“We, men and women who hereby constitute ourselves as the National Organization for Women, believe that the time has come for a new movement toward true equality for all women in America, and toward a fully equal partnership of the sexes, as part of the world-wide revolution of human rights now taking place within and beyond our national borders.”
—National Organization for Women’s 1966 Statement of Purpose
On June 30, 1966, Betty Friedan wrote three letters on a paper napkin: N O W. She invited fifteen women to her hotel room. Then, Catherine Conroy slid a five-dollar bill onto the table and said, “Put your money down and sign your name.” In that moment, the National Organization for Women became a reality.
As representatives at the Third National Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women, these women were disgruntled by the lack of commitment to the convention’s theme, “Targets for Action.” Inspired by the Civil Rights movement and historic marches such as in Selma, the women founded a parallel effort to ensure the equal treatment of both sexes. They brainstormed an alternate action plan to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on sex, race, color, nationality, and religion.
“We have to raise our voices to demand that women get paid fairly. We’ve got to raise our voices to make sure women can take time off to care for a loved one, and that moms and dads can spend time with a new baby. We’ve got to raise our voices to make sure that our women maintain and keep their own health care choices.”
—President Obama, October 2014
As the , feminists reflect on progress, unfinished business
Jun 25 2016 8:00 am Deanna Pan – CBS
Two years after she was hired as a cub reporter for a local TV news station, Jennet Robinson Alterman asked for a raise.
It was 1975. She had been hired at the same time as two men, both fresh out of college with liberal arts degrees just like her. But despite having the same job, they made twice as much she did. When she approached her boss about a pay bump, he said something Alterman would never forget.
“I was told I would never get a raise because I would always be a secondary income because I would have a husband to support me,” she recalled. “So I quit.”
Times have changed since Alterman asked for her first raise. The National Organization for Women, founded in 1966 by a small group of activists to end gender discrimination, recognized its 50th anniversary this month with much to celebrate: Women now comprise close to 50 percent of enrollment in U.S. medical schools and law schools. One-third of federal judges are women, compared to just a handful in the 1960s. The U.S military is opening all combat jobs to women. Hillary Clinton will have the opportunity to this November by become the first woman elected president.
Despite this progress, the work of the women’s liberation movement is far from over.
Alterman, the former executive director of Charleston’s Center for Women, recalled her time at the White House’s United State of Women Summit in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.
“It made me really sad to see the issues they were addressing in 2016 are basically the same issues we’ve been talking about for 50 years: Equal pay for equal work, paid maternity leave, support for women entrepreneurs, sexual violence. You name it, it’s all still out there,” Alterman said. “Even the whole discussion of women in the military. And keep in mind we still don’t have an Equal Rights Amendment that’s been passed.”
- Statement of Purpose Find out what NOW was originally founded to do.
- Founding Learn about what led up to NOW’s founding and how the organization was founded.
- Highlights Check out NOW’s major accomplishments throughout our history.
- Snapshots See NOW’s greatest moments through pictures and learn about our history.
- Honoring our Founders and Pioneers Learn about the women who founded and led NOW at the beginning.
- History of Marches and Mass Actions Learn about NOW’s involvement in protests and mass actions and why these are so important.
- Timeline of Major Actions and Accomplishments, National Organization for Women, 2006 – 2016