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Feminist Chronicles - 1969

Events

The "Chicago Seven" were found not guilty of plotting to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention. (02/28/69)

Los Angeles NOW member Judith Meuli designed "The Brassy," the woman's symbol with the equality sign across the circle. The original version was handwelded of brass rod. (03/69)

Canada passed an omnibus crime bill that legalized abortion and homosexuality. (05/14/69)

When New York City Police entered the Stonewall Inn to harass gay patrons, they fought back and the modern gay and lesbian rights movement began. (06/28)The United States landed two astronauts on the moon: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." (07/20/69)

President Nixon issued Executive Order 11478 which required Affirmative Action programs in Federal employment. (08/08/69)

For one brief weekend, the Woodstock Nation, consisting of some 400,000 people, existed to hear the Who, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, the Band and Janis Joplin. (08/17/69)

After 60 years, the journalism society Sigma Delta Chi decided to admit women to membership. (11/69)

The largest anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C.'s history occurred when 250,000 people marched in the capital. Another 110,000 gathered in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. (11/15/69)

TRW featured NOW member and mathematician Poppy Northcott in its ads to tell the world of the key role she played in the Apollo mission control center. (1969)


Lifestyles

New York NOW's Abortion Committee formed New Yorkers for Abortion Law Repeal (NYALR), an independent statewide organization that has been characterized as the first abortion law repeal group whose philosophy was based entirely on a radical feminist analysis of the issue. NYALR campaigned against any restrictions on a women's access to abortion or any form of birth control. It also campaigned against passage of "reform" abortion laws. (01/69)

The first national conference on abortion laws convened in Chicago and decided to establish the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL). Lawrence Lader was the first chair. NOW's representatives included: Betty Friedan; Lucinda Cisler, East Coast Chair of NOW's National Abortion Committee; and Lana Phelan, West Coast Chair. Friedan spoke on abortion as "A Woman's Civil Right." (01/14-16/69)

The radical feminist group Redstockings was formed. The group practiced a formalized concept of consciousness raising and declared its principles in a document called "The Bitch Manifesto." (02/69)

Dolores Alexander, formerly a prize-winning reporter for Newsday (a Long Island daily newspaper), began work as NOW'S first National Executive Director (at half her previous salary). It was an act of faith since the best estimate of the balance in the national treasury was something under $600. Her job was to encompass membership processing, public relations, national correspondence and fundraising (also for the purpose of raising her own salary). National headquarters of NOW were to be housed in one room of her two-bedroom apartment in New York. This entailed moving NOW's possessions-one desk, a stationery storage cabinet, and one four-drawer filing cabinet and the records it contained-from Washington, D.C. to New York. This was accomplished by Alexander and Jean Faust, then President of New York NOW, in a station wagon borrowed from Muriel Fox. (02/10-13/69)

Members of Redstockings disrupted an abortion law reform hearing of the New York State legislature when the panel of witnesses turned out to be made up of 14 men and one nun. Like NOW, the group demanded the repeal, not reform, of all abortion laws. (02/13/69)

NOW's National Board established a Sports Task Force with its first objective to integrate the Soapbox Derby. (03/29)

In what NOW designated as "Freedom for Women Week," members demonstrated at the White House on Mother's Day for "Rights, Not Roses." Other demonstrations occurred in Chicago, Albuquerque and Los Angeles. (05/04-11/69)

NOW celebrated a victory in the People v. Belous case when the state supreme court found California's 100 year-old abortion law unconstitutional. Dr. Leon Belous, a member of NOW, had insisted on defending himself on constitutional grounds against the charge of making illegal abortion referrals. (09/05/69)


Education

NOW Chapters were involved in efforts to establish women's studies courses at universities in California, Michigan and at newly co-educational Princeton University. (1969)

Marlene Dixon, an Assistant Professor of Sociology, was fired from the University of Chicago for alleged radical teachings and being female. Her dismissal precipitated public demonstration in her support of both women's liberation groups and the radical student groups. (01/69)

The first accredited women's studies course appeared in the spring curriculum of Cornell University in New York State as a result of efforts by the recently formed Cornell-Ithaca Chapter of NOW. (03/69)

The first accredited women's law course was taught at New York University Law School. (09/69)

San Diego (CA) State College offered a 10-course program of women's studies, believed to be the first full program and most comprehensive in the country at the time. (10/69)


