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In August 1970, women's rights advocates staged rallies across the nation to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment, which granted suffrage to women. Participants show their solidarity in a group chant.
Today in Herstory: Two Victories Have Been Won Against Workplace Gender Discrimination!
Though it certainly took a while, guidelines have finally been issued specifying what kinds of sex discrimination in the workplace were barred by President Johnson’s Executive Order issued on October 13, 1967. The order required equal opportunity and equal treatment of women by contractors and subcontractors when they do business with the Federal Government, but it didn’t say exactly what constituted illegal treatment.
The new guidelines were issued by the Labor Department at a White House briefing, and they ban a number of common practices. Newspaper “Help Wanted” ads may no longer specify whether the employer is looking to fill the position with a man or a woman, unless it can be shown that gender is a “bona fide occupational qualification” for the job. It is also now illegal to penalize women for taking time off to give birth, or to bar mothers of young children from being hired unless fathers of young children are similarly banned. Specific job classifications may no longer be made off-limits to women, and separate seniority lists based on sex are unlawful. Enforcement can begin immediately, and will be the responsibility of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance.
Unfortunately, establishing these guidelines is the only part of the 33-page report by the President’s Task Force on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities that President Nixon accepted. The report itself was completed and submitted on December 15th, but was suppressed by the White House until today, though some parts of it have leaked out.
The Task Force, announced with great fanfare by President Nixon on October 1st of last year, and headed by Virginia R. Allan, gathered information about sex discrimination in the U.S., and made recommendations about how to end it in its report entitled “A Matter of Simple Justice.”
The President’s Task Force on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities. The Task Force was chaired by Virginia R. Allan, and the report signed by Elizabeth Athanasakos, Ann R. Blackham, P. Dee Boersma, Evelyn Cunningham, Ann Ida Gannon, Vera Glaser, Dorothy Haener, Patricia Hutar, Katherine B. Massenburg, William C. Mercer, Alan Simpson and Evelyn E. Whitlow.
In a cover letter accompanying the report and sent to the President, Nixon was asked to use his influence on behalf of “the more than half our citizens who are women and who are now denied their full legal and Constitutional rights.” The Task Force noted that “an abiding concern for home and children” should not cut women off from “the freedom to choose the role in society to which their interest, education, and training entitle them.” The letter also said that: “The United States, as it approaches its 200th anniversary, lags behind other enlightened and indeed some newly emerging countries, in the role ascribed to women.”
Among other things, the Task Force recommended establishing a permanent Office of Women’s Rights and Responsibilities, whose director would report directly to the President, passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, having the President send a special message to Congress calling for new laws against gender bias, and increased assistance in regard to child care for women who work outside the home.
Coincidentally, the results of a 56-question survey about workplace discrimination were released today by the American Association of University Women. Of the 4,173 women an 3,001 spouses and male workplace colleagues who returned the surveys, 84% of the women and 77% of the men said that they believed women still suffer from discrimination in the workplace. Sixty per cent of men, but only 43% of the women, still think that a woman’s prime role is that of wife and mother.
Clearly, even as the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment approaches, a lot of work still needs to be done to achieve full equality for women.
Before Leaning In, Women Marched On
This is a week of anniversaries. Wednesday marks 50 years since Martin Luther King addressed the nation with his "I Have A Dream" speech as part of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
And Monday is Women's Equality Day, commemorating the anniversary of the passage of the 19 amendment. It's also the anniversary of Women's Strike for Equality, a march in 1970 that wove down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, past Bergdorf's and Tiffany's, featuring Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan and more 10,000 others, demanding the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Susan Sissman, 67 years old, of Naples, Fla., attended the march with her mother. "We joined them around 59 street, close to where they were carrying the Betty Friedan signs," she said.
"My mother was in a deep depression. We saw there was this march, and we said, 'Okay, let's go,'" she remembered. The doctor's prescription was to keep her busy. "This was just to get my mother out of the house," she said.
Ms. Sissman recalled the march over wine and cheese at a window-lined office in SoHo, as part of an evening of discussion about women and contemporary feminism convened by the educational non-profit, Facing History and Ourselves back in April. "We talk to educators, mostly," said Peter Nelson, director of the New York office. "We wanted to widen our circle."
Untaught American history
In commemorating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, with which women first won the right to vote, Lange and the 22 other women who make up the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission came together with one simple but ambitious goal: To educate Americans about women’s often-ignored U.S. history.
The commission — the brainchild of Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. — is a temporary federal panel made up of veteran feminist activists, political leaders, elected officials and historians seeking to honor and celebrate women’s history with this anniversary.
“For women, our history is so rarely taught to us,” says Anna Laymon, the commission’s executive director. “For women to know where we’re going, we have to know where we came from and what it took to get to where we are.”
The women’s suffrage movement was one of the longest running social justice movement America has yet seen. It spanned from 1848, when the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York, to 1920, culminating in the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the largest single enfranchisement effort in American history. Many argue that the movement continues to inspire voting rights efforts nationwide.
