On the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Joy of Resistance presents: Why were women included in the Civil Rights Act–and how did they make it real?

Joy of Resistance: Multicultural Feminist Radio @ WBAI airs on the 1st & 3rd Wednesday of the month at 9-10 PM (EST) at WBAI, 99.5 FM (Tri-Sate area, East Coast, USA); streams at stream.wbai.org. Follow us on twitter at @joyofresistance. Archived for 90 days at archive.wbai.org To pledge support for WBAI: give2wbai.org

The category of “sex” almost didn’t make it into the Civil Rights Act of 1964–and its inclusion was thought of by many as a “fluke,” a “joke”–a way to derail the entire bill. Yet despite the lack of a women’s movement at the time, it prevailed and became a critical step in the birth of a new women’s movement.

On Wednesday, July 2, 9-10 PM, we will explore the complex history leading up to, and emerging from, the inclusion of women in the 1964 Civil Rights Act: not only the relatively uneventful Congressional vote that got “sex” included as a category of discrimination in Title Vll (which dealt with employment discrimination), but the decades-long back-story that was behind this landmark step for women.

We’ll interview activist-historian Jo Freeman, who will take us back to important women’s rights activism that took place between the winning of suffrage in 1920–and what was to become a new women’s movement in the 1960’s. We’ll explore how, after suffrage was won, the movement split into two camps: those favoring “protective” labor legislation and those wanting an Equal Rights Amendment (which would have made such legislation illegal).

Using Freeman’s article: “How “Sex” Got Into Title Vll” as a reference, we’ll trace how the National Woman’s Party (NWP), formerly a militant suffrage organization, lobbied relentlessly for passage of the ERA, while their opponents–centered on the successive Women’s Bureaus of a number of presidential administrations since the Roosevelt Administration–worked just as tirelessly to pre-empt any possibility of ERA passage. Freeman will also make a compelling argument against the popular myth that women were included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in order to derail it

Then we’ll look at what happened after women won this fragile foothold in Title Vll–only to be met with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)–the agency created to enforce Title Vll–which ignored the 37% of complaints that were coming to them from women. We’ll speak with Sonia Pressman Fuentes, the first woman Attorney hired by the Office of the General Counsel of the EEOC, about the struggle within and without the agency that then ensued–and led to the founding of the National Organization for Women, which was created as an activist organization to pressure the EEOC to do its job, when it came to women!

We’ll also be playing clips from Jennifer Lee‘s powerful film: “Feminist Stories from Women’s Liberation” and in it we’ll hear voices of others who were part of these events, such as that of EEOC commissioner Aileen Hernandez, as well as Betty Friedan.

 

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