Part II – 1989

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 Gallup poll of opinions on the effectiveness of groups, conducted nationwide involving 1,000 adults, between February 28 and March 2, showed that NOW was viewed favorably by 71% of the poll respondents, just behind the American Cancer Society, the League of Women Voters, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. NOW was equally popular with men and women, although Blacks viewed it more favorably than whites-90% favorable compared with 68% favorable. (03/89)

The Guerrilla Girls, anonymous demographers of the New York City art world’s treatment of women artists, released a study revealing the percentage of women represented by 33 famous New York City art galleries. They found that works by women in the galleries totaled 16%, compared to 49.2% of bus drivers who were women, 48% of sales people and 43% of managers. In nontraditional jobs such as truck driving and welding, women totaled 17% and 4%, respectively. (04/89)

Abortion rights supporters over 600,000 strong marched for abortion rights and equality. Organized by NOW, it was the largest single march ever in Washington, D.C. history. (04/09/88) Marching in solidarity one week later 300,000 Italians crowded the streets of Rome and stormed the Vatican to protest the latest efforts to repeal the country’s 1978 law that legalized abortion. (04/15/89)

Another Reagan Administration scandal surfaced in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. (06/11/89)

Tiananmen Square massacre by Chinese soldiers ended the student democracy movement in China. (06/05/89)

Delegates to the NOW’s national convention in Cincinnati, OH, passed proposals calling for an expanded bill of rights for women for the 21st century and a study by NOW leaders to explore the creation of an independent political party. (07/89)

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, upheld a Missouri statute that said that human life began at conception, barred the use of public funds for abortion, prohibited abortions at public health facilities and required physicians to test for fetal viability after the 19th week of pregnancy. The provisions had been held unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. (07/03/89)

The U.S. Supreme Court significantly reinterpreted Title VII and Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 with decisions in Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio and Patterson v. McLean Credit Union making it much more difficult for employees to win suits challenging sex and race discrimination in the workplace. (06/89)

The East German government opened its borders and the Berlin wall was torn down. (11/10/89)

President George Bush vetoed a bill approved by the U.S. House and Senate that would permit the use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortions for poor women who were victims of “promptly reported” rape or incest. (10/89)

James Florio of New Jersey and L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia won gubernatorial races in their states. Both Florio and Wilder campaigned as pro-choice candidates in races where the issue of abortion was seen as pivotal. (11/06/89)


Elizabeth Koontz, who served as the first African-American president of the National Education Association and as director of the Women’s Bureau in the U.S. Department of Labor, died at age 69. (01/89)

The Family and Medical Leave Act was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate (S. 345) and the House of Representatives (H.R. 770). The Act mandated the provision of unpaid employment leave for birth, adoption, and serious illness in the family. (02/89)

Martin Klein of Long Island, NY, was empowered by a judge to authorize an abortion for his comatose wife, Nancy Klein. Complete strangers, anti-choice advocates, had gone to court to prevent the abortion. Mr. Klein, with the support of his wife’s parents and her doctors, sought the abortion to improve Nancy Klein’s chances for recovery. (02/89)

The House of Representatives voted 216-206 to allow the use of federal money to fund abortions for poor women who become pregnant from rape or incest. The House also voted to approve the District of Columbia budget that included provisions to fund abortions for poor women. Both bills were vetoed by President Bush. (1989)

Catherine Conroy, a member of President Carter’s Advisory Commission for Women and a founder of the National Organization for Women, died of cancer at age 69 in Milwaukee,WI. Conroy held a variety of positions in both the labor and women’s movement. She helped organize the Chicago, Milwaukee and Wisconsin NOW Chapters. She also helped found the Wisconsin Women’s Network. (02/20/89)

NOW Membership – 165,000; NOW Annual Budget – $11,000,000; NOW PACS – $220,000. (1989)

Laurie Shields, co-founder of the Older Women’s League and the Displaced Homemakers Network with Tish Sommers, died at age 67 of breast cancer. Shields had headed NOW’s Task Force on Displaced Homemakers. (03/03/89)

Supporters of abortion rights in the House of Representatives introduced the Freedom of Choice Act, which would put the principles of Roe v. Wade into Federal law. It stipulated that “a state may not restrict the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy (1) before fetal viability or (2) at any time, if such termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.” (1989)

