by Cindy Hanford,
Chapter/State Development Staff
|Many NOW chapters have been working in their communities
to insure that responsible sex education is taught in schools in response
to Operation Rescue's school pickets aimed at stopping sex education classes.
Chapters also publicized the NOW Foundation's Young Feminist Summit and worked to send young activists to Washington, D.C., for the April event, and many are working hard to win coveted prizes in the Mega-Membership Drive.
During our Valentine's Day of Action in February, more than 100 NOW chapters nationwide held pickets, wedding ceremonies or letter-writing campaigns in support of same-sex marriage around our Valentine's Day of Action.
In March, many chapters held programs to celebrate Women's History Month. Florida NOW sent out a "Women's Herstory Month" poster to every public library in the state -- 424 libraries -- along with a cover letter encouraging librarians to set up displays in observance. The poster also helped publicize Florida NOW.
In California, the Southwest Riverside County NOW Players performed a one-act play, "A Woman's Work is Never Done," presenting it three times, once at a local middle school. At an elementary school, they put on another play about early environmentalist Rachel Carson. The chapter also set up displays at the local high school and the library. The chapter's flier quoted historian Gerda Lerner: "Women's history is the primary tool for women's emancipation."
Cincinnati NOW Chapter President Lea Webb wrote a daily column for the Cincinnati Enquirer during the entire month of March. Each day's column covered events from past centuries and from the second wave of feminism, ending with a mention of the local NOW chapter.
Webb persuaded the paper's editor to run a daily Women's History Month column by offering to do the research and writing. If your chapter would like to pursue a similar project next year, a packet of these columns (courtesy of Webb) is available from National NOW's Chapter and State Development office.
The NOW chapter of Jersey City College takes a stand against anti-abortion terrorism. Photo from New Jersey NOW.
More than 40 New Jersey state and chapter NOW activists picketed the state's so-called "Right to Life" convention March 8. Speakers at the convention included ultra-conservative radio talkshow host Oliver North and abortion rights arch-enemy Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill.
In his speech, Hyde voiced the strategy of the anti-abortion movement: "You don't see a surge of support for a constitutional amendment, so we chop away at the abortion license. The partial-birth [sic] abortion ban is useful to the pro-life [sic] cause because it helps focus attention."
Dr. John C. Wilkie, president of the misnamed International Right to Life Federation, said: "We're going to win, but we're going to do it piecemeal. It's about doing what you can do when you can do it."
NOW activists' media comments focused on the radical right's strategy of slowly undermining Roe v. Wade through legislation, while escalating violence and intimidation at clinics. Somerset County NOW President Debbie Huber said: "They're focusing on medical schools, so the procedures aren't being taught. They're picketing doctors and using more violence."
By late March, a state bill banning the dilation and extraction abortion procedure had passed out of committee and was awaiting floor action.
Quad Cities NOW fights for the women of their community to have access to abortion. Photo from Quad Cities NOW.
The Quad Cities NOW chapter organized two protests in front of Bettendorf City Hall to voice their support for a proposed Planned Parenthood facility in Bettendorf, Iowa. Some citizens in Bettendorf have been fighting the planned clinic, and NOW activists rallied on Feb. 1 and on March 1, just before the city council voted on the matter.
Quad Cities is one of the largest metropolitan areas that does not provide access to abortions. The area encompasses Molena and Rock Island, Ill., and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa. Chapter President Linda Olson was quoted in the press: "We hope the city council won't become a part of a nationwide campaign to deny women their legal right to choose. Our rights will not be dismissed by a no vote, but a yes vote is a concrete step toward improving the lives of Quad-Citians."
Unfortunately, the Bettendorf city council voted 6-1 against the clinic. Planned Parenthood has filed suit in federal court and still hopes to build the clinic. In the meantime, they have started a resource and education center to establish a presence in the community. The center recently suffered minor damage from hand-made bombs.
The NOW chapter co-sponsored a Rock for Choice concert April 5 to rally public support.
The Northern New Jersey NOW chapter organized a Young Women's Forum held March 8 and attended by more than 140 high school students from Bergen County. Prior to the event, the chapter invited teens from every high school in the county to planning meetings so that they were able to choose topics for workshops. Meeting planners received grant funding from the American Association of University Women.
The chapter managed to keep meeting fees to $10, with scholarships available to anyone who needed them. Some teachers gave students extra credit for attending the all-day event which included: an interactive theater experience dealing with issues of interpersonal violence and workshops on eating disorders, substance abuse, healthy relationships, smart sexual choices and self-defense. Workshops were limited to teen participation to encourage open conversation, but teachers from outside the county attended some of the days' events in hopes of organizing such a forum in their communities.
Student evaluations of the event were overwhelmingly positive and most requested that the program be repeated.
Thanks for information provided by Linda Olson of Quad Cities NOW, Bob Willis of Northern New Jersey NOW, Kathy Helmbock and Lea Webb of Cincinnati NOW, Tanbra Turano-Davis of Southwest Riverside County (Calif.) NOW and Justine Postal of West Palm Beach (Fla.) NOW.
Return to NOW Home Page / Join NOW / Search NOW / Send NOW Mail