Vol. 3, No. 9
June 2016

NOW Turns 50!
Celebrating Five Decades of Advocacy for Women
Chicago NOW at DC March for Choice
On June 30, 2016, the National Organization for Women will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Fifty years ago, 26 men and women attending the Third Annual Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women met to discuss their frustration with the process. The outcome of this meeting was the formation of the National Organization for Women led by Betty Friedan and Pauli Murray; they proposed its purpose to be "to bring women into the mainstream of the United States society."

Highlights of NOW's battles to bring women's issues into the mainstream of U.S. society:  
  • 1966 NOW files a formal petition with the EEOC for hearings to amend regulations on sex-segregated "Help Wanted" ads. After a five-year campaign and several years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court rules to prohibit sex-segregated employment advertisements in 1973.
  • 1967 NOW develops a "Bill of Rights for Women" including adopting passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), publicly-funded child care, and the repeal of all restrictive abortion laws. After the Senate passes the ERA 84-8, NOW leads ERA ratification campaigns in all 50 states. By 1977, 35 of the necessary 38 states have ratified the amendment. The fight continues.
  • 1972 NOW organizes a national campaign to pass a law guaranteeing women and girls equal educational opportunities, including higher education admissions and athletic participation. In June, 1972, Congress passes the Education Amendments, which includes Title IX, a guarantee of equal educational opportunities, including sports.
  • 1973, in Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court legalizes a woman's right to seek an abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • 1976 The NOW Task Force on Battered Women is established.
  • 1987 NOW convenes the first conference on Women of Color and Reproductive Freedom, followed by regional conferences.
  • 1995 NOW leads the first mass demonstration focused on violence against women.
  • 1996 NOW launches a campaign against Mitsubishi Motors, where race and sex discrimination and harassment were rampant. Mitsubishi becomes the first NOW Merchant of Shame.
  • 1996 NOW comes out in favor of same-sex marriage.
  • 2004 NOW is a lead organizer of the massive March for Women's Lives in Washington, D.C.
NOW's current "Merchant of Shame" is Walmart, and the fight for a living wage, sensible work schedules, safe work conditions, equal pay for equal work, and breaking glass ceilings remain goals.

Chicago NOW was started in 1968. Success in the economic sphere has included ending gendered help wanted ads, ending male-only clubs, such as the one at Carson's, where women were excluded from business lunches where important decisions were made, and a protest at Sears's shareholders meeting because of the lack of promotion of women at Sears.

For more information, check out Women, Power and AT&T by Lois Herr, which also features Chicago NOW; Governing NOW: Grassroots Activism in the National Organization for Women by Maryann Barakso and The Good Girl's Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace by Lynn Povich.


The Fight for the Whole Dollar:
An Ongoing Battle to Close the Wage Gap
The history of U.S .women's fight for pay equity is one, perhaps, older than we tend to remember. On February 13, 1869, the New York Times published a letter to the editor regarding women as government clerks and stated, "Very few persons deny the justice of the principle that equal work should command equal pay without regard to the sex of the laborer." This is a sentiment that is echoed even today, 147 years later. And while this letter spoke of the pay discrepancy at 50 cents for every dollar that the lowest paid male employee made, today women are only 29 cents closer to equality. Around 79 cents on the dollar is reported for 2015, according to the Institute for Women's Policy and Research. It is quite astounding to think that, though this discussion has been going on since 1869 (and likely earlier!), it has taken women fighting relentlessly to claw their way to making that extra 29 cents on the dollar.

However, the road to true pay equality is not so simple; there is not only an issue of equal pay for equal work--but also the type of job available to women, including sex-based job discrimination, the effects of marriage and childcare, and job level. In fact, one of the most compelling infographics on this subject comes from PayScale. They highlight what the gender pay gap would be if those more complicated factors were removed: 2.7% compared to the actual 25.6% pay gap. This is a more optimistic picture than that painted by the American Association of University Women who see the "apples to apples" comparison at a 7% difference. Perhaps this is why it has taken so long to close the wage gap; it is a far more complicated issue than we give credit, and therefore, requires far more work to fix.

An interesting example of the more complex picture of pay equity is the case brought by nurses against the City and County of Denver. It involves the issue not only of equal pay for equal work, but sex-segregated jobs.

N.U.R.S.E. Inc. or Nurses Under Represented in Social Equality, founded by a group of Denver nurses, sued the city for not paying them the same wages as other city employees who had less education and fewer responsibilities. Their case inspired greater demands for comparable pay for work of comparable worth. The ten nurses of N.U.R.S.E. Inc. filed a class action suit in 1977 under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment. They stated they were discriminated against on the basis of sex in salaries, fringe benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. The nurses asked the court to prevent the city from maintaining its classification system insofar as it stereotyped male and female job classifications without regard to education, responsibility or experience.

This historic case was entitled Lemons et al v. the City and County of Denver (No.76-1156). Mary Lemons was one of the ten plaintiffs. Judge Fred Winner of the Tenth Circuit Federal District Court ruled against them. He said he had to rule against them because this "is a case which is pregnant with the possibility of disrupting the entire economic system of the United States of America." He also stated that the courts are not supposed to correct all of history.

N.U.R.S.E. Inc. appealed the decision but the Federal Court of Appeals decided in 1980 that pay disparity was not to be adjusted by the Civil Rights Act, and was not within the equal protection clause. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court but the high court decided not to review the case in 1981.

Although the women of N.U.R.S.E. Inc. lost their case, more women became increasingly aware that they were earning only 59 cents for every dollar the average man earned.

Looking back on this history of the fight for equal pay, it is astounding to remember how many years pay equity has been an issue-- and that today, in 2016, it remains at the forefront of feminist and political thought!

In the next issue we will examine some issues complicating the path to equal pay and the effects of affirmative action legislation.
Meet Mona Maclay, Editorial Intern

Mona joined WWHP at our April, 2016, board meeting, immediately interviewed Tara Stamps and wrote an article about her for the April E-Newsletter. Mona has a background in theater, was politically active in the fight against Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker's efforts to repeal collective bargaining for public unions, and became passionate about women's history after reading Gerda Lerner's The Creation of Patriarchy in college.

Mona graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts from the University of Wisconsin--Stevens Point, with a major in acting and a minor in religious studies. She performed, wrote plays, and directed at U. Wisconsin. In the summer of 2012 she worked for a theatrical management agency in London, doing office work and also writing breakdowns of scripts and films for review, writing overviews of the plot and the screen or stage times of characters.

Reading Gerda Lerner during college deepened Mona's commitment to feminism and the task of illuminating a more inclusive narrative for our collective human history, one that includes the voices and stories of commonly underrepresented peoples. Lerner's book plus further courses inspired her graduate studies; she is currently enrolled part time in the Graduate Certificate Program in Women's Studies and Gender Studies at Loyola University Chicago. Mona works full time as an administrative assistant at a prominent international, architectural firm.

During our interview with Mona, she stated that were she to get the position of editorial intern, her goal would be to help bring WWHP to the attention of younger audiences. To that end, she wrote an article on student debt for the May newsletter and she proposed a series of articles on Equal Pay that the Board accepted. The first article appears in this issue and she is expecting to author several more on the topic, many of them enhanced by interviews.

WWHP is fortunate to have someone with her qualifications and energy working with us. Thank you, Mona!

Where are WWHP's past interns?

Christina Osborne began as an editorial intern, and went on to create and maintain a website for WWHP, continuing her work even after leaving the city. She is now enrolled in a master's program in Contemplative Psychotherapy and Buddhist Psychology at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

Laura Umland who also began as an editorial intern and then became our Communications Manager is about to enroll in a graduate program in Speech Pathology at the University of Iowa.

Like us on Facebook