NOW Activism Through the Years
Aileen Hernandez, a union organizer and civil and women’s rights activist served as NOW’s second president in 1970. She helped organize the Women’s Strike for Equality and testified in front of a congressional subcommittee on the Equal Rights Amendment.
Through our nearly 55-year history, NOW’s work on racial justice has included marches, rallies, summits, public awareness campaigns, event co-sponsorships, litigation, coalition work, letters and petitions to Congress, shaping and endorsing legislation, action alerts, conference panels, and featured speakers and much more. Here are just a few of the highlights:
- NOW has adopted more than 60 resolutions addressing racial justice and equity at our annual conferences.
- NOW is a long-time and active member of the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights and our officers serve on the executive committee.
- Our decades-long campaign for equal pay includes awareness campaigns for “Equal Pay Days” on the specific days of the year when women of different racial groups are paid what white men are paid in the previous calendar year.
- We have published numerous reports on the importance of Social Security, highlighting the fact that women of color in particular often live near the poverty line in retirement due to sex and race discrimination in employment and pay.
- NOW regularly monitors print, broadcