Sue Ellen Browder:
As feminists descend by the hundreds of thousands upon Washington this week—one crowd for the Women’s March last Saturday to protest President Trump’s election and another for the March for Life on Friday to protest the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision—Americans need to step back from the fray and ask three serious questions.
Why can’t the elite media see that the fierce abortion debate dividing our nation represents not a war against women but a war between women? When, where, how and why did this catfight between feminists begin? And is there any hope for unity and peace?
As an investigative reporter and author of the book “Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement,” I spent more than four years seeking answers to these questions. A former Cosmopolitan writer who long defended abortion as a woman’s “right,” I am now so fervently anti-abortion that I was a keynote speaker at last year’s March for Life.
Why did I switch sides? For two reasons. First, I had an abortion and as a result suffered from nameless anxiety alternating with depression for decades. Second, I learned how the abortion “right” was inserted into the feminist movement, and I didn’t like what I saw.
Feminism Versus the Sexual Revolution
While working at Cosmopolitan magazine in 1971, I witnessed what seemed to me then to be a small, insignificant fact but which in hindsight has assumed monumental importance. In those days, the feminist movement and the sexual revolution were two distinctly separate cultural phenomena.
Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Helen Gurley Brown would have loved for her sex-revolution magazine to be part of the feminist movement, but Betty Friedan, who had launched the modern feminist movement with her 1963 book “The Feminine Mystique,” called Cosmo “quite obscene and quite horrible.”
Feminists were fighting to achieve equal opportunity for women in education and the workplace. As mother of the women’s movement, Friedan declared that any view of sexual “liberation” that turns a woman into a sex object (as we were doing at Cosmo) is a false freedom that denies a woman’s personhood. Personhood was what Betty said the women’s movement was all about.
So how did the sexual revolution’s intensely polarizing demand for abortion get inserted into the feminist movement? Let’s relive the moment together.
Visit the Chinese Room of the Mayflower
It was November 18, 1967, in the Chinese Room of the Mayflower Hotel. Proclaimed by Harry Truman to be Washington DC’s “second best address” (after the White House), the Mayflower when it opened in 1925 was said to have “more gold leaf than any other U.S. building except the Library of Congress.”
In this opulent setting, 105 persons gathered for the National Organization for Women’s second national conference. By midnight that night, this small group of the “intelligent few” had voted on and adopted a “Bill of Rights” that set the political agenda of NOW and the mainstream women’s movement for decades to come.
The two powerful women seated side by side at the head table as the meeting was called to order at 9 a.m. were both founding members of NOW, but they could not be more different. Known for her flamboyant, combative style and domineering bursts of energy, 46-year-old NOW President Betty Friedan was a force to be reckoned with. One journalist described her eyes as “deep, dark, charged, and violent as her language.” Another wrote, “It is, perhaps, a reflection of her mercurial personality that she never looks the same twice. At a lectern she is sometimes earth mother, sometimes bitch, sometimes child. People who admire her find her attractive. To her enemies, she is all the witches from Macbeth.”
In dramatic contrast, the tall, dignified, lavender-blue-eyed retired IRS attorney seated next to Betty had a deep aversion to hostility and confrontation. At age 72, Marguerite Rawalt was a veteran Washington insider, a personal friend of Eleanor Roosevelt and suffragist Alice Paul , and one of the few independent activists President John F. Kennedy had appointed in 1961 to his Commission on the Status of Women.
Betty grew up as a precocious, lonely Jewish girl in Peoria, Illinois. Marguerite crossed the plains in a covered wagon as a child, grew up on a Texas farm, and never forgot the lessons she learned from her dependable dad. When she went duck hunting at age 70 with her brother, Marguerite shot six ducks, bringing down two with one shot.
So how did these two disparate souls wind up sitting side by side, jointly presiding over such a historic meeting? Their differences brought them together. Betty couldn’t run an orderly meeting if her celebrity depended on it. Marguerite was an expert on parliamentary procedure and volunteered to act as Betty’s parliamentarian.
NOW’s ‘Bill of Rights’
Eight rights were up for vote at the meeting. Six were adopted unanimously. Everyone in the Chinese Room agreed that it’s a woman’s “right” not to be fired when she gets pregnant and to have paid maternity leave. (In 1969, I was fired from my newspaper job for being pregnant; that was a common business practice in those days.)
Another “right” called for working parents to be able to deduct home and child-care expenses on their tax returns. Still another called for a woman’s “right” to be educated to her full potential. Law and medical schools were often still closed to women then, and in some states women weren’t even allowed to serve on a jury.
Only two “rights” on the table in the Chinese Room stirred controversy. The first was a demand for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Congress passed ERA in 1972 but it fell three states short of the 38 needed for ratification by a June 30, 1982 deadline, so that intensely debated “right” is now history. The second “right” that created an absolute uproar among the feminists in the Chinese Room was a demand to repeal all abortion laws.
Friedan saved the vote on the abortion “right” for last. Suddenly, without warning, she shocked many delegates, including Marguerite, by belligerently pressing for full repeal of all abortion laws. Marguerite was furious. She deeply opposed the “radical and irresponsible” turn the meeting took, and feared abortion would upstage the genuine legal battles for equality women were fighting. Why was she not told ahead of time that abortion would be on the table? Who’s calling the shots?
How Planned Parenthood joined up with NEW to show women haw to sacrifice the unborn as part of their offerings to satan
The right to choose was one of the things the women’s movement was about to begin with. The State has no right to deprive a woman of sovereign control over her own body. That is a fundamental principle.
May 26, 2018 — Ireland votes resoundingly to repeal abortion ban
@Greg: Ignorant, it was property rights and voting. Abortion had nothing to do with it, until after Johnson. When the womens movement started divorce was taboo. Roe vs Wade stopped the movement in its tracks now all they do is circle the wagons with no movement ahead, no vision they are nothing.
Tell it to the Irish.
You seem to be conflating the Women’s Movement with Women’s Suffrage. Feminism and the Women’s Liberation Movement began in the 1960s.
@Greg: Again you are an idiot you know nothing of the history you think women only started organizing in the 60s? It wasn’t just voting fool. Those that destroyed the womens movement are not feminine, they are nothing and have accomplished nothing since 1973. Vicious screeching irresponsible man haters, they do not represent well over 50% of women.
@kitt: Now Kitt, you know Greg is an expert on everything. He know everything because his liberal buddies tell him what to say. It makes no difference that what he says makes no sense, liberal just need to keep talking trash until real scholars with real knowledge give up the discussion.