These minutes from the 1967 NOW convention reveal how feminists differed, often passionately, over the desirability of pursuing an Equal Rights Amendment. NOW's endorsement of the ERA was controversial among its members not because they did not believe in equal rights for women but because many still associated the amendment with formal equality—according identical treatment to men and women regardless of their different positions in society, disregarding the needs of working women. Some also believed that the Fourteenth Amendment litigation approach was strategically superior because it garnered more support among women's rights advocates and because courts had traditionally promised more venues for legal change than legislatures. By November 1967, however, pro-ERA members, including Betty Friedan, had mustered enough support within NOW for the amendment to overcome the objections of those, such as Pauli Murray, who wanted a legal strategy that would not alienate women in labor unions and civil rights organizations who were concerned about the future of protective labor laws.
Minutes of the National Organization for Women Conference
The annual meeting of the National Organization for Women was held in the meeting rooms of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC, November 18, and 19, 1967. The meeting was called at 9:00 AM, Saturday, November 18, 1967, in the Chinese Room.
President Betty Friedan presided over the meeting; Nancy Homer was the recording secretary.
Officers present were: Kathryn Clarenbach, Chairman of the Board Betty Friedan, President [???], Vice President East [???], Vice President West
Officers absent were: Caroline Davis, Secretary Treasurer
About 100 members were present
An introduction to the meeting was given by President Betty Friedan, outlining the policy of NOW and the work done in the past year. NOW is working for the enforcement of the sex clause in the 1964 Civil Rights Bill by helping women in job discrimination cases. NOW is tired of window dressing and would wish women to be represented in all major policy making decisions of government, state, and local organizations. In the 1968 elections let us make it clear that women demand representation in political parties. Congressmen, et al. must be told that we will not support them unless women are considered.
At this conference these propositions shall be considered: 1. Considering the rights of women: Pregnant women must have a right to work. A woman must recognize her rights of an American citizen not only as a mother. Child care money should be deducted from taxes in a working home. Women's right to work laws must be enforced. And lastly, the right of every woman to control her sexual life shall be considered.
Throughout the world the state of women is the same. Only in Sweden does it seem men and women are working together and achieving.
Legal Forces Report: Made by Marguerite Rawalt
Thirty members of NOW who are lawyers and judges are working on job discrimination cases without fees. There has been no meeting of this committee due to the geographical distribution problem.
NOW must adopt the by-laws of the organization to get a tax exemption. We must also set up a legal and defense fund—there are already 25 job discrimination NOW is handling.
So far there has not been a single court decision that has enforced section 7 of the Civil Rights Act. Neither the Attorney General nor the EEOC has intervened.
Credential Committee: Report made by Barbara Ireton
There are 89 registrants for the conference excluding officers. Rooms to be used for the conference are the Pan Am, Chinese, and Maryland rooms.
Betty Friedan announced the Task Force meetings would meet for 1 ½hours. The committees would report back to the delegates Sunday morning.
Women in Employment
Women in Poverty
Women in Education
Marriage and Family
Image of Woman
Women in Religion
Political Rights of Women
Adjourned 11:00 AM
Reconvened 2:00 PM, Saturday, November 18, 1967
President Betty Friedan presided.
Betty Friedan: The purpose of this afternoon meeting is to discuss and vote upon two resolutions: A resolution urging the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to approve the Equal Rights amendment and to call the Ninetieth Congress to approve this amendment, for the submission to the States for ratification.
And a resolution endorsing the principle that it is a basic right of every woman to control her reproductive life, and that those laws preventing abortion should be repealed.
As a preliminary to discussion of the Equal Rights Amendment, an example of what the law would amend was introduced. If an Equal Rights Amendment was passed, job discrimination would be outlawed. As of now, women are discriminated against by state protective laws. If the Equal Rights Amendment was passed and enforced, if the fair practices section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was enforced, state protective laws would be illegal.
An example of a job discrimination case NOW helped was the case of three women from Indiana who were denied higher paying jobs with the Colgate-Palmolive Company because of new weight-limit restrictions imposed on women workers. Georgiana Sellers, Ann Casey, and Lena Moore filed a complaint against the company for job discrimination, basing their complaint on Title 7 of the Civil Rts. Act. In the state of Indiana there is no state protective law prohibiting women from lifting 35 lbs. or more. To win the case, the company employers went beyond the borders of the state and enforced the protective law in their factory because in two other of their factories in different states they had the protective laws. The judge ruled in the company's favor. The case is on appeal.
Pauli Murray recommended a fund be set up for job discrimination cases. The recommendation was set aside for future discussion.
