NOW’s statement of purpose provides a holistic argument for why women should join the workforce, and gain equal rights. It was written at the time of the founding of the National Organization for Women, in response to the lack of execution of anti-discrimination laws. Its intention is to explain the core concepts on which NOW was founded, and explain what they are taking issue with.
I’m impressed with the level of consideration, and the distinctively different approaches to appealing to their audience, using arguments such as “WE BELIEVE that it is as essential for every girl to be educated to her full potential of human ability as it is for every boy-with the knowledge that such education is the key to effective participation in today’s economy and that, for a girl as for boy, education can only be serious where there is expectation that it be used in society.” Which depends on some level of sympathy, compared to ” the overwhelming majority-75%-are in routine clerical, sales, or factory jobs, or they are household workers, cleaning women, hospital attendants. About two-thirds of Negro women workers are in the lowest paid service occupations. Working women are becoming increasingl-not less-concentrated on the bottom of the job ladder. As a consequence full-time women workers today earn on the average only 60% of what men earn, and that wage gap has been increasing over the past twenty-five years in every major industry group. In 1964, of all women with a yearly income, 89% earned under $5,000 a year; half of all full-time year round women workers earned less than $3,690; only 1.4% of full- time year round women workers had an annual income of $10,000 or more.” (I apologize for the long quote) Explaining the impact women have on the economy, this kind of argument will be compelling to a different kind of person than the previous.
Generating a document for the creation of new purpose and change was necessary for women in the mid-nineteenth century. Men and women, constituting themselves as the National Organization for Women (NOW), vouched for a new movement towards equality in America and beyond the national borders. Women weren’t able to enjoy their freedoms as their fellow country men were able to. With that as a catalyst for change, NOW created documentation of various purposes that would revolutionize the way in which women were seen throughout society. In order for this to happen, patterns of sex discrimination had to end, the creation of social institutions that benefit women would be enacted, the proper education would be given to women so that they too can reach their full potential, and last representation in politics as the voice of women need to be heard.
Traditionally women were shunned from attaining any form of high paying or high positioned job. Although they make up nearly 51% of the entire population, women did not have representation politically nor socially. Women faced discrimination, sexism, and acts of inequality on a day to day basis, and it was the job of NOW to take a stand for women who seemingly had no voice in the world, and create a platform for all women to flourish. Their task: “to win women the final right to be fully free and equal human beings.”
Gender equality has often been alluded to in our course thus far (Vindication of the Rights of Women), and continues to be a discussion topic and issue today, especially in the workplace. While women’s rights were slowly improving throughout the 1900s (finally allowed to vote in 1944), there was still much work to be done. In 1966, a stance was taken with the formation of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination of sex was supposed to be outlawed. However, many of the cases brought force were not enforced or taken seriously enough. An excerpt from NOW’s Statement of Purpose reads as such: “We expect to give active support to the common cause of equal rights for all those who suffer discrimination and deprivation, and we call upon other organizations committed to such goals to support our efforts toward equality for women.” NOW focused on bringing together other groups who have faced discrimination such as African Americans, and directly spoke out for the rights of black women. There had been no real movement up until this point for the equality of women, and the time was NOW.
1) NOW observed that the status of women in American society had actually been declining in recent years. They supported this with facts and identified that 75% of working women were relegated to routine jobs that required little skill and earned on average 60% of what men earned.
2) NOW demanded a concerted effort on the part of the government and civil rights organizations to integrate women into the “mainstream of American society.” Women must be provided equal opportunities as men to fulfill their potential.
3) To realize any major advances and provoke change, women needed to unify and mobilize. For fear of discouraging any group of women, NOW did not affiliate itself with any political party. Women had often refrained from voicing their indignation with their position in society for worry of being labelled a feminist, but this attitude must change for any real progress to be made.
1) What initiatives did NOW take to enhance the status of women? What impact did they have on the women’s rights movement in America?
2) Did NOW collaborate or receive support from any civil rights organizations?
NOW’s Statement of Purpose outlined very specific goals and used facts to prove the inequality of women. I found some of there statistics very startling as I had not realized the extent of male domination in the U.S. only some-odd years ago. I also found it interesting that NOW used the increasing life span of women as support for women going out and achieving outside the household.
Statement of Purpose (1966)
- NOW’s mission was to rally support of all American citizens and to take action in bringing women into full participation of American Society. By exercising all the privileges and responsibilities stated in the US constitution, women must be in a truly equal partnership with men.
- NOW rejected all previous assumptions that a man is in charge of supporting himself, his wife, and family, and that a woman’s role is to support her husband from the home. NOW believed that marriage should be equal among both partners and the responsibilities dealing with the home and family support should be shared between husband and wife.
- NOW declared itself independent of any political party for the purpose of rallying political power of men and woman sharing its goals. NOW strove to make sure that no candidates who did not believe in full equality between the sexes would be elected or appointed to office.
- Do woman have equal rights in the United States today?
- Why is it that woman often make less money for a similar job where a man makes more money?
I find it unbelievable how long and how difficult a fight it was for woman to finally attain civil rights in America. In my generation, equality for women would never be a question. It amazes that in 2014 women do not have equal rights in many other countries around the world.