This year’s national NOW — the National Organization for Women — convention will be held in Washington D.C., in late June, and it will be the first time since the early 1970s that there will be no delegates. That’s right, last year the convention — of delegated representatives from each chapter — voted to abolish the delegate system and permit any NOW member to attend and vote. If you want to see what feminist democracy looks like, attend and make your voice heard.
It is also the 50th anniversary of the founding of NOW, which came about after President John Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women issued its final report in June 1966, suggesting actions to be taken to further women’s equality, but stopping short of advocating those actions themselves. As a result, several members of that Commission met to start a new group, which would take those suggestions and put them into action – thus the birth of the National Organization for Women.
In a 1966 report on the first NOW conference, Betty Friedan wrote: “We wasted no time on ceremonials or speeches, gave ourselves barely an hour for lunch and dinner. … At times we got very tired and impatient, but there was always a sense that what we were deciding was not just for now ‘but for a century …’ We shared a moving moment of realization that we had now indeed entered history.”
At the organizing conference in Washington, D.C., in October 1966, the 300 charter members adopted a Statement of Purpose. This is an excerpt from that statement:
“NOW WILL HOLD ITSELF INDEPENDENT OF ANY POLITICAL PARTY in order to mobilize the political power of all women and men intent on our goals. We will strive to ensure that no party, candidate, president, senator, governor, congressman, or any public official who betrays or ignores the principle of full equality between the sexes is elected or appointed to office. If it is necessary to mobilize the votes of men and women who believe in our cause, in order to win for women the final right to be fully free and equal human beings, we so commit ourselves.
“WE BELIEVE THAT women will do most to create a new image of women by acting now, and by speaking out on behalf of their own equality, freedom, and human dignity –– not in pleas for special privilege, nor in enmity toward men, who are also victims of the current, half-equality between the sexes –– but in an active, self-respecting partnership with men. By so doing, women will develop confidence in their own ability to determine actively, in partnership with men, the conditions of their life, their choices, their future and their society.”
In the past 50 years NOW has organized and lobbied and marched and protested from the streets to the halls of Congress and the Supreme Court to bring about this equality. There is not enough space here to describe all the things accomplished by NOW. I urge readers to check out NOW.org/about and click on “highlights” to read some of the successes of these dedicated activists over the years. You may not realize that what you now take for granted came about only because of the efforts of your foremothers in NOW. Sisterhood is powerful!
Angie King is the Coordinator of the SLO Chapter of NOW, the National Organization for Woman. NOW’s purpose is to take action through intersectional grassroots activism to promote feminist ideals, lead societal change, eliminate discrimination, and achieve and protect the equal rights of all women and girls in all aspects of social, political, and economic life.. You may write to Angie at email@example.com.