Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Women's Movement is Still Alive and Definitely on the March Towards Equality

By Jacqui Ceballos

A brief history

In the 1980s - the Reagan years, the ERA had failed and feminists were dubbed Feminazis by some. Though, as always, men were being honored for their contributions to society, the feminists who'd changed America were practically disdained.

The NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund a thriving reality, was excited about an oral history project for the Schlesinger library involving the history of NOW and Betty Friedan. To a woman, they expressed a wish to reunite. With the help from New Feminist Theater, and the Women's Health Movement, a committee was organized to undertake the planning of a reunion.

Remembering how men met regularly with their war buddies, a group of women involved in the early years of the Women's Movement asked themselves to think beyond a single reunion and toward an organization to document the Movement's history and inspire future feminists.

In May 1993, a first reunion was organized in honor of Catherine East of Washington D.C., the woman Betty Friedan called "the midwife of the feminist movement." Over 250 came to New York to honor the beloved Catherine. After that glorious occasion, Catherine and D.C. attorney Mary Eastwood, both founders of NOW, wanted to honor other Pioneers, starting with Congresswoman Martha Griffiths, who made it possible to include "sex" in Title VII; Virginia Allen, Director of the Women's Bureau under President Nixon; and Phineas Indritz, the attorney who had advised feminists. In Spring 1994, these women were honored, and other greats, right at the historic Sewall Belmont House.

1996 was the 30th anniversary of NOW, and Muriel Fox, one of its founders, helped organize a landmark celebration that reunited founders and early leaders with the help of Sheila Tobias, a founder of university Women's Studies programs, Barbara Love's monumental Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1975, published in 2006, has generated more local celebrations of pioneer feminists.

Future events will honor athletes, the women's health movement, women journalists, and women in business and finance. DVDs of these events are, or will, be housed at major Women's History libraries.

It is hoped that these events will continue to offer support and camaraderie to pioneers of feminism's Second Wave and provide the recognition, respect and honor they so richly deserve. Many activists feel that, while we've done almost everything we set out to do, the two goals we have not fully accomplished are "to pass the torch" and to recruit new activists for feminism among younger women and men.

But now that we've honored thousands of pioneer feminists at 34 events around the country, and now that Feminists Who Changed America is published, and now that our files are archived at Duke University, we can spend more time mentoring and learning from our daughters, granddaughters and friends. And also, from our sons and grandsons and their friends.

The Women's Movement never died ... it still Marches On!
by Jacqui Ceballos.

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