NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN (N.O.W.)
Statement of Purpose
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 fully equal partnership of the sexes, as
part of the world-widerevolution of human rights now taking place within and
beyond our national borders.
The purpose of NOW is to take action to bring women into full participation in
the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities
thereof in truly equal partnership with men.
We believe the time has come to move beyond the abstract argument,discussion
and symposia over the status and special nature of women which has raged in America
in recent years; the time has come to confront, with concrete action, the conditions
that now prevent women from enjoying the equality of opportunity and freedom
which is their right, as individual Americans, and as human beings.
NOW is dedicated to the proposition that women, first and foremost,are human
beings, who, like all other people in our society, must have the chance to develop
their fullest human potential. We believe that women can achieve such equality
only by accepting to the full the challenges and responsibilities they share
with all other people in our society, as part of the decision-making mainstream
political, economic and social life.
We organize to initiate or support action, nationally, or in any part of this
nation, by individuals or organizations, to breakthrough the silken curtain of
prejudice and discrimination against women in government, industry, the professions,
the churches,the political parties, the judiciary, the labor unions, in education,science,
medicine, law, religion and every other field of importance in American society.
Enormous changes taking place in our society make it both possible and urgently
necessary to advance the unfinished revolution of women toward true equality,
now. With a life span lengthened to nearly 75 years it is no longer either necessary
possible for women to devote the greater part of their lives to child-rearing;
yet childbearing and rearing which continues to be a most important part of most
women's lives-still is used to justify barring women from equal professional
economic participation and advance.
Today's technology has reduced most of the productive chores which women once
performed in the home and in mass-production industries based upon routine unskilled
labor. This same technology has virtually eliminated the quality of muscular
strength as a criterion for filling most jobs, while intensifying American industry's
creative intelligence. In view of this new industrial revolution created by automation
in the mid-twentieth century, women ca nand must participate in old and new fields
of society in full equality-or become permanent outsiders .
Despite all the talk about the status of American women in recent years, the
actual position of women in the United States has declined,and is declining,
to an alarming
degree throughout the 1950'sand '60s. Although 46.4% of all American women between
the ages of 18 and 65 now work outside the home, the overwhelming majority-75%-are
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 increasing-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 year sin 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
women workers had an annual income of $10,000or more.
Further, with higher education increasingly essential in today's society, too
few women are entering and finishing college or going on to graduate or professional
school. Today, women earn only one in three of the B.A.'s and M.A.'s granted,
and one in ten of the Ph.D.'s .
In all the professions considered of importance to society, and in the executive
ranks of industry and government, women are losing ground. Where they are present
it is only a token handful. Women comprise less than 1% of federal judges; less
than 4% of all lawyers;7% of doctors. Yet women represent 51% of the U.S. population.And,
increasingly men are replacing women in the top position sin secondary and elementary
schools, in social work, and in libraries-once thought to be women's fields.
Official pronouncements of the advance in the status of women hide not only the
reality of this dangerous decline, but the fact that nothing is being done to
stop it. The excellent reports of the President's Commission on the Status of
Women and of the State Commissions have not been fully implemented. Such Commission
shave power only to advise. They have no power to enforce their recommendations;
have they the freedom to organize American women and men to press for action
them. The reports of these commissions have, however created a basis upon which
it is now possible to build.
Discrimination in employment on the basis of sex is now prohibited by federal
law, in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.But although nearly one-third
of the cases brought before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during
the first year dealt with sex discrimination and the proportion is increasing
dramatically, the Commission has not made clear its intention to enforce the
with the same
seriousness on behalf of women as of other victims of discrimination. Many of
these cases were Negro women, who are the victims of the double discrimination
race and sex. Until now, too few women's organizations and official spokesmen
have been willing to speak out against these dangers facing women. Too many women
have been restrained by the fear of being called "feminist."
There is no civil rights movement to speak for women, as there has been for Negroes
and other victims of discrimination. The National Organization for Women must
therefore begin to speak.
WE BELIEVE that the power of American law, and the protection guaranteed by the
U. S. Constitution to the civil rights of all individuals, must be effectively
applied and enforced to isolate and remove patterns of sex discrimination, to
ensure equality of opportunity in employment and education, and equality of civil
political rights and responsibilities on behalf of women,as well as for Negroes
and other deprived groups.