Protesting in Washington, D.C., in 1917. (Photo: National Archives)
But traditional history education and textbooks massively undercut the immensity of the movement, historians say. Women’s stories and female characters throughout history are often documented as a side story to male protagonists and told from a male point of view.
The status and experiences of women in standard U.S. social studies curriculum, reported the National Women’s History Museum, are “not well integrated into U.S. state history standards.” The report criticized the standards’ overemphasis on women’s domestic roles and the exclusion of women’s roles in leadership.
“The battle is huge,” Laymon says. “This is a moment in American history that most people have never heard of. Most people have no idea what suffrage is.”
A century of women marching on the Mall
The Women’s March on Washington drew an estimated crowd of 500,000 to the Mall. The event is the latest in a tradition of civil dissent on the Mall, where women have organized rallies and demonstrations on a wide range of issues for over a century.
Crowd size is one way to measure event impact, but crowd estimates are difficult to pin down and can vary widely. Usually, organizer estimates will be larger, while National Park Service and police estimates are smaller. (The National Park Service stopped issuing event estimates in 1995 after controversy surrounding its numbers.) Here we compare ten notable women’s marches since 1913 using the best estimates available.
Estimated attendance color key:
Women’s Suffrage Parade
Organizer(s): Alice Paul
Issue(s): Women’s suffrage
The day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, around 5,000 women marched on Washington for women’s suffrage. These suffragists were mocked, tripped and even violently attacked by bystanders. But the attacks didn’t stop them from continuing to march. The event would go on to inspire many more marches over the next few years.
There were divisions within the movement, though. African American women, including renowned activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, were asked to march in a separate section from their states’ white delegations. Wells-Barnett was among those who refused to oblige.
Suffragists march along Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the U.S. Capitol in 1913. (Bain Collection/Library of Congress)
Jeannette Rankin Brigade
Organizer(s): Jeannette Rankin various women's groups
Issue(s): Vietnam War
In 1968, 87-year-old Jeannette Rankin led a coalition of women’s groups in a protest against the Vietnam War. Rankin was the first women elected to Congress in 1916 and was a fierce advocate for pacifism, women’s rights and social welfare. The 1968 protest was named in her honor.
Members of the Jeannette Rankin Brigade hold a banner protesting the Vietnam War. (AP Photo)
Women’s Strike for Equality
Organizer(s): Betty Friedan National Organization for Women (NOW)
Issue(s): Women’s rights
Officially sponsored by the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Women’s Strike for Equality was a nationwide protest with marches in multiples cities. The strike focused on women’s rights, including workplace equality and reproductive rights.
Betty Friedan, author of “The Feminine Mystique,” helped plan the protest. The event took place on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment, which granted women’s suffrage.
Protesters march down Fifth Avenue, at 52nd Street in New York City, one of the cities where the Women’s Strike for Equality took place. (AP Photo)
Annually since January 22, 1974
March for Life
Organizer(s): March for Life and Defense Fund
Issue(s): Reproductive rights
On January 22, 1974, one year to the day after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationally, pro-life activists participated in the first March for Life to protest the Supreme Court decision. Since then, the rally has been held annually on or around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in late Jan.
The event has grown throughout the years. The first march drew a few thousand protestors, while more recent marches have seen consistent crowds estimated to be in the tens to hundreds of thousands.
Demonstrators in the 1981 March for Life march toward the U.S. Capitol building. (AP Photo/Herbert K. White)
March for the Equal Rights Amendment
Issue(s): Women’s rights Equal Rights Amendment
The ultimately doomed Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced to Congress in 1923 in an attempt to guarantee equal rights for women. It was passed by Congress in 1973 but still required ratification by two-thirds of the states within a seven-year time limit. Conservative activists such as Phyllis Schlafly, a lawyer who argued that the ERA would upend traditional gender roles, began a concerted campaign against the amendment.
Less than a year before the seven-year ratification time limit, the NOW organized the March for the Equal Rights Amendment to persuade legislators to extend the deadline beyond March 29, 1979. Congress did approve an extension of the time limit to 1982. No other states ratified the amendment, however. In the end, 35 total states ratified the ERA — three short of the 38 required for the proposed amendment to become law. To this day, there is still no constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women.
Leading supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment march in Washington. From left: Gloria Steinem, Dick Gregory, Betty Friedan, Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-N.Y.), Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rep. Margaret Heckler (R-Mass.) (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights
Organizer(s): Various LGBT groups, leaders and activists
Issue(s): LGBT rights AIDS research and education
The first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights took place in 1979. Its initial planning was plagued by infighting, but the march’s ultimate success paved the way for this second march.
For the second march, organizers, leaders and activists joined together at a National Planning Conference in 1986. A steering committee was put in place, with delegates mandating 25 percent people of color and 50 percent women. The rising awareness of gay people of color and the AIDS epidemic also heavily influenced the planning process and became prominent themes during the protest.
Participants of the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights carry a banner as they parade in front of the White House. (AP Photo)
Rally for Women’s Lives
Issue(s): Women’s Rights
The Rally for Women’s Lives protested violence against women, in forms ranging from domestic violence to political attacks on women’s rights. The rally formed in response partly to a Republican-controlled Congress. It hoped to influence and set the political agenda for 1996, an election year.