The resolution calling for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment was passed out and read aloud:
WHEREAS, the National Organization of Women (NOW) is incorporated for the purposes of taking action to achieve equal rights and responsibilities in all aspects of citizenship, public service, employment, education, and family life; and
WHEREAS, women have been unsuccessfully seeking equal rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution through litigation extending over a full century; and
WHEREAS, NOW is actively assisting women workers in seeking to invoke the protection of the United States Constitution to strike down statutes and official practices which deprive women of equal job opportunities; and
WHEREAS, other classes of women persons have been adjudged full recognition by the courts of complete equality without class distinction; and
WHEREAS, the Equal Rights Amendment would unequivocally secure the right to equal treatment under the law without differentiation based on sex; and
WHEREAS, opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment in the past was principally based on the presumed need for special "protective" labor legislation for women, the basis for which opposition Congress has removed by the enactment of the equal employment opportunity provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and
WHEREAS, there is now pending in Congress various joint resolutions, such as S.J. Res. 54 and H.J. Res. 52, which would amend the U.S. Constitution to provide that "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."
BE IT RESOLVED THAT, NOW urge the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to immediately report favorably on the Equal Rights Amendment and call upon the Ninetieth Congress to approve this amendment, without qualification, for submission to the States for ratification.
The resolution was read and followed by discussion from the floor.
Wilma Heide: Before we do anything, we must agree on the policy and principal of the resolution, not on timing or strategy.
Pauli Murray: Would like to make a substitute motion at a later time.
P. Indritz: The amendment will not be passed at this time. This amendment does not protect against company discrimination, just against state and federal discriminatory laws. We must have strategy and timing. This time is not good. No attention will be paid to the bill. First let us occupy ourselves with building a large membership, building a large fund, knowing where the areas of discrimination are and then attacking those areas.
Barbara Burris: This resolution is a tactic to be used. Either way the amendment goes— passed or not—women would know which senators are interested or not.
Patricia McDonald: We should focus our attention on this amendment. If we got support from others, then we would also be supported by the senators.
Elizabeth Farians: We must put support behind this bill.
Grace Cox: 61 men and women have placed their names on this petition: We support this resolution whether it passes or not. We must vote yes in support of this resolution.
Julia Arri: Moved the resolution.
Pauli Murray: I would like to make a substitute resolution.
(Unparliamentary discussion among delegates as to whether this is proper, to make a substitute motion when a move to vote on the resolution was just called for.)
Hernandez: We must have all sides heard—both positive and negative.
Parliamentarian: Parliamentary Procedure calls for an open debate. The discussion must continue if a party does not want the debate closed.
A motion to close the debate was defeated by a ⅔ majority.
Ben Newfeld: As far as tactics and strategy is concerned, does the board decide this?
Betty Friedan: Yes, strategy and tactics are involved in board decisions.
Newfeld: Even if NOW organization gets votes in support of the amendment, three fourths of the states are required to pass the amendment; it is very
doubtful that we will get that kind of support.
Farians: We should, instead of pushing it, put it down on record that we are in favor of the amendment and let it go at that.
Delores Alexander: I move we have two votes: one vote to decide how much time we will spend on this discussion and the other to vote on the resolution itself.
Pauli Murray: We should not take action on this serious proposal at this meeting. Let us consider alternatives.
(Unparliamentary discussion among members.)
Pauli Murray: The substitute motion I make is this: We must first consider whether women's rights are covered under the 5th and 14th amendments before we consider this resolution. If NOW takes a strong stand on the resolution as it stands we will alienate organizations who have given us support until now. We would form a committee to study the question!
Barbara Ireton: We have many organizations behind us already.
[???]: We don't want to appear like women who just want to make noise.
[???]: In Maryland the amendment was passed unanimously. Why couldn't we get support?
Grace Cox: The alternative motion must be heard.
Dorthy Haener: This is not an opportune time to give NOW support to the resolution supporting the Equal Rights Amendment. The UAW, which I officially represent, supplies NOW with supplies and services such as free paper, printing, mailing etc. If this resolution is passed, since the UAW is against it, then the services will no longer be supplied. I think we need support from organizations, and although I am personally in support of the resolution, I do not see how the support of the amendment will accomplish much at this time. Consider Pauli's substitute motion.
Cruthers: We must get our rights. In the political area, if the Equal Rights amendment is not passed, it will hamstring women in politics.
Delores Alexander: Will NOW be split because of the Equal Rights resolution?
[???]: Why shouldn't we bring the Equal Rights bill before Congress? Many bills have not been passed the first time they appear before the Congress. At least we will make a start.
Symchat: If we give this Rights Amendment support, many organizations who are supporting us will withdraw.
Marguerite Rawalt: In 1923 the 1st bill on civil rights was brought to Congress. It did not succeed. We received the protective amendment in lieu of civil rights. We have never had an equal job law, as yet we have had no decisions favorable under Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act—All we have is the right to
Inka O'Hanrahan: We must stand up and be counted. We are individuals and we want equal opportunity under law. Vote against the substitute motion.
A motion was made and seconded to vote on the substitute motion.
The substitute motion was read: To set up a committee to study the question whether or not women's rights were covered by the 5th and 14th amendments, and when the study is completed the board will bring up the question again.
Vote on substitute motion:
The substitute motion was defeated, and the debate on the Equal Rights Amendment.
[???]: I move that instead of the word equal we change the resolution so it will read human rights.
Pauli Murray: I am in favor of this.
Pat Trainer: I am in favor of the equal rights amendment. I must resign from NOW if human rights is substitute for equal rights. Human rights is too watered down.
[???]: I make a motion we should close debate on the first resolution. Vote on the resolution, then as a second motion we should discuss the wording of the resolution as to whether it will read equal or human rights.
The motion was made and seconded.
A vote on the motion to close debate on the Equal Rights resolution was passed by a ⅔ majority.
The resolution was read:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT, NOW urges the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to immediately report favorably on the Equal Rights Amendment and call upon the Ninetieth Congress to approve this amendment, without qualification, for submission to the States for ratification.
Vote on Resolution
The Abstentions are recorded.
The second motion, made stating that we should discuss the wording of the resolution was not voted on. It was decided the wording could be worked out later.
There was a short break before the meeting discussed the resolution on abortion.
Announcement by Grace Cox: NOW will be incorporated in DC in two weeks.
The meeting discussed that the following proposal be added as an amendment to the United States Constitution:
The right of a woman to prevent conception and with proper Medical safeguards to terminate her pregnancy shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state.
Alice Rossi read her paper on the subject of abortion entitled:
Sociological Argument In Support of Effect of Denial of Right to a Woman to Control Her Own Reproductive Life
AND added that reform bills aimed at revising the abortion laws were first presented in 1959. Since that time there have been thirty states in which bills were presented and only in a few states had the bills passed.
Discussion from the Floor:
[???]: It is the constitutional right of each woman. This is part of the sexual revolution.
[???]: This resolution would be a step to overcome the plight of the poor.
[???]: We must have responsible parentage.
[???]: Negro women are forced to get abortions so they will not lose their welfare checks.
[???]: So far not a thought has been given to women, who are the most concerned on the question of abortion. A conference that was held in Washington a while ago had not one woman in attendance.
[???]: We must have an education campaign.
[???]: How old must you be to be sexually free?
Rossi: If no harm will come of it, People should be free to do as they chose. If they want pre-marital relations, then let them.
Indritz: NOW should not support pre-marital relations.
Edith [???]: I suppose few of you have heard of disexity. This is a relatively simple, painless operation performed on the male to prevent conception. This is the safest possible way but this is never considered in any discussion on birth control—
Page Palmer: People will not join this organization if we adopt this resolution.
Kevin Sweeney: People will not become members—the American Law Institute's bills are sufficient.
Rossi: The ALI bills are very limited. Abortions may be performed only in the case a woman's physical or mental health would be impaired, or in case of rape, incest, or other felonious intercourse. The abortions may be okayed only by a panel of five—this committee may stall around if they want to—by then it is too
late to obtain an abortion or take your case to another panel. It is a woman who is responsible for the care of a child. Let it be her decision.
[???]: If we do not take a stand, a strong stand on this issue we will take a loss in membership of girls in their 20's. We women must have courage to take this stand.
[???]: Any reform must result from pressure for that reform. I joined NOW to take a stand on this issue and to apply pressure for reform.
Farians: The Catholic members of NOW will quit even though many things are changing in the church. Some avant-garde theologians are already debating the question of abortion.
[???]: I am against murder.
[???]: What are you putting on Me? Each woman has a right to decide whether or not she will or will not have an abortion.
[???]: This stand on abortion is not especially controversial. People are very interested in the question of abortion.
[???]: There are other organizations devoted to this question. Why does NOW have to be? Show me another organization and I'll back out of this one.
[???]: There are other, new responsibilities. I recommend we bring this question up next year—
[???]: We need to get started on the RIGHT tract—
Fox: WE have a grave responsibility to other members. Don't table the abortion stand but don't alienate people in the process.
Rawalt: We have our newspaper image to think of. Why not leave local chapters to okay abortion or not?
[???]: We must be cautious. We don't want to be considered a NUT group.
[???]: This is not a radical consideration. This is a major question.
Eliza Pashal: This is not a radical question. In Atlanta, Georgia, a group of men came to me to ask what I thought of them organizing a committee to study the problems of abortion.
