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Feminist Chronicles - 1976

Events

NOW adopted the Women's Bicentennial Medallion as a fundraiser for the ERA ratification campaign. It was designed by Judith Meuli and Toni Carabillo. (01/76)

The Senate agreed to NOW's demands for hearings in the death of Karen Silkwood, Kerr-McGee nuclear plant employee. The 28-year-old mother of three had been killed in a suspicious auto accident November 13, 1974, as she traveled to meet a New York Times investigative reporter. The Senate, however, referred the hearings to Rep. John Dingell's House Subcommittee on Energy & Environment. (04/26/76)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot require a woman seeking an abortion to get consent from her husband or force all single girls under 18 desiring an abortion to get permission from a parent. The decision struck down a 1974 Missouri law, but upheld a provision requiring a woman to give her written consent before the operation can be performed. The vote on the spousal consent requirement was 6-3 (Burger, White and Rehnquist voted with the anti-choice minority). The vote on the parental consent requirement was 5-4 with Stevens joining the three opposed to abortion. (06/30/76)

Jimmy Carter won the presidential election, defeating incumbent President Gerald Ford with 50.08% of the vote. (11/02/76)

Massachusetts voters approved a state ERA by 60-40 margin. Colorado voters rejected repeal of their state ERA, which had been in effect since 1972. (11/02/76)

A Harris Poll (taken in late October of 1,720 voters) showed support for the U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision was 60-31; ERA support (shared by Carter and Ford) was 65-27, and Catholic support for legalized abortion was 52-39. (11/02/76)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a suit against General Electric Co. (GE v. Gilbert), that employers could exclude pregnancy from sickness and accident disability insurance plans without violating federal prohibitions against sex discrimination. (12/07/76)


Lifestyles

Redbook magazine surveyed sexual harassment in the workplace. Replies from 9,000 young women (in their 20s and 30s) showed that 90% thought the problem was "serious." (01/76)

The national NOW board recommended that the NOW LDEF provide legal and financial support for Mary Jo Risher in her custody suit. Dallas County (TX) NOW launched a national fundraiser for the lesbian mother's case.(01/24-25/76)

NOW opened its new Action Center in Washington, D.C., and projected its first $1 million budget. (01/05/76)

NOW established a national Task Force on Battered Women/ Household Violence. Del Martin and Nancy Kirk-Gormley chaired. (02/76)

More than 1,500 women participated in the New York City NOW chapter "Walk Against Rape" through Central Park. (03/76)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that states could impose criminal penalties for a homosexual act-even though it was between consenting adults, in private. The ruling upheld a lower Federal Court decision in a Virginia case. (03/29/76)

President Ford vetoed a child care bill, saying it would cause "unwarranted Federal interference" in states' rights and cost the taxpayer too much. The standards established in the vetoed legislation would have required a minimum number of adult workers to care for children between the ages of six weeks and six years at child day care centers. The Day Care Services Act would have provided financial aid to child care centers and funding to hire welfare mothers to staff them. (04/06/76)

Maryland NOW supported, with lobbying and testimony, a state Displaced Homemakers (DH) Bill. NOW called for a national act to be signed by President Carter by Mothers Day 1977. Earlier, Florida was the second state to pass a DH bill, though its center had not yet opened. Seven other states had filed bills, and five states had drafted Displaced Homemaker bills. Laurie Shields, coordinator of NOW's Task Force on Older Women, traveled to many of these states to organize support for their passage. (05/76)

U.S. District Judge Gerhard Gesell upheld the right of the Air Force to dismiss Sgt. Leonard Matlovich for being gay. Despite his decision, Judge Gesell implored the Air Force to change their regulations. "The time has come or may be imminent when the military services must address the problem of homosexuality. Public attitudes are clearly changing, moving more in the direction of tolerance," he said. (07/16/76)

According to the Harris Poll, 65% of Americans approved of the ERA with only 27% opposed. (11/04/76)

The Washington Post reported that a study by the Post and Harvard University's Center for International Affairs showed that men were as supportive of feminist goals as women. Strongest feminist support came from people aged 18-30. Among those 45 or older, only 39% of the men and 25% of the women chose careers and jobs over family and home life as primary goals for women. (09/28/76)


