation Rescue,” organized by Randall E. Terry of Binghamton, NY, staged a series of demonstrations in New York City. Participants physically blockaded entrances to abortion clinics, health care facilities and doctors’ offices, to force the clinics to close their doors, and attempted to intimidate women from seeking abortions. Over 1,500 arrests of demonstrators were made. (05/88)

Hundreds of anti-abortion protesters staged “Operation Rescue” blockades in Atlanta, GA, coinciding with the Democratic Convention. (07/88)

The American anti-abortion movement tried to pressure the French manufacturer of RU-486 to remove it from the market and Groupe Roussel Uclaf agreed to stop marketing it. The French Minister of Health ordered the company to resume sales, stating “from the moment government approval of the drug was granted, RU-486 became the moral property of women. . . .” (10/88)

Two days after the Presidential election, the U.S. Justice Depart-ment filed a brief in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services asking the U.S. Supreme Court to use the case as an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. In a joint press conference, NOW president, Molly Yard and Ellie Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, denounced the move, noting the Administration waited until after the election to slip in the controversial brief. (11/88)

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