Million Mom March
Organizer(s): Donna Dees-Thomases
Issue(s): Gun control
After a horrific series of school shootings, the Million Mom March called for stricter gun control legislation. Donna Dees-Thomases started this grass-roots event, which took place on Mother’s Day, May 14.
Mothers, grandmothers and others gathered in the nation’s capital and more than 60 other U.S. cities to demand stronger gun safety measures to protect their children from gun violence. (SHAWN THEW/AFP/Getty Images)
March for Women’s Lives
Issue(s): Reproductive rights women’s rights
This large rally took place on the Mall in a demonstration for women’s reproductive rights. Crowd estimates vary greatly, but the rally’s still-impressive turnout included a variety of prominent figures, from politicians such as then-Sen. Hillary Clinton to actresses such as Whoopi Goldberg and Susan Sarandon. The march targeted the policies of the George W. Bush administration, which was antiabortion.
The march shares its name with earlier reproductive rights marches organized by NOW in 1989 and 1992, which each brought several hundred thousand people to the Mall.
Women march down Pennnsylvania Avenue in Washington during the March for Women’s Lives. The rally included men and women from across the country along with activists from nearly 60 countries (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Women’s March on Washington
Organizer(s): Tamika D. Mallory, Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour and Bob Bland
Issue(s): Women’s rights reproductive rights LGBTQIA rights worker’s rights immigrant rights
Millions of women gathered in the District and in cities around the world one day after President Trump's inauguration. The protest in Washington packed the Mall — organizers said that as many as a half-million people participated — and dwarfed the inauguration crowd. The estimated size makes this march the largest inauguration protest in history.
Demonstrators came from around the country, carrying signs protesting bigotry, discrimination and sexual assault. Many said they participated to take a public stand against Trump. The march also turned into the weekend’s star-studded event, with celebrities including Janelle Monáe, Scarlett Johansson and Madonna making appearances. Prominent activists and leaders such as Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem and Janet Mock also spoke.
Hundreds of thousands of marchers fill the street during the Women's March demonstration in Washington. (REUTERS/Bryan Woolston)
Feminist Factions United and Filled the Streets for This Historic March
In 1970, on the 50th anniversary of suffrage, the Women’s Strike for Equality brought together a diverse group of protesters.
The Women’s Strike for Equality was meant to mark the 50th anniversary of suffrage in the United States, but also form a new feminist coalition. Aug. 26, 1970. Credit. John Olson/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images
The 1970 Women’s Strike for Equality was the largest women’s rights demonstration since the era of suffrage — and more inclusive than anything that had been seen before. Fifty years to the day after suffragists secured the vote for American women, tens of thousands of women took to the streets of New York to commemorate this past success and to demand “the unfinished business of our equality.”
All women were invited, and many showed up. “Every kind of woman you ever see in New York was there,” The New York Times reported on Aug. 30, 1970. “Limping octogenarians, braless teenagers, Black Panther women, telephone operators, waitresses, Westchester matrons, fashion models, Puerto Rican factory workers, nurses in uniform, young mothers carrying babies on their backs.” There were even some men.
The evening of Aug. 26 was warm and windy, and Manhattan’s streets were filled. Crowds surged along Fifth Avenue, with people toting signs and chanting. Marchers had a permit but disregarded the city’s order to stay in a single traffic lane. They spilled over barricades, tangling up traffic and disrupting business as usual. Too many of them had been trapped indoors for too long. It was time to be outside, together, in public.
Betty Friedan, the author of “The Feminine Mystique” and a co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW), was unusually open to a younger, often angrier generation. Her book might have narrowly focused on white housewives, but as an organizer, she was eager to build coalitions with working-class women and women of color. She collaborated closely with the lawyer and activist Pauli Murray, the first Black student to earn a juris doctorate degree from Yale Law School together, they developed the idea for NOW. When NOW elected its first slate of officers, the Black union organizer Aileen Hernandez was elected executive vice president, and she later served as president of the organization.
Friedan, then 49, was likewise open to the self-styled “radical feminists,” young women, many of them white, who believed that society needed a total overhaul. Everything had to change, from federal policies to personal habits: no more bras, no more natural childbirth, no more sex with men.
While “traditional” women’s organizations, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the League of Women Voters, denounced the young militants (“so many of them are just so unattractive”), Friedan wanted to forge an alliance with her younger counterparts. She knew who could help her build a mass movement, and it was not the Junior League. Instead, she focused on the radical feminist cells — New York Radical Feminists, Redstockings — that were springing up all over New York.
When it came to second-wave feminism’s coming-out party, these radical women were on the guest list. They would link arms with Black feminists, immigrants, socialists and well-to-do white housewives.
The midtown march was part of a day of decentralized actions. In many major American cities, there were events, from “baby-ins,” which protested the lack of affordable child care, to mock garden parties and teach-ins about welfare and unions. These actions were in the service of three main demands: free abortion on demand in every state free, 24-hour, community-run child-care centers and equal opportunity in education and employment.