Education

Mt. Pleasant (MI) NOW chapter filed a Title IX complaint with HEW when school officials tried to fill two administrative jobs by recruiting only among the current Mt. Pleasant district administrative staff - all white males. (03/07/76)

The nation's first Displaced Homemakers Center opened at Mills College in Oakland, CA. Tish Sommers, coordinator of the NOW Task Force on Older Women, was the founding director. (05/76)

PEER, a project of NOW's Legal Defense & Education Fund, charged 40 states and Washington D.C. with violating federal requirements for ending sex bias in education under Title IX, which had been passed in 1972. Complaints were filed with HEW. (05/10/76)

Florida NOW filed a sex discrimination suit against the Florida State Department of Education. (09/76)


Economic

NOW formed a Task Force on Feminism in Rural America.(03/76)

The Hawkins-Humphrey Employment/Growth bill was "marked up" with only one of NOW's 10 recommendations adopted. Discrimination against married women was deleted. (04/27/76)

United Air Lines settled a three- year-old job bias suit for $1 million and established hiring goals and ratios for women and minorities. (04/30/76)


Religion

Pope Paul VI cautioned women to be on their guard against movements for equality that run the risk of "masculinizing" and "depersonalizing" them. Vatican observers said the Pontiff's remarks were aimed at women's liberation movements allegedly advocating divorce, abortion, and promiscuity. (01/31/76)

The National Organization for Women asked the Internal Revenue Service to audit all Roman Catholic Dioceses, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Catholic Conference, charging that its tax-exempt dollars were being used to create "an anti-abortion political network." (04/76)

The Vatican said it was studying the subject of the ordination of women as priests but warned that this did not mean that a change was foreseen. A brief announcement said the study simply dealt with the form to present the traditional doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church on the subject. (06/28/76)

Reform Judaism leaders announced a proposed glossary for prayer books and worship services that substituted nonsexist language for masculine terms. It was prepared by the New York task force within the 1.1 million member Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Reform branch of Judaism. (09/76)

The Episcopal Church, meeting in Minneapolis/St. Paul, officially recognized ordination of 15 women as priests, including the very first, Jacqueline Means, and Rev. Betty Bone Schiess, a Syracuse, NY, NOW member, who had formed a feminist parish. (09/16/76)

A strong majority of delegates, representing the American Catholic Church at the first National Call to Action Conference in Detroit, endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment. The recommendation of the Conference called upon the Church to "commit significant economic resources and personnel, especially in social action agencies and offices, to achieve speedy ratification of the ERA." It further recommended that special efforts be made in those states that had not yet ratified the amendment. (11/76)


Media

Circulation of Do It NOW, NOW's national newsletter reached 70,000. (01/76)

A Georgia ERA rally of thousands received media coverage of only one UPI photo, which distorted the purpose of the rally. NOW protested to UPI. (01/11/76)

Battered Wives by Del Martin, former National Board member of NOW and coordinator of NOW's Task Force on Household Violence, was published. It was the first major report on this wide-spread form of violence against women. (1976)

ABC offered Barbara Walters a $1 million per year, five year contract to co-host the news with Harry Reasonera pairing later doomed by Reasoner's sexism. (04/20/76)

California NOW joined Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) in protesting "snuff" movies and an offensive Rolling Stones billboard on Sunset Strip. The billboard was whitewashed over. (06/76)

Do It Now, NOW's national newsletter, was converted to a monthly tabloid newspaper, renamed the National NOW Times. (08/76)


Legal

When Judy K. Hartwell, 29, of Belleville, MI, was acquitted of murdering her husband, the case resulted in a "landmark" ruling for the sexual rights of women. She had claimed self-defense from a sexual attack and in giving the case to the jury, the judge instructed them that "A married woman is not compelled by law to submit, against her will, to sexual contact with her husband which she finds offensive." Although not binding on subsequent cases, it marked the first time a Michigan judge ever had made such a ruling regarding the marital relations of men and women. (03/76)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that workers who could prove they were denied jobs because of illegal discrimination were entitled to retroactive seniority and related benefits. The landmark 5-3 decision was the Court's first ruling on the highly controversial issue of seniority vs. affirmative action. Although the case (Franks v. Bowman Transportation Co.) involved race discrimination, feminists agreed the ruling would apply to women as well, because it was brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. (03/24/76)