Wilma Reido: We want social change—this is institutional change. Should we not instead educate people?
Graham: To influence the legislature we must be a strong, large, powerful organization. This organization will never be large and powerful—but we can be controversial. Our ideas will be heard. NOW will be in the forefront we have to take a stand now.
Rossi: If we decide to go along with the ALI reform bills instead of the resolution—then we aren't concerned with the people— e.g. the negro communities' problems of control of illegitimacy. We don't want to be associated with ALI. Abortions are unlawful, but in order to receive government welfare checks, negro women must break the law to receive the abortion law that the same government made.
Psychiatrists rarely tell the real reason abortions have such an emotional effect on women—it could be because it is unlawful and they feel guilty but instead they say it is sado-masochistic; a woman wants an abortion so she can feel guilty about the sexual act. This is silly.
[???]: We must take a bold stand on principle.
[???]: A person must take good care of the children one wants.
[???]: To be against abortion is the clergy's idea— not God's decision. There has been so many reforms in the Catholic Church—these reforms have not been made by God but by men. Today clergy can marry, but for centuries it has been assumed it was against God's will that priests should marry.
O'Hanrahan: All things concerned are decided by the individual. This is the age of the individual, no the age of tutelage by dogma.
[???]: How much abortion:
Rossi: moved and seconded that the resolution be put to a vote.
The meeting ended with Muriel Fox making a substitute motion: She proposed to meet with Alice Rossi to form a new statement.
Vote on the substitute motion.
The substitute motion should have been defeated.
The meeting was adjourned.
Reconvened 8:30 PM Saturday, November 18, 1967 in the Chinese Room.
Rossi read the substitute resolution: We offer an alternative. We withdraw the first resolution and offer instead:
NOW endorses the basic policy of women to control their own reproduction. We therefore encourage sex education, distribution of contraceptives, and the reappraisal of existing abortion laws.
Discussion from the floor
Ti-Grace Atkinson: This substitute is a questioning not a stand, not a principle. It is a compromise.
[???]: Rights and equality come with responsibility. If women want rights in other areas they must be responsible for their own reproduction.
[???]: The revised statement is good. It can benefit the progressive state of New York and also the others.
[???]: Most states have studied this issue as it is stated in the present substitute motion. Won't legislatures say they have already studied it?
Rossi: Senators should want to hear of this principle.
Indritz: The words of the resolution should be changed. Instead of reappraisal use the word challenge.
Friedan: We can't weaken NOW. We must get a statement that most people will agree on.
New York delegate: People are worried about the press image. We must go onward.
Friedan: We should not compromise—we must pioneer. The basic dialogue must go on with the legislature.
Indritz: All laws penalizing abortion should be repealed. Substitute this phrase. We will not be watering down the resolution.
[???]: NOW should endorse the principle that woman control her reproductive processes and that it should be a matter between her physician and herself.
Burris: This question of abortion can only be answered yes or no.
Ti-Grace Atkinson: We are faced with an issue of integrity. We want to be pioneers, but we can not—so we should let people who want to be, be the pioneers. Be courageous or stay silent.
[???]: There are many variables in the opposition to a watered down resolution.
[???]: A husband can divorce his wife if she obtains an abortion without his permission in some states.
[???]: We either take a stand on abortion or not. Why do we need a conscience all of a sudden?
Discussion from the floor ended. A motion was made and seconded that a vote should be taken on the resolution. (Allowing for the change: "and all laws penalizing abortion shall be repealed.")
Vote on the resolution concerning abortion
The resolution was passed.
The meeting then had a talk on job discrimination. Aileen Hernandez, a past employee of the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) introduced Sonia Pressman, a present employee of the EEOC, to talk on the subject of the action a woman can take against job discrimination and what part the EEOC takes in the case. Sonia Pressman briefly outlined what Title 7 covers, explaining that federal law in most cases conflict with state protective laws. Employers can not run segregated job ads in the papers. Insurance benefits must be equal for both men and women. AN employer can not refuse to employ a married women. There are many court cases resulting from Title 7; many more cases than were expected when the word sex was added to the Civil Rights act. Sonia Pressman then reviewed the legal procedures one should take in discrimination cases.
Aileen Hernandez: Title 7 is difficult to interpret. That is why women are having hard times wining cases. When the committee worked on the Civil Rights Bill and added the word sex, they did not believe it would be taken seriously;
The question of sex and that of race, many people think is too
different. The way in which the EEOC operated when I was employed by them, convinced me that there is little commitment of the US Federal government on the sex discrimination law. NOW has challenged the EEOC because they do not have fair representation of women in their committee. We must have equal representation.
The meeting was adjourned: 11:00 PM
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