Though she called it a strike, Friedan had always intended the event to be a symbolic act, not a true labor action. She hoped women would stop doing traditional feminine work — both paid and unpaid — for one day, but what she really wanted was to make women’s liberation visible. Rather than “cooking dinner or making love,” women would rally in public squares and “occupy for the night the political decision-making arena.” Out of the bedroom and into the streets.
The strike demonstrated “the awesome political power of 53 percent of the population,” she said. But it was hard to get members of this “oppressed majority” on the same page. Socialist feminists had little time for the professionalism and politicking of NOW. And many lesbians felt marginalized within the movement, since Friedan had recently called them a “lavender menace.” But they showed up in force anyway. At an evening rally in Bryant Park, a member of Radicalesbians described the police brutality that lesbians faced. “We’re your sisters and we need your help!” she pleaded.
Black women, whose experiences of oppression have historically been diminished or dismissed by white feminists, arrived at the New York march with acute and utterly different concerns. Organizers of the Third World Women’s Alliance (T.W.W.A.) carried a banner demanding “Hands Off Angela Davis,” the Black activist who had recently been arrested. As Frances Beal, a T.W.W.A. leader, remembered it, a leader of NOW confronted her group and told them, “Angela Davis has nothing to do with women’s liberation.” Beal disagreed, saying, “It has nothing to do with the kind of liberation you’re talking about, but it has everything to do with the kind of liberation we’re talking about.”
Today, when so much political discussion happens online, and “blocking” someone requires only the flick of a finger, it can be hard to imagine such politically divergent groups making common cause. Then, the stakes felt high enough — and change felt close enough — that all kinds of women joined forces and walked together in the same direction. There were anywhere from 10,000 and 50,000 participants in New York City alone. Five thousand women gathered on Boston Common, 2,000 in San Francisco’s Union Square, 1,000 in Washington, another 1,000 in Los Angeles and hundreds more in cities like Baltimore, Seattle and Dayton, Ohio. Such a massive demonstration for women’s rights wouldn’t be seen again until the 2017 Women’s Marches, judged to be the largest demonstration in U.S. history.
As women marched, hecklers — mostly men, some wearing brassieres mockingly — stood on the sidelines, throwing pennies and jeering, “You look pretty good for being oppressed!” Two women’s groups, Men Our Master’s (MOM) and the Pussy-Cat League, Inc. (slogan: “Purr, Baby, Purr”) also held their own counterprotests. But for many women, Aug. 26, 1970, was just a normal day full of errands and chores. “We’re busy squeezing tomatoes like we do every day,” said one shopper, flanked by her three children.
The day ended at 8 p.m. in Bryant Park, with a series of speeches. Friedan thanked God that she was born a woman. The future congresswoman Bella Abzug drew cheers when she reiterated the day’s three core demands. Eleanor Holmes Norton, chair of the city’s Commission on Human Rights, demanded that the Senate pass the Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.). Kate Millett, who earned her Ph.D. at Columbia University in New York and was the author of the best-selling book “Sexual Politics,” surveyed the women before her. “You’re beautiful — I love you,” she said. “At last we have a movement.”
In the weeks after the strike, NOW’s membership increased by 50 percent, and a CBS News poll found that four out of five people had read or heard about women’s liberation. In 1972, Title IX passed, guaranteeing equality in education. In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that women had the constitutional right to access abortion services without excessive government interference. But just one year after the strike, President Richard Nixon crushed one of the movement’s major goals by vetoing a national child care bill, warning that it would amount to “a long leap into the dark for the United States government and the American people.”
Today, the gender pay gap has narrowed, and according to a Pew Research Center poll, 61 percent of American women think the term “feminist” describes them well. Yet 45 percent of this same group think feminism is not inclusive.
That was exactly the issue that Friedan had in mind when planning 1970 Women’s Strike, insisting that the action be for all women, including and especially for groups “whose style, origins, structure and general ambience might be quite different from ours.”
July 9, 1978: Feminists Make History With Biggest-Ever March for the Equal Rights Amendment
In the largest march for women’s rights in the nation’s history – nearly three times the size of the largest suffrage parade, and at least twice as big as the landmark August 26, 1970 march in New York – a hundred thousand supporters of equality took to the streets of Washington, D.C., today to call for an extension of the deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The spectacle was as colorful as it was powerful, with over 325 delegations, representing a wide coalition of groups, displaying their names on purple, white and gold banners. Those were the colors of the National Woman’s Party, which in February, 1921, just six months after having played a major role in winning the struggle for the vote, began turning its efforts toward the next logical step of achieving “absolute equality.”
Appropriately, the first banner in today’s march paid tribute to the National Woman’s Party’s founder, and the author of the E.R.A.: “Alice Paul, 1885-1977.” This was followed by an antique trolley car carrying several veterans of the battle for “Votes for Women,” which ended successfully on August 26, 1920, after a 72-year effort. Numerous participants saluted the suffragists by dressing in white, as many had done in parades and pageants, plus other events such as the “Silent Sentinel” picketing of President Wilson from 1917 to 1919.
The unexpectedly large turnout overwhelmed everyone, from organizers who had to delay the start for 90 minutes, to police who suddenly had to close all of Constitution Avenue instead of just half. It was more than three hours after the start of the march that the last delegation finally made its way from the Mall to the rally on the West Steps of the Capitol. There the crowd heard 35 nationally known speakers tell why the E.R.A. is needed and that the battle can be won.
“This is just the beginning,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the National Organization for Women, sponsor of the rally. She then said:
We are here because our hearts are here, our souls are here and our spirits long for liberty and justice. And we will not – we will not ever – accept a country in which we remain second-class citizens ! The E.R.A. – liberty for women – is not an idea. It is not just a hope. It is a spirit that lives in each one of us, and it can’t go away. We can’t go home to the 19th Century because we are going to march into the 21st ! So we will march, we will demonstrate, we will petition, we will write letters, we will work this summer like we have never worked before, and we will march into history. We will finish and complete the American dream. We will make real the promise of equality for all.
Other speakers and marchers expressed similar feelings. Esther Rolle, best known for her roles in the hit shows “Maude” and “Good Times,” said: “Congress better wake up. There will be political consequences if E.R.A. doesn’t get the support it should.” Patsy Mink, of Americans for Democratic Action agreed, saying: “If they dare to turn us down, we will turn them out on the next election day.” Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY), sponsor of H.J.R. 638, which would extend E.R.A.’s present deadline of March 22, 1979, said: “Time is on our side and we will win !”
Eleanor Holmes Norton, of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asked:
“How will people look at us 50 years from now if Congress doesn’t even give us more time ? We look back on history and we wonder what all the fuss was about over an issue. The point of E.R.A. is to get people to recognize that change is already here. You see a 22-year-old girl with a cop’s hat and you know that 20 years ago, a girl the same age would have been a secretary in the police station.”
N.O.W.’s first president, Betty Friedan, marched along on this hot and humid day, and said: “It’s an incredible turnout. I don’t see how anybody could say there wasn’t support for E.R.A. with this crowd showing up in this weather.”
Eleanor Smeal had also noted the huge numbers for this event and the lack of anything comparable by “Stop E.R.A.” forces, when she said, to the delight of the audience: “Phyllis Schlafly – wherever you are – eat your heart out !”
Former N.O.W. presidents Wilma Scott Heide and Karen DeCrow were there to participate in N.O.W.’s largest event ever, ably coordinated by Jane Wells-Schooley, who had only weeks to turn a N.O.W. Board Resolution into a march and rally of truly historic proportions.
The campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment was formally kicked off by the National Woman’s Party on July 21, 1923, as part of its commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Conference of July 19-20, 1848. The E.R.A. was introduced into the U.S. Senate on December 10, 1923 and into the House three days later. It was passed by Congress on March 22, 1972, following overwhelming approval by both House (354-24) and Senate (84-8). A seven-year deadline was set at the time, but as was first noted by law students and N.O.W. members Catherine Timlin and Alice Bennett, the deadline is not part of the text of the amendment, so it can be altered or deleted by a simple majority of Congress.
Thirty-five of the thirty-eight State ratifications needed occurred between March 22, 1972 and January 24, 1977. Had just EIGHT individual State Senators changed their votes, the E.R.A. would have gotten three more State ratifications and become part of the Constitution on March 1, 1977. (In 1975 an E.R.A. ratification resolution was passed by the Florida House and the Nevada House, but it came up three votes short in the Senate in both states. In 1977 the North Carolina House passed a ratification resolution, but it came up 2 votes short in the Senate.)
The American people are ready for equality, as public support for the E.R.A. stands at 64% according to a recent CBS/New York Times poll, and at 58% according to Gallup. The E.R.A.’s full text is:
“Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
“Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
“Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”
The extension resolution is currently being considered by the House Judiciary Committee, and a vote is expected soon. As many as 5,000 of today’s marchers are expected to stay overnight and then participate in Monday’s “Lobby Day” on Capitol Hill to keep up the momentum generated by today’s mass march.
Why women’s suffrage matters for Black people
A group of people march in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment on Aug. 26, 1970, in New York City. John Olson/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images
While our collective memory of the suffrage movement is often a vision of a small band of white women &mdash fighting the establishment alone, marching and picketing in their flowy white dresses &mdash the story of the women&rsquos movement was more complicated and nuanced than that. It involved many women, but also men, of different races who had to find their voice, identify allies and build coalitions.
As the centennial of the 19th Amendment&rsquos certification on Aug. 26, 1920, approaches, many African Americans have questioned whether the suffrage movement is relevant to them, because most Black people in the South were disenfranchised anyway. For many African Americans, the movement&rsquos reputation for discriminating against or dismissing Black suffragists and the long history of discord between white and Black feminists do not inspire enthusiasm for the anniversary celebration.
As we approach the centennial and the first presidential election with a Black/Asian woman in the race, the first woman of color on a major political party&rsquos ticket, we should examine how we got the vote and at what cost.
To dismiss the suffrage movement as irrelevant dishonors the many Black women and men who participated &mdash lobbying, debating, lecturing, petitioning, editorializing, parading and picketing alongside white suffragists.
As women are gaining greater leverage in the political system, now is the time to study and credit the contributions of all suffragists and expand our knowledge of the entire movement.
In many ways, the history of the women&rsquos suffrage movement is inseparable from the history of race in the United States, as it is from so many issues. Indeed, the women&rsquos rights movement was rooted in the anti-slavery movement, and African Americans were involved from the start.
When the American Anti-Slavery Society, founded in 1831 by William Lloyd Garrison, barred women from joining, Lucretia Mott, a white radical abolitionist and Quaker preacher, and other women formed the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. Among them were Black women such as Charlotte Forten and her daughters, Margaretta Forten, Sarah Purvis and Harriet Purvis Grace Bustill Douglass and Sarah McCrummell.
Mott recalled the first national Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women, held May 9, 1837, in New York City. When a second convention was held in 1838 in Philadelphia, a mob opposed to &ldquorace mixing&rdquo broke up a meeting and later burned down the building, Pennsylvania Hall, about three days after it opened.
Mott considered those conventions the start of the women&rsquos movement. Other suffrage leaders generally set the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention in New York as the beginning of the movement. Mott was one of the conveners of that meeting, but to her the movement was already 10 years old by then, according to The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women&rsquos Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898, by Lisa Tetrault.
The organizers of the Seneca Falls Convention asked famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass to publish a notice in his newspaper and urged him to attend. They also advertised it in other local newspapers. It was a hastily called meeting organized within about 10 days&rsquo time from idea to execution by a handful of mostly Quaker women, but it attracted 300 women and men from nearby villages and the countryside of upstate New York. That meeting did not focus on suffrage but rather on all the freedoms that women lacked &ndash the rights to receive an education, own property, divorce husbands, maintain custody of children or pursue professions. When Elizabeth Cady Stanton offered a resolution seeking the vote, attendees, women and men, greeted it with great derision and resistance. Stanton&rsquos husband, Henry Brewster Stanton, a prominent abolitionist orator, had warned her that if she included the demand for the vote, he would not attend, as other organizers&rsquo husbands did. Only Douglass spoke in favor of the resolution. Without his eloquent defense, it probably would not have carried.
Douglass was among the 32 men, along with 68 women, who signed the Declaration of Sentiments.
Sojourner Truth emancipated herself and her baby before slavery was abolished in New York in 1827.
Before that time, women were largely barred from speaking before audiences of men and women together. The first American woman to do so was a free Black woman, Maria W. Stewart of Boston, who spoke on abolition and women&rsquos rights from about 1831 to 1833.
Other Black women who followed in her footsteps as abolitionist lecturers in the 1850s were Frances E.W. Harper, also a free Black woman and poet, and Sojourner Truth, who emancipated herself and her baby before slavery was abolished in New York in 1827. Both attended and addressed national women&rsquos rights conventions for a decade before, and again after, the Civil War. Truth attended for the first time in 1850 and addressed several conventions. Harriet Purvis and her sister Margaretta Forten also attended some women&rsquos conventions. Harriet Purvis&rsquo husband, Robert Purvis, often attended as well, as did other prominent Black men, such as Charles Lenox Remond, an abolitionist lecturer, and William Still, the Underground Railroad leader.
(Douglass would continue attending women&rsquos conventions until the day he died in 1895.)
The conventions were suspended during the Civil War, and Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, an abolitionist lecturer who had emerged as a leader in the women&rsquos movement, set up an office in New York City to gather petitions demanding passage of the 13th Amendment to make emancipation permanent.
After the war, as voting was about to be extended to Black men, women realized they too could obtain the vote through a federal amendment and believed they had earned it by their sacrifices during the war. Men pushing for the 14th Amendment and later the 15th Amendment, to establish Black men&rsquos rights, told the women they would have to wait.
&ldquoThis hour belongs to the Negro,&rdquo declared Wendell Phillips, a white Bostonian who headed the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1865. &ldquoAs Abraham Lincoln said, &lsquoOne war at a time,&rsquo so I say, &lsquoOne cause at a time.&rsquo This is the Negro&rsquos hour.&rdquo
Stanton began writing virulently racist editorials in a newspaper she had started with Anthony, railing against giving the vote to uneducated Black men and immigrants. &ldquoPatrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung who do not know the difference between a Monarchy and a Republic, who never read the Declaration of Independence or Webster&rsquos spelling book,&rdquo Stanton wrote. She was advocating for &ldquoeducated suffrage.&rdquo
She had stormed out of a meeting of the American Equal Rights Association in 1869 after a white abolitionist man told her that her position conflicted with the group&rsquos purpose. Within days, she and Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) to work for the women&rsquos cause only.
Some women, white and Black, including Harper, agreed with Phillips&rsquo position, and so did Douglass.
A look at the women&rsquos suffrage brochure and stamp from 1915.
