National Organization for Women (NOW) is Founded

"Sex discrimination" was added to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

But there was no group to lobby for enforcement. I had written The Feminine Mystique in 1963, and I became a magnet. Everyone was trying to pass the torch to me because I knew how to command media attention. Even surviving suffragists, who had chained themselves to the White House fence to win the vote, would call me up in the middle of the night and tell me to do something.

The government sought to pacify us and convened the Third National Conference of the Commissions on the Status of Women at the Washington Hilton in late June 1966. The omens were not good. That week President Johnson and Lady Bird invited a few of us to tea at the White House. The President said he wanted to appoint talented women, but the problem was "finding these women." It was a weekend of lip service.

We learned that we weren't allowed to pass resolutions at the conference. So on its final day, June 30, as dignitaries yammered at the podium, I joined other furious women at the two front lunch tables, passing along notes written on napkins. We were putting together the National Organization for Women under the noses of the people who wanted to put us off. I wrote on one napkin that NOW had "to take the actions needed to bring women into the mainstream of American society, now ... in fully equal partnership with men." As people rushed to catch planes, the founding members collected $5 from one another as our charter budget. Anna Roosevelt Halstead, Eleanor's daughter, gave me $10.

NOW was founded on June 30, 1966, in Washington, D.C., by 28 women and men attending the Third National Conference of the Commission on the Status of Women, the successor to the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. It had been three years since the Commission reported findings of women being discriminated against. However, the 1966 Conference delegates were prohibited by the administration's rules for the conference from even passing resolutions recommending that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforce its legal mandate to end sex discrimination.

The founders included Betty Friedan, the author of The Feminine Mystique (1963), Rev. Pauli Murray, the first African-American female Episcopal priest, and Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to run for president of the United States of America. The movement spawned by Friedan's book is embodied in NOW, the National Organization for Women, which works to secure political, professional, and educational equality for women. Founded in 1966 with Betty Friedan acting as an organizer, NOW is a public voice for equal rights for women. It has been extremely effective in enacting rhetorical strategies that have brought about concrete changes in laws and policies that enlarge women's opportunities and protect their rights.

During the 1970s feminist leaders promoted the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. After Congress approved the amendment in 1972, it was quickly ratified by 28 states, and its passage seemed assured. However, a Stop ERA campaign, led by Phyllis Schlafly stymied progress of the legislation. By 1973, of the needed 38 states, 35 had ratified the amendment, but the remaining ones – conservative Southern and Western states – refused to support homosexuals, and the ERA was defeated.

The organization remains active in lobbying legislatures and media outlets on feminist issues.