A so-called “Day of Rescue” fell far short of predicted turnout numbers and was met by feminist counter-demonstrators at nearly every turn. Operation Rescue (OR) organizers had predicted that there would be upwards of 5,000 arrests in 70 cities, but police reported a much smaller number of arrests, 1,396 in 15 cities. One of the largest feminist standoffs came in Inglewood, CA, where forces organized by the Feminist Majority, NOW, Planned Parenthood, California Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL), ACLU and California Association of Business and Professional Women, beat OR to the clinic and commandeered the doors, allowing all patients to keep their appointments. No arrests were made since the crowd was controlled by security guards hired by the clinic rather than by the police. NOW’s Project Stand Up for Women also organized activists in Boston, Washington, D.C., Detroit, and New York. In Brookline, MA, several hundred feminists controlled the clinic’s doors and surrounded the opposition with abortion rights signs. The Greenbelt Maryland feminist forces also outnumbered anti-abortion demonstrators. In Woodbridge, NJ, feminists beat Operation Rescue to the targeted clinic. The antis then attacked a clinic in Shrewsbury, NJ, where feminists also countered them. Once again, no arrests were made. No arrests were made in Pittsburgh either, where police arrived early and took control of the doors, allowing patients to enter the clinic. In Albany, NY, a demonstration spread out along a busy downtown street near a Planned Parenthood office, as feminists lined one side of the street and the antis the other. Feminists also mobilized at a clinic in Rochester, but no attacks occurred. In Dallas, six members of the Ku Klux Klan joined the Operation Rescue protest. (04/29/89)

A woman jogger was raped and beaten by a gang of teenage boys in Central Park, New York City. Although many interpreted the incident as being racially motivated, women’s groups pointed to the obvious fact that the brutal and dehumanizing attack was a sexual assault by men against a woman. (04/19/89)

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of Norplant, a long-acting contraceptive, that protects a woman from pregnancy for up to five years when implanted under the skin. Final FDA approval was expected early in 1990. (04/89)

Peoria (IL) NOW was successful in its efforts to have its city implement two new state laws lobbied through the state legislature by NOW. One involved enabling a woman to charge her husband with sexual assault and the other permitted her to testify and seek redress for assault because interspousal immunity was eliminated under the Domestic Violence Act. (1989)

A study by the National Gay & Lesbian Task force reported 7,248 incidents of violence against gays in 1988. (07/89)

Dr. Elizabeth Morgan, imprisoned in a Washington, D.C. jail since August 1987 on civil contempt charges in a wrenching child custody fight, was finally released after Congress passed and the President signed into lawa bill that would limit to 18 months the time that judges in the District of Columbia could incarcerate a person on civil contempt. Morgan had accused her ex-husband, Dr. Eric Foretich, of sexually abusing their daughter, Hilary, and refused to allow an unsupervised visit with him ordered by D.C. Superior Court Judge Herbert Dixon. Morgan sent the child into hiding, and Judge Dixon jailed her for contempt. After her release, Morgan vowed to continue to keep Hilary in hiding until Foretich was stripped of parental rights. NOW activists across the country had lobbied for months on behalf of the “Morgan bill,” and National NOW had been involved in the effort to free Dr. Morgan for more than a year. (09/25/89)

While rallying support in California for a strong new marital fiduciary bill with penalties, Dorothy Jonas and Bonnie Sloane of the NOW Task Force on the Rights of Women in Marriage locked horns with California Appellate Court Justice Donald King. King was a powerful family law judge and consistent opponent of pro-women bills. King’s aggressive lobbying tactics against the bill failed in the legislature, where it passed with overwhelming support. However, King persuaded Governor Deukmejian to veto the bill. (1989)


Catharine MacKinnon, a leading feminist legal scholar, was offered a tenured position at the University of Michigan Law School after teaching at seven law schools in the past decade. Ms. MacKinnon was instrumental in defining sexual harassment as a legal wrong and had developed a controversial civil rights bill addressing pornography. The dean of the Michigan Law School said, “I think a lot of people initially feel threatened by her ideas. . . . But as you look at what she’s written, the force of her scholarship and the quality of her mind become more and more apparent.” (02/89)

A sample of reading lists of nearly 500 high schools was evaluated by the Center for the Learning and Teaching of Literature at the State University of New York. The survey showed that only one of the 10 most frequently assigned books was written by a woman, and only two works by authors of color were on the extended list of the 53 most frequently assigned titles. (06/89)


Felice Schwartz, president of Catalyst, proposed in an article in the Harvard Business Review that employers should separate women into “career-primary” and “career and family”-the “Mommy Track”- categories and treat them accordingly, with the former groomed for top-level positions and the latter restricted to mid-level positions with shorter hours and possibly part-time jobs. Feminist critics immediately pointed out that this proposal would ghettoize women workers and violate anti-discrimination laws. (01/89)