David J. & Janice L. Frent/Corbis via Getty Images
Truth did not: &ldquoI am glad to see that men are getting their rights, but I want women to get theirs, and while the water is stirring, I will step into the pool,&rdquo she said. &ldquoNow that there is a great stir about colored men getting their rights is the time for women to step in and have theirs.&rdquo
Lucy Stone, a white abolitionist and prominent lecturer, and others (men and women) formed the American Woman Suffrage Association to support the 15th Amendment and seek women&rsquos suffrage at the same time. Each association had African American members. The two groups remained separate until 1890 when they merged to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).
After the adoption of the 14th and 15th amendments, some women began to argue that those two measures already gave women the right to vote because they were &ldquocitizens.&rdquo A Black woman, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, a law student at Howard University, petitioned the House Judiciary Committee making that argument. She had attended an NWSA convention in 1871. Cary registered to vote that year but was not allowed to cast a ballot. In 1876, she gave the NWSA the names of 94 Black women to be included as signers of a women&rsquos Declaration of Rights for the nation&rsquos centennial.
In the new NAWSA, Anthony began pushing a &ldquoSouthern strategy&rdquo to broaden support for suffrage in a region where women had shied away from the movement or were against it. Southern lawmakers would have denied all women the right to vote just to keep Black women from having it, even though they had largely disenfranchised Black men anyway. They would certainly be appalled by an integrated convention, Anthony reasoned. She asked African Americans, including her longtime friend Douglass, to stay away from conventions in the South.
Adella Hunt Logan, an educator at Tuskegee Institute, attended the association&rsquos convention in Atlanta in 1895 anyway, passing for white, according to her granddaughter and biographer, Adele Logan Alexander.
While courting Southern supporters, Anthony was willing to offend Black women at a time when they were increasingly interested in the movement. She turned down a request from Black women to form their own chapter of NAWSA. Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the crusading journalist, criticized her for it, saying, &ldquoShe might have made gains for suffrage, but she confirmed white women in their attitude of segregation.&rdquo
Undeterred, Black women all over the country were becoming a powerful force through their churches and clubs that were springing up all over. Increasingly, African American women were interested in organizing to support the suffrage movement. They formed the National Association of Colored Women with Mary Church Terrell, a Washington activist, as president. Terrell also addressed several NWSA conventions and an international women&rsquos conference, where she addressed the body in English, French and German.
By 1913, Anthony, who died in 1906, and Stanton, in 1902, were out of the way but racial division was not. The Black suffragists heard about plans for a huge suffrage parade in Washington to be held the day before the presidential inauguration of Woodrow Wilson. Alice Paul, a suffragist from New Jersey, was the main organizer of the parade. She was under pressure to exclude Black marchers to avoid offense to Southerners. NAWSA leaders also pressed her to include them, and she relented.
In the confusion, one of the organizers told Wells-Barnett she could not march with the white Illinois delegates she came with but should march with Black delegates. She pretended to comply, left her delegation and hid on the sidelines. When her delegation passed, she fell into step with the white women from her state.
Among those marching were Delta Sigma Theta sorority&rsquos founders from Howard University, accompanied by Terrell.
What&rsquos 🔥 Right Now
A few years later, Terrell, along with her daughter, sometimes joined Paul&rsquos followers in picketing the White House, Terrell recalled in her autobiography. Many of Paul&rsquos picketers went to jail and suffered horrific conditions, beatings and forced feedings to secure passage of the 19th Amendment. Terrell said she narrowly missed going to jail because she was unavailable to picket one day.
The fact that racism often marred the good efforts of suffragists should not dampen the enthusiasm for celebrating this milestone for women. After the adoption of the 19th Amendment, Black women in the South were still largely disenfranchised, as were other racial or ethnic groups. Black women outside the region organized and voted enthusiastically, and if white women had not gotten the vote, Black women certainly would not have.
The women&rsquos rights movement of the 19th and 20th centuries also secured other important rights, notably opportunities for education and employment &mdash though the struggle for pay equity, economic justice and other rights continues for all women.
"Women Strike for Equality"
Ten thousand women marched down New York's Fifth Avenue on August 26, 1970, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Far from a simple celebration, the march was part of a "Women's Strike for Equality" organized by veteran feminist leader Betty Friedan. Friedan had called for the strike in a March 20 speech in Des Plaines, Illinois, and had planned the day's events with a coalition of both veteran and younger feminist women.
The march featured placards with slogans like "Don't Iron While the Strike Is Hot," "End Human Sacrifice—Don't Get Married," and, more simply, "Women Demand Equality." Among the groups participating were the National Organization for Women, the Young Women's Christian Association, the National Coalition of American Nuns, Feminists in the Arts, and Women Strike for Peace. The women marching, and participating in the day's other actions, were diverse, but they presented three clear demands, repeated in every media account of the strike. The Strike movement demanded free abortion on demand, free 24-hour community-controlled child care centers, and equal opportunity in jobs and education.
Events over the course of the day gave additional weight to these demands. In New York's City Hall Park, women staged a demonstration day-care center. Another group of women visited targeted companies and presented satiric "awards" for under-employing women and for creating degrading images of women. Similar events took place in other cities. Boston women marched in academic gowns with a banner reading "Veritas [Harvard University's motto] is a feminine noun." Pittsburgh women sponsored a day-long conference on women's rights. And women in several cities gathered signatures and staged rallies and marches advocating Senate passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.
