National Women's Conference
In the spirit of the United Nations' proclamation that 1975 was the International Women's Year, on January 9, 1974, U.S. President Gerald Ford issued Executive Order 11832 creating a National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year "to promote equality between men and women". Congress approved $5 million in total tax-payer contributions ($21.9 million in 2015 dollars) for both the state and national conferences as HR 9924 sponsored by Congresswoman Patsy Mink, which President Gerald Ford signed into law. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter chose a new Commission and appointed Congresswoman Bella Abzug to head it. Numerous events were held over the next two years, culminating in the National Women's Conference in November 1977.
During November 18–21, 1977, twenty-thousand women descended upon Houston, Texas for the National Women's Conference. The goal was to hammer out a Plan of Action to be presented to the Carter Administration and Congress for consideration and/or adoption. Each of the twenty-six Resolutions on Women's Rights in the Plan was proposed to the attendees and voted upon collectively. The Conference was chaired by Member of Congress Bella Abzug.
The opening ceremony speakers included: First Ladies Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford and Lady Bird Johnson, activists Coretta Scott King, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, Barbara Jordan, Liz Carpenter, and Jean Stapleton. Maya Angelou read the declaration of intent.
Heated debates ensued over 26 major topics addressed at the Conference, such as the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), reproductive rights, child care funding, sexual orientation, and the rights of disabled, minority and aging women. There was also a lengthy discussion about disarmament and a series of talks featuring numerous women who had reached impressive levels of responsibility in governmental positions such as chair of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Assistant Secretary for the United States Department of Commerce, and head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"The National Plan of Action [of the National Women's Conference] was submitted to the president and Congress in March 1978, and a month later Carter established the National Advisory Committee for Women. The Senate granted a three-year extension for ratification of the ERA within a year of the Houston meeting; this unprecedented move was viewed as a major postconference achievement, despite the final failure of the amendment in 1982." Under political pressure, President Carter fired Abzug from the Commission. No further action was taken by the Administration or Congress on the Plan.
- "Houston Articles". Wisconsin Women's Network. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
- Lieban, Ruth (January 1976). "Ford Approves $5 Million for National Women's Conference" (PDF). Woman Alive 2 (5). Retrieved 2013-05-13.
- "International Women's Year, National Conference - P.L. 94-167" (PDF). 89 Stat. 1003. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
- "The National Women's Conference in Houston, 1977". Uic.edu. 1974-01-09. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
- Cottrell, Debbie Mauldin (June 15, 2010). "National Women's Conference, 1977". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
- Quindlen, Anna (November 18, 1977). "Anticipating a Historic Occasion, Women Stream to Conference; A 'Diverse' Gathering of 20,000 Is Expected". The New York Times (Houston, TX). Retrieved March 9, 2014.
- Quindlen, Anna (November 21, 1977). "Women's Conference Approves Planks On Abortion and Rights for Homosexuals". The New York Times (Houston, TX). Retrieved March 9, 2014.
- Ford, Lynne E. (2009). Encyclopedia of Women and American Politics. Infobase Publishing. p. 337. ISBN 9781438110325.
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- "Independent Lens: SISTERS OF '77". PBS. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
- National Plan of Action of the National Women's Conference
- 1977 National Women's Conference: A Question of Choices. A production of KERA-TV, Dallas/Fort Worth. Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collections. University of Georgia Libraries.
- Daily Breakthrough. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. (Published daily during the National Women’s Conference, Nov. 18-20, 1977.)
- The Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender. Binghamton University, New York. "How Did the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977 Shape a Feminist Agenda for the Future?"
- Feminists in politics: a panel analysis of the First National Women's Conference. By Alice S. Rossi.
- Diana Mara Henry Photography (Photos from the conference.)
- National Women's Conference, 1977, Audiotape collection (T-88). Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
- JoFreeman.com (Photos from the conference.)
- Ann J. Lane, National Women’s Conference in Houston interviews (T-66). Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
- Marjorie Randal National Women's Conference Collection, Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.
- National Women's Conference Records, Archives and Special Collections Library, Vassar College Libraries.
- The Spirit of Women: Sisters of '77.