We realize that women's problems are linked to many broader questions of social
justice; their solution will require concerted action by many groups. Therefore,
convinced that human rights for Allaire indivisible, 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
our efforts toward equality for women.
WE DO NOT ACCEPT the token appointment of a few women to high-level positions
in government and industry as a substitute for a serious continuing effort to
recruit and advance women according to their individual abilities. To this end,
we urge American government and industry to mobilize the same resources of ingenuity
and command with which they have solved problems of far greater difficulty than
those now impeding the progress of women.
WE BELIEVE that this nation has a capacity at least as great as other nations,
to innovate new social institutions which will enable women to enjoy true equality
of opportunity and responsibility in society, without conflict with their responsibilities
as mother sand homemakers. In such innovations, America does not lead the Western
world, but lags by decades behind many European countries.We do not accept the
traditional assumption that a woman has to choose between marriage and motherhood,
on the one hand, and serious participation in industry or the professions on
other. We question the present expectation that all normal women will retire
from job or profession for 10 or 15 years, to devote their full time to raising
only to reenter the job market at relatively minor level. This in itself, is
a deterrent to the aspirations of women, to their acceptance into management
professional training courses, and to the very possibility of equality of opportunity
real choice, for all but a few women. Above all, we reject the assumption that
these problems are the unique responsibility of each individual women, rather
than a basic social dilemma which society must solve. True equality of opportunity
and freedom of choice for women requires such practical, and possible innovations
as a nationwide network of child-care center which will make it unnecessary for
to retire completely from society until their children are grown, and national
programs to provide retraining for women who have chosen to care for their own
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
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 use din society. We believe that American educators are capable of devising
of imparting such expectations to girl students. Moreover, we consider the decline
in the proportion of women receiving higher and professional education to be
evidence of discrimination.This discrimination may take the form of quotas against
admission of women to colleges, and professional schools; lack of encouragement
parents, counselors and educators; denial of loans or fellowships;or the traditional
or arbitrary procedures in graduate and professional training geared in terms
of men, which inadvertently discriminate against women. We believe that the same
serious attention must be given to high school dropouts who are girls as to boys.
WE REJECT the current assumptions that a man must carry the sole burden of supporting
himself, his wife, and family, and that aw oman is automatically entitled to
lifelong support by a man upon her marriage, or that marriage, home and family
are primarily woman's
world and responsibility-hers to dominate-his to support.We believe that a true
partnership between the sexes demands different concept of marriage an equitable
sharing of the responsibilities of home and children and of the economic burdens
of their support.We believe that proper recognition should be given to the economic
social value of homemaking and child-care. To these ends we will seek to open
a reexamination of laws and mores governing marriage and divorce, for we believe
that the current state of"half-equality" between the sexes discriminates
against both men and women, and is the cause of much unnecessary hostility between
WE BELIEVE that women must now exercise their political right sand responsibility
as American citizens. They must refuse to be segregated on the basis of sex into
separate-and-not-equal ladies auxiliaries in the political parties, and they
demand representation according to their numbers in the regularly constituted
part committees-at local, state, and national levels-and in the informal power
structure,participating fully in the selection of candidates and political decision-making,
and running for office themselves.
IN THE INTERESTS OF THE HUMAN DIGNITY OF WOMEN, we will protest,and endeavor
to change, the false image of women now prevalent in the mass media, and in the
texts, ceremonies, laws, and practices of our major social institutions. Such
images perpetuate contempt for women by society and by women for themselves.
are similarly opposed to all policies and practices-in church, state, college,factory,
or office-which, in the guise of protectiveness, not only deny opportunities
also foster in women self-denigration,dependence, and evasion of responsibility,
undermine their confidence in their own abilities and foster contempt for women.
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
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 in 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.
Copyright 1995, The Feminist Majority Foundation and New Media Publishing Inc.
document was obtained by the Herstory Project from the Women's Studies Resources
| Duke Special Collections Library-A project of The
Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University.
Please contact this collection for information about reproducing