Canada opened all military jobs, except submarine operations, to women by abolishing laws barring women from combat positions. (02/89)

The National Law Journal released the results of a survey of women partners and associates in large law firms. Among the results: 60% of the respondents had experienced unwanted sexual attention; 64% felt that men had a better opportunity to obtain management positions; and 49% felt that men were more likely to be promoted. (12/89)


Mary Daly, “post-Christian” radical feminist theorist, was again denied full professorship at Jesuit-run Boston College. In 1969, the school had originally granted her tenure, then reversed itself after 1,500 students in its nearly all-male student body protested. Daly, the author of Beyond God The Father and Gyn/Ecology, was regularly also denied yearly salary increases, and was paid less than the $33,800 average salary of Boston College assistant professors even though she held the rank of associate professor. (03/89)


Eleanor Smeal, Peg Yorkin, Toni Carabillo and Katherine Spillar of the Fund for the Feminist Majority produced a video, Abortion: for Survival, that dramatized the need to keep abortion legal worldwide. It was created as a powerful response to The Silent Scream and was shown across the country on the Turner Broadcasting System. (04/89)

NBC aired Roe v. Wade, a movie based on the anonymous plaintiff (played by Holly Hunter), her lawyer, and the 1973 abortion rights case. Several anti-choice groups threatened sponsors of the program with a consumer boycott. The real Jane Roe, Norma McCorvey, began to speak out about her case, attending the march for reproductive freedom in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Supreme Court argument in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services. (05/89)

Rosabeth Moss Kanter was named editor of the Harvard Business Review, the first woman to hold the position. Ms. Kanter announced that, as editor, she would not have published Felice Schwartz’s “Mommy Track” article, which appeared in the January/February issue, because of flawed scholarship and lack of data. (12/89)

Time magazine published a cover story entitled “Women Face the `90s,” which examined the future of feminism. It featured poll results about public perceptions of the women’s movement, finding that among women respondents, 94% answered TRUE to the statement “The movement has helped women become more independent,” 86% responded TRUE to the statement “The movement has given women more control over their lives,” and 82% responded TRUE to the statement “The movement is still improving the lives of women.” Sixty-four percent did not believe the movement was anti-family and 62% did not think the movement was “out of date in its goals.” (12/04/89)


The Nevada Supreme Court Gender Bias Task Force issued its report, “Justice for Women,” which concluded that “in Nevada, as elsewhere, women suffer injustices at the hands of the legal system.” The findings of this task force were consistent with reports issued by similar task forces in New Jersey (1984), New York (1986) and Rhode Island (1987). (01/89)

In the case Parrillo v. Parrillo, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island affirmed a lower court ruling that prohibited a woman from having her boy friend stay overnight when her three children were present. Although no evidence of harm to the children was presented, the judge ruled that the visits were not conducive to the children’s well-being. The restriction had been sought by the woman’s former husband. (03/89)

NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund and National Abortion Rights Action League submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf of over 3,000 women and their supporters in the Webster v. Reproductive Health Services case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief included excerpts from letters written by women and friends of women who had experience with abortion, both pre- and post- Roe v. Wade. (04/89)

The chairs and staff directors of 23 state Supreme Court task forces on Gender Bias in the Courts convened at the National Center for State Courts for the first National Conference on Gender Bias in the Courts to discuss data collection, judicial education and the long-term implementation of necessary reforms. (04/89)

In Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that employers had the burden of proof when charged with discrimination by an employee, shifting the burden of proof to the employer in discrimination cases, once the employee had presented evidence of biased treatment. The case concerned the failure of the Price Waterhouse accounting firm to promote Ann Hopkins to partner, despite the fact that she had brought more business to the firm than any of the other (all male) partnership candidates considered in the same year. (05/01)

In Philadelphia, U.S. Senior District Judge Clarence Newcomer ruled that lawyers of pro-choice groups were entitled to collect $71,000 in legal fees from Operation Rescue, including one-third of that sum from OR leader Randall Terry. (05/02/89)

The Maryland Special Committee on Gender Bias in the Courts published a report stating “Gender bias exists in the courts of Maryland, and it affects decision making as well as participants.” Maryland’s Chief Justice appointed the Select Committee on Gender Equality to implement the recommendations for reform. (05/89)