Economic

NOW proclaimed "Public Accommodations Week" and there were national actions at "men only" restaurants and bars and public carriers across the country including: New York City, Syracuse, Cochester (CT), Pittsburgh, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles. The assumptions behind policies like this were that women were not involved in business. Further, that unescorted women in bars were there for only one purpose: soliciting men for prostitution. In the Call to Action, Karen DeCrow, the national coordinator of the action, pointed out that Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade discrimination against anyone on the basis of race color, religion, or national origin in places of public accommodation but did not exclude discrimination on the basis of sex. Yet, she wrote, "the most basic right of all may be the right to equal treatment in places of public accommodation." Among the places picketed during the year were the Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel in New York by New York NOW, Stouffers Grill in Pittsburgh by Pittsburgh NOW, the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles by Los Angles NOW. (02/09/69)

After considerable pressure from NOW and other women's rights groups, public hearings were held on the Department of Labor's proposed sex discrimination guidelines to be issued to implement Executive Order 11375. (08/04-06)

The EEOC issued another set of guidelines declaring that state protective laws that applied only to women were in direct violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. (08/19/69)


Religion

The National Coalition of American Nuns was founded to support the civil rights and anti-war movements and to pressure for women's equality within the Catholic Church. (07/69)


Media

Sexual Politics, A Surprising Examination of Society's Most Arbitrary Folly, by Kate Millet, a historical and cultural analysis of sexism written originally as a doctoral thesis, became a widely debated and quoted best-seller. Kate Millet was an active member of New York NOW. (1969)

The logo that became the trademark of National NOW was designed by Ivy Bottini, a founder of the New York Chapter of NOW and a graphic designer, at the request of Aileen Hernandez, a national vice-president of NOW. Bottini also designed the logo for the National Women's Political Caucus, founded in 1971. (03/69)

Dr. JoAnn Evansgardner and other members of Pittsburgh NOW started their own press, KNOW, Inc., under the slogan, "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own the press." KNOW published the first articles and reprints for a burgeoning women's studies movement. (1969)

The highly-acclaimed children's television program, "Sesame Street," drew sharp criticism from feminists for its stereotypical portrayal of women and girls. As a result of the protest, some changes were made by the show's producers. (09/69)


Legal

The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the EEOC Guidelines prohibiting sex-segregated help wanted advertising and denied the appeal of the American Newspaper Publisher Association (ANPA). (01/24/69)

It was a major NOW victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals (Fifth Circuit) ruled in Weeks v. Southern Bell that the weight-lifting rule for women violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. NOW attorney Sylvia Roberts had used as evidence the example of a typewriter that Weeks, as a secretary, was required to lift, though it weighed more than the 30-pound limit being used to bar her from the job of switchman. ((03/04/69)

NOW won a victory in the Colgate-Palmolive case when the Appeals Court ruled that any weight-lifting test must be applied to all employees, male and female, and forbade separate male/female seniority lists. The Court also ruled any union contracts restricting jobs women could bid on were illegal and awarded back pay to the women. (09/26/69)

Pittsburgh NOW filed charges of sex discrimination against the Pittsburgh Press because of the paper's continued use of sex-segregated "Help Wanted" ads. (10/69)

NOW attorney Faith Seidenberg filed suit in Seidenberg v. McSorley's Old Ale House, asserting women's right to public accommodations. (11/13/69)


Political

The first Women's Caucus in a professional society was established in the American Sociological Association led by NOW charter member Dr. Alice Rossi. (09/03/69)

The First Congress to Unite Women, initiated by NOW was held in New York City. The coalition conference of over 500 feminists in the northeast region was coordinated and chaired by New York NOW President Ivy Bottini. The conference was closed to men and the media. The workshop reports and the conference resolutions represented a fusion of moderate and radical feminist interests. There were at least three other similar regional conferences in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago. (11/21-23/69)


The Backlash

Accuracy In the Media (AIM) was set up as the Right Wing's watch dog on "liberal bias" in the media. (1969)

The FBI initiated an investigation of the women's movement for possible subversive activity, though verification of this investigation did not come until 1977, when information about the surveillance was disclosed by an inquiry under the Freedom of Information Act. (01/69)

The Bulletin of the John Birch Society called for the establishment of an "organized, nationwide, intensive, angry and determined opposition to the now mushrooming program of so-called sex education in the public schools." The Birchers believed sex education was part of the "overall Communist design." The Birch Society's local Movement to Restore Decency (MOTOREDE) Committees, the Oklahoma-based Christian Crusade headed by the Rev. Billy James Hargis, and the American Education Lobby, another right wing group, led the attack that erupted in 34 states and targeted The Sex Information and Education Council (SIECUS). (01/69)

"A Matter of Simple Justice," a report by President Nixon's Task Force on Women's Rights and Responsibilities, was transmitted to the President, but the report was not released publicly until the following year because of its "militant tone." (12/15/69)

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