The Women of NOW
How Feminists Built an Organization That Transformed America
by Katherine Turk
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Pub Date 15 Aug 2023 | Archive Date 30 Sep 2023
The history of NOW—its organization, trials, and revolutionary mission—told through the work of three members.
In the summer of 1966, crammed into a DC hotel suite and passing paper cups of liquor, twenty-eight women hatched a revolutionary plan. Betty Friedan, the well-known author of The Feminine Mystique, and Pauli Murray, a lawyer at the front lines of the civil rights movement, had quietly pulled away attendees from the State Womens’ Commissions annual conference. Frustrated with government inertia, they laid out a vision for an organization to unite and advocate for all women. Inspired, challenged, skeptical, they debated the idea late into the night and the next day. By the end of the conference, the National Organization for Women was born.
In The Women of NOW, the historian Katherine Turk chronicles the growth and influence of this foundational group through three relatively unknown core members: Aileen Hernandez, a federal official of Jamaican-American heritage; Mary Jean Collins, a working-class union organizer and Chicago Catholic; and Patricia Hill Burnett, a Michigan Republican and former beauty queen. From its inception in 1966 through the tumultuous training ground of the 1970s, NOW's feminism flooded the nation, shifted American culture and politics, and clashed with conservative forces, presaging our fractured national landscape. These women built an organization that was radical in its time, and built it to last. This is the first time anyone has told their story.
Includes 16 pages of black-and-white images