In New York, the speakers at the evening march included a battery of Jewish women long active in the feminist movement. Congressional candidate Bella Abzug, writer Gloria Steinem, and former Miss America Bess Myerson Grant, then the city's Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, joined Friedan on the platform. Although Jewish women would later struggle with anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism within the American feminist movement, the 1970 strike was emblematic of the crucial role that Jewish women played in forming and advancing that movement.
Although businesses and retail stores reported little effect from the strike, the New York City mayor, New York State governor, and President Nixon all issued proclamations officially recognizing the day. Organizers were also pleased at the number of African-American women participating the feminist movement had been largely a white, middle-class phenomenon. Despite some heckling from men and from reactionary women's groups, Friedan declared the day's events a success "beyond our wildest dreams."
Sources:New York Times, August 23, 1970 August 26, 1970 August 27, 1970 August 30, 1970 Amy Swerdlow, Women Strike for Peace: Traditional Motherhood and Radical Politics in the 1960s (Chicago, 1993).
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Did Tiffany & Co. manufacture a sterling silver pin for women's Equality Day in shape of a Dove with the symbol for female engraved or stamped in it? The seller reports that it was made for the march. True or false?
I helped plan the events of that day and ran several, like the Mass for the Repose of the Soul of Male Supremacy in Times Square, where we put a plaque saying a statue of Sojourner Truth and Susan B Anthony would replace Father Duffy.. We also put out an edition of THE NOW YORK TIMES , " All the news that would give The Times fits" written as though women were running the world and began the day distributing copies in buses and subways and then, at The Times, where guards kept us from entering the elevators. Judy Klemesrud, a young Times journalist let us in thru a side door. We ran around the building giving copies to everyone .. ( later women employees sued The Times). We ended up meeting with the then editor, who treated us with disdain. The Times underplayed the success of that day and lied about the numbers who marched. Saying 10,000 marched! There were 50,000 or more marching. It was an incredible day that turned a small NOW organization and a few women's liberation groups into a Movement. Women we'd never heard of joined our march in NYC and all over the nation began to fight for rights in their cities , states and in the nation. It was an incredible time, with many successes and some great losses, like the ERA , which had passed Congress and Senate and died in the States.. However the Movement that day started still exists , though the momentum has changed. And Betty Friedan instigated all this. Jacqui ceballos.. www.vfa.us
On August 26, 1970, a gathering of 10,000 women in New York took to the streets of Manhattan to both celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and demand further rights for women. The march was organized by Betty Friedan and a coalition of feminist activists, including the National Organization for Women (NOW), the YWCA, the National Coalition of American Nuns, Feminists in the Arts, and Women Strike for Peace.
Feminists March on 50th Anniversary of 19th Amendment - HISTORY
Alongside NOW, other more radical feminist groups emerged during the 1960s among college students who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left. Women within these organizations for social change often found themselves treated as "second-class citizens," responsible for kitchen work, typing, and serving "as a sexual supply for their male comrades after hours." "We were the movement secretaries and the shit-workers," one woman recalled. "We were the earth mothers and the sex-objects for the movement's men." In 1964, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson presented an indignant assault on the treatment of women civil rights workers in a paper entitled "The Position of Women in SNCC," to a SNCC staff meeting. Stokely Carmichael reputedly responded, "The only position for women in SNCC is prone."
In cities across the country, independent women's groups sprouted up in 1967. In the fall, at the first national gathering of women's groups at the National Conference for New Politics, women demanded 51 percent of all committee seats in the name of minority rights. When men refused to meet their demands, the women walked out--signaling the beginning of a critical split between the New Left and the women's movement. The next year, radical women's groups appeared on the front pages of the nation's newspapers when they staged a protest of the Miss America pageant and provided a "freedom trash can," in which women could throw "old bras, girdles, high heeled shoes, women's magazines, curlers, and other instruments of torture to women." They concluded their rally by crowning a sheep Miss America.
Over the next three years, the number of women's liberation groups rapidly multiplied, bearing such names as the Redstockings, WITCH (the Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), and the Feminists. By 1970, there were at least 500 women's liberation groups, including 50 in New York, 25 in Boston, 30 in Chicago, and 35 in San Francisco. Women's liberation groups established the first feminist bookstores, battered women's shelters, rape crisis centers, and abortion counseling centers. In 1971, Gloria Steinem and others published Ms., the first national feminist magazine. The first 300,000 copies were sold out in eight days.
Radical new ideas began to fill the air. One women's liberation leader, Ti-Grace Atkinson, denounced marriage as "slavery," "legalized rape," and "unpaid labor." Meanwhile, a host of new words and phrases entered the language, such as "consciousness raising," "Ms.," "bra burning," "sexism," "male chauvinist pig."
On August 26, 1970, the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the women's liberation movement dramatically demonstrated its growing strength by mounting a massive march called Strike for Equality. In New York City, 50,000 women marched down Fifth Avenue in Boston, 2,000 marched in Chicago, 3,000. Members of virtually all feminist groups joined together in a display of unity and strength.