50 Years of NOW

FFlogo-300x284by Megan E. Bloom (mbloom@sungazette.com), originally printed in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette

This month the National Organization for Women will mark its 50th anniversary, having worked for women’s rights since 1966.

The movement was born from a drive to end sex discrimination in employment that emerged at the third National Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women held from June 28-30, 1966, in Washington D.C.

It privately was suggested that an organization was needed to work for women’s rights much like civil rights groups had done for blacks, according to NOW’s website.

Betty Friedan, author of “The Feminine Mystique,” was among those at the conference. She wrote the acronym NOW on a paper napkin. By the conference’s closing luncheon, a hastily pulled together meeting was held and one woman pulled a $5 bill from her purse, put it on the table and told others to put their money down and sign up.

In all, 28 women set up what was intended to be “a temporary organization,” according to Analoyce Clapp, one of the organization’s 49 founders, who wrote of its purpose: “To take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, assuming all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.”

Locally, the Williamsport chapter was started in the early 1970s by Gloria Sackman Reed, Martha Sutton and Carol Atkins. Among the chapter’s accomplishments, members helped in the creation of Wise Options at the YWCA of Northcentral Pennsylvania, an organization that helps women escape domestic abuse and find a path to independence.

They’ve also fought to allow girls equal sports opportunities in schools and for equal pay, maternity leave and the right to choose when it comes to abortion.

“We have come a long way,” said Sally Lifland Butterfield, chapter president.

Local chapters such as the one here can take action, be supportive and put together groups to accomplish goals in the local area, said Mary Sieminski, chapter vice president.

By coming together, chapter members are able to provide programing that interests women, said Lifland Butterfield. They have arranged speakers on topics such as domestic violence, divorce and sexual harassment.

Women have gained more rights over the past few decades, but both women said they believe much still needs to be done, such as equal pay and paid maternity leave.

Lifland Butterfield said women should do their part to help make a change.

She said becoming educated about issues and exercising the right to vote by choosing candidates that care about women’s concerns can make a difference.