A suit filed by the Vermont Caucus for the Family (VCF) against the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women was dismissed by Superior Court Judge Stephen B. Martin. The anti-ERA Caucus, suing in its capacity as a representative of tax-payers, asked for an injunction preventing Commission members from further participation in activities supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and opposing the VCF`s movement to rescind ERA in Vermont. But Assistant Attorney General Greg Studen argued that the Commission, as a branch of the Governor's Office, was empowered to take stands on controversial issues and had as much right to do so as the governor. (05/76)

NOW By-Laws Conference was held at Overland Park, KS. (10/09-11/76)


Political

The South Dakota House defeated a recision attempt, 37-33. Intensive NOW effort, in coalition with the League of Women Voters and the AAUW, was key to the victory. (01/30/76)

NOW targeted Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada and South Carolina for ERA action at a national strategy meeting in St. Louis, MO. (01/03-04/76)

Virginia NOW sponsored a 100-mile walk for the ERA. Fourteen walkers covered the entire route. (01/09-14/76)

Non-ratification of the ERA at this point in time set the dubious record for being the constitutional amendment taking the longest time to be ratified. The 19th Amendment on women's suffrage was ratified in 15 months, and the 26th Amendment, giving 18-year-oIds voting rights, was ratified in four months. (02/25/76)

NOW president Karen DeCrow and Phyllis Schlafly debated the ERA at Yale University. DeCrow won the debate 32-20. (02/22/76)

ERAmerica opened headquarters in Washington, D.C. (02/25/76)

No states ratified the fourth year of ERA, but five recision efforts were defeated in 1976. (03/22/76)

NOW's organizing for an ERA rally brought 16,000 supporters to Springfield, IL. Delegations from the Eastern region came on the NOW "Freedom Train." (05/15-16/76)

At the 1976 National Democratic Convention in New York, Ellie Smeal, Karen DeCrow, Alice Cohan, Jean Conger, Lillian Ciarrochi, Arlie Scott and Gloria Allred waged a success-ful campaign for equal division of representation between women and men. (07/15/76)


The Backlash

Roman Catholic Bishop Leo T. Maher of the San Diego Diocese openly admitted that the proposed amendments to the Constitution would bestow personhood at fertilization and would outlaw the Intra Uterine Device (I.U.D.). He asserted that women who used I.U.D.'s would be regarded as "murderers." (01/28/76)

Anti-abortion candidate Ellen McCormick was certified by the Federal Election Commission to receive matching funds for her presidential campaign. The vote was 4-1, with FEC Vice Chairman Neil Staebler dissenting on grounds that many of her contributions were made payable to the Pro-Life Action Committee and may not have been intended for a Presidential campaign. (02/25/76)

The mayor of Stamford, CT, proclaimed "Right to Life Day." NOW prepared a strong protest for the February 27 National Mayors' Conference. (01/22/76)

An anti-abortion bill that redefined a "person" as "a human being from the moment of fertilization and implantation" was signed into law by Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards. Had the law survived court challenge, it could have led to the filing of murder charges against physicians, medical support staff, and women seeking abortions a fact admitted by the author, Senator E. Edwards Barham. (09/76)

Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter was jostled by shouting anti-abortion demonstrators as he tried to shake hands in a crowd outside his hotel in Scranton, PA. (09/07/76)

Orrin Hatch, the hand-picked candidate of the New Right, with no record of public service in Utah, was elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating a three-term incumbent. Richard Viguerie was his fundraiser and he received funding and support from key right-wing groups, as well as a $6,000 donation from Joseph Coors. (11/02/76)

The First Presidency of the Mormon Church issued its first formal anti-ERA statement. Women were entitled to additional rights, but "the Equal Rights Amendment is not the answer." (10/22/76)

A "taxpayer" suit was filed that tried to dissolve the California Commission on the Status of Women. The group initiating the suit called itself "Women's Committee for Responsible Government." (11/17/76)

Harper's magazine published "Requiem for the Women's Movement" by Veronica Geng. It was among many "requiems" the media would produce - prematurely. (11)

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