U.S. District Court Judge Aubrey E. Robinson, Jr. completely vindicated NOW in a lawsuit filed against the organization by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) in 1987. The FEC acted against NOW on a complaint lodged by the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC). The FEC argued that NOW’s mailings on abortion, equal pay for women, and the Equal Rights Amendment for 1984 membership solicitations were “blatant electioneering” and violated FEC laws. According to the decision, the mailings were political speech protected by the First Amendment and did not violate federal elections laws. (05/11/89)

In Mansell v. Mansell, the U.S. Supreme Court held that military personnel could deny their ex-spouses a share of their veteran’s retirement pay by converting a portion of their pension (divisible marital property) into non-divisible disability payments. The decision was expected to relegate many military ex-spouses, predominantly women, to poverty. (05/31/89)

Massachusetts released a study of its court system that found that “Gender Bias existed in many forms throughout the Massachusetts court system.” The Chief Justice appointed a Committee for Gender Equality to implement the study commission’s findings. (06/89)

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the city of San Francisco’s agreement on hiring and promoting all women and minority men in the Fire Department. The plan had been challenged by the Firefighters Union Local 798 on the claim that the plan violated the rights of white men. (12/89)

A federal district court upheld a U.S. Labor Department regulation that lifted a 40-year ban on homework in five industries. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union and two other unions had filed suit, claiming that the regulation did not have adequate safeguards to prevent the violation of laws pertaining to minimum wage, child labor, maximum work hours and safety conditions in the often exploitative home work environment. (12/89)


Pennsylvania NOW conducted a statewide campaign holding Governor Robert Casey responsible for non-enforcement of automobile insurance laws requiring proportioning prices to costs. The campaign accused him of hiding the fact that all women were being overcharged. (02/09/89)

The Equal Rights Amendment was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate as H.J.R. I. (01/89)

Women in Madrid, Spain, rallied in the streets to denounce sexist rulings in two court cases. In one ruling, the judge attributed an office manager’s sexual harassment to biological urges arising because of a woman clerk’s short skirt. In the other case, two rape suspects were acquitted because of the victim’s sexual history and her implicit assumption of the risk of being sexually assaulted when she accepted a ride from the suspects. Pressure from women’s groups resulted in Spain’s Congress passing legislation to eliminate the loopholes in the penal code that made the rulings possible. (05/89)

Representatives of the Feminist Majority, Ellie Smeal and Peg Yorkin, met in Paris with Andre Ullman and Emile Beaulieu of Roussel Uclaf to discuss RU-486. (05/26-28/89)

Japanese women united in a rare political effort to oust Prime Minister Sousuke Uno, who was accused of an affair with a geisha. They forced his resignation, and his successor, in an unprecedented action, named two women to his cabinet. (07/02/89)

The Backlash

Catholic clergy and fundamentalist ministers were highly visible among the Los Angeles Operation Rescue (OR) demonstrators. Most of the organizing around OR was through the Catholic and fundamentalist Protestant churches. Cardinal O’Conner of New York endorsed Operation Rescue, and Archbishop Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles supported the OR organizers, permitting Archdiocese staff to be actively involved in the Los Angeles “rescue.” (02/11/89)

RU-486, the French “abortion pill” was viewed by anti-abortion forces as the ultimate threat to their movement and they scrambled to find ways to keep it out of this country though it had promising treatment potential for breast cancer, Cushing syndrome, endometriosis, and other serious illnesses. National Right to Life Committee, through its publications, launched a disinformation campaign denying RU-486’s other medical applications, and a new lobby group with the curious name of Robins, Carbide, Reynolds Fund (RCR Fund) threatened a worldwide campaign against Hoechst, the firm that produces the pill. (1989)

Governor Robert Casey of Pennsylvania signed a package of anti-choice legislation. Provisions of the law included a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, spousal notification, and a ban on abortions performed after the 24th week of pregnancy. (11/89)

In what came to be known as the Montreal (Canada) Massacre, Mark Lepine, 25 and unemployed, gunned down 14 women engineering students at the University of Montreal Engineering School, after shouting, “You’re women, you’re going to be engineers. You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.” Lepine wounded 13 other people, nine of whom were women, and finally killed himself. His three-page suicide note also listed 15 prominent Quebec women as “enemies.” The Canadian feminist movement pointed out that this was not an isolated event. Women students in Montreal had recently held a “Take Back the Night” march protesting violence against women which some male engineering students had ridiculed. (12/06/89)

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, best known as head of the now defunct right-wing Moral Majority, announced the demise of his monthly publication Fundamentalist Journal. The Journal was founded in September 1982 to present fundamentalism in a more positive light. (12/89)

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