The National Organization for Women’s Statement of


The National Organization for Women, written in 1966 by Betty Friedan

The National Organization for Women was founded in 1966 by prominent Americanfeminists, including Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisolm, and others. The organization’s“statement of purpose” laid out the goals of the organization and the targets of itsfeminist vision.

We, men and women who hereby constitute ourselves as the National Organization forWomen, believe that the time has come for a new movement toward true equality for allwomen in America, and toward a fully equal partnership of the sexes, as part of theworld-wide revolution of human rights now taking place within and beyond our nationalborders.

The purpose of NOW is to take action to bring women into full participation in themainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilitiesthereof in truly equal partnership with men.

We believe the time has come to move beyond the abstract argument, discussion andsymposia over the status and special nature of women which has raged in America inrecent years; the time has come to confront, with concrete action, the conditions thatnow prevent women from enjoying the equality of opportunity and freedom of choicewhich 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 fullesthuman potential. We believe that women can achieve such equality only by accepting tothe full the challenges and responsibilities they share with all other people in our society,as part of the decision-making mainstream of American political, economic and sociallife.

We organize to initiate or support action, nationally, or in any part of this nation, byindividuals or organizations, to break through the silken curtain of prejudice anddiscrimination 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 urgentlynecessary 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 orpossible for women to devote the greater part of their lives to child- rearing; yetchildbearing and rearing which continues to be a most important part of most women’slives — still is used to justify barring women from equal professional and economicparticipation and advance.

Today’s technology has reduced most of the productive chores which women onceperformed in the home and in mass-production industries based upon routine unskilledlabor. This same technology has virtually eliminated the quality of muscular strength asa criterion for filling most jobs, while intensifying American industry’s need for creativeintelligence. In view of this new industrial revolution created by automation in themid-twentieth century, women can and must participate in old and new fields of societyin full equality — or become permanent outsiders.

Despite all the talk about the status of American women in recent years, the actualposition of women in the United States has declined, and is declining, to an alarmingdegree throughout the 1950’s and 60’s. Although 46.4% of all American womenbetween the ages of 18 and 65 now work outside the home, the overwhelming majority— 75% — are in routine clerical, sales, or factory jobs, or they are household workers,cleaning women, hospital attendants. About two-thirds of Negro women workers are inthe lowest paid service occupations. Working women are becoming increasingly — notless — concentrated on the bottom of the job ladder. As a consequence full-time womenworkers today earn on the average only 60% of what men earn, and that wage gap hasbeen increasing over the past twenty-five years in every major industry group. In 1964,of all women with a yearly income, 89% earned under $5,000 a year; half of all full-timeyear round women workers earned less than $3,690; only 1.4% of full-time year roundwomen workers had an annual income of $10,000 or more.

Further, with higher education increasingly essential in today’s society, too few womenare 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 thePh.D.’s.

In all the professions considered of importance to society, and in the executive ranks ofindustry and government, women are losing ground. Where they are present it is only atoken handful. Women comprise less than 1% of federal judges; less than 4% of alllawyers; 7% of doctors. Yet women represent 51% of the U.S. population. And,increasingly, men are replacing women in the top positions in secondary andelementary schools, in social work, and in libraries — once thought to be women’sfields.

Official pronouncements of the advance in the status of women hide not only the realityof this dangerous decline, but the fact that nothing is being done to stop it. The excellentreports of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and of the StateCommissions have not been fully implemented. Such Commissions have power only toadvise. They have no power to enforce their recommendation; nor have they thefreedom to organize American women and men to press for action on them. The reportsof these commissions have, however, created a basis upon which it is now possible tobuild. 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 casesbrought before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the first yeardealt with sex discrimination and the proportion is increasing dramatically, theCommission has not made clear its intention to enforce the law with the sameseriousness on behalf of women as of other victims of discrimination. Many of thesecases were Negro women, who are the victims of double discrimination of race and sex.Until now, too few women’s organizations and official spokesmen have been willing tospeak out against these dangers facing women. Too many women have been restrainedby the fear of being called `feminist.” There is no civil rights movement to speak forwomen, as there has been for Negroes and other victims of discrimination. The NationalOrganization for Women must therefore begin to speak.

WE BELIEVE that the power of American law, and the protection guaranteed by theU.S. Constitution to the civil rights of all individuals, must be effectively applied andenforced to isolate and remove patterns of sex discrimination, to ensure equality ofopportunity in employment and education, and equality of civil and political rights andresponsibilities 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 socialjustice; their solution will require concerted action by many groups. Therefore,convinced that human rights for all are indivisible, we expect to give active support tothe common cause of equal rights for all those who suffer discrimination anddeprivation, and we call upon other organizations committed to such goals to supportour efforts toward equality for women.

WE DO NOT ACCEPT the token appointment of a few women to high-level positions ingovernment and industry as a substitute for serious continuing effort to recruit andadvance women according to their individual abilities. To this end, we urge Americangovernment and industry to mobilize the same resources of ingenuity and commandwith which they have solved problems of far greater difficulty than those now impedingthe progress of women.

WE BELIEVE that this nation has a capacity at least as great as other nations, toinnovate new social institutions which will enable women to enjoy the true equality ofopportunity and responsibility in society, without conflict with their responsibilities asmothers and homemakers. In such innovations, America does not lead the Westernworld, but lags by decades behind many European countries. We do not accept thetraditional assumption that a woman has to choose between marriage and motherhood,on the one hand, and serious participation in industry or the professions on the other.We question the present expectation that all normal women will retire from job orprofession for 10 or 15 years, to devote their full time to raising children, only to reenterthe job market at a relatively minor level. This, in itself, is a deterrent to the aspirationsof women, to their acceptance into management or professional training courses, and tothe very possibility of equality of opportunity or real choice, for all but a few women.Above all, we reject the assumption that these problems are the unique responsibility ofeach individual woman, 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 centers, which will makeit unnecessary for women to retire completely from society until their children are grown,and national programs to provide retraining for women who have chosen to care fortheir children full-time.

WE BELIEVE that it is as essential for every girl to be educated to her full potential ofhuman ability as it is for every boy — with the knowledge that such education is the keyto effective participation in today’s economy and that, for a girl as for a boy, educationcan only be serious where there is expectation that it will be used in society. We believethat American educators are capable of devising means of imparting such expectationsto girl students. Moreover, we consider the decline in the proportion of women receivinghigher and professional education to be evidence of discrimination. This discriminationmay take the form of quotas against the admission of women to colleges, andprofessional schools; lack of encouragement by parents, counselors and educators;denial of loans or fellowships; or the traditional or arbitrary procedures in graduate andprofessional training geared in terms of men, which inadvertently discriminate againstwomen. We believe that the same serious attention must be given to high schooldropouts who are girls as to boys.

WE REJECT the current assumptions that a man must carry the sole burden ofsupporting himself, his wife, and family, and that a woman is automatically entitled tolifelong support by a man upon her marriage, or that marriage, home and family areprimarily woman’s world and responsibility — hers, to dominate — his to support. Webelieve that a true partnership between the sexes demands a different concept ofmarriage, an equitable sharing of the responsibilities of home and children and of theeconomic burdens of their support. We believe that proper recognition should be given

to the economic and social value of homemaking and child-care. To these ends, we willseek to open a reexamination of laws and mores governing marriage and divorce, forwe believe that the current state of `half-equity” between the sexes discriminatesagainst both men and women, and is the cause of much unnecessary hostility betweenthe sexes.

WE BELIEVE that women must now exercise their political rights and responsibilities asAmerican citizens. They must refuse to be segregated on the basis of sex intoseparate-and-not-equal ladies’ auxiliaries in the political parties, and they must demandrepresentation according to their numbers in the regularly constituted party committees— at local, state, and national levels — and in the informal power structure, participatingfully in the selection of candidates and political decision-making, and running for officethemselves.

IN THE INTERESTS OF THE HUMAN DIGNITY OF WOMEN, we will protest, andendeavor to change, the false image of women now prevalent in the mass media, and inthe texts, ceremonies, laws, and practices of our major social institutions. Such imagesperpetuate contempt for women by society and by women for themselves. We aresimilarly opposed to all policies and practices — in church, state, college, factory, oroffice — which, in the guise of protectiveness, not only deny opportunities but alsofoster in women self-denigration, dependence, and evasion of responsibility, underminetheir confidence in their own abilities and foster contempt for women.

NOW WILL HOLD ITSELF INDEPENDENT OF ANY POLITICAL PARTY in order tomobilize the political power of all women and men intent on our goals. We will strive toensure that no party, candidate, president, senator, governor, congressman, or anypublic official who betrays or ignores the principle of full equality between the sexes iselected or appointed to office. If it is necessary to mobilize the votes of men and womenwho believe in our cause, in order to win for women the final right to be fully free andequal human beings, we so commit ourselves.

WE BELIEVE THAT women will do most to create a new image of women by actingnow, 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 thecurrent, half-equality between the sexes – – but in an active, self-respecting partnershipwith men. By so doing, women will develop confidence in their own ability to determineactively, in partnership with men, the conditions of their life, their choices, their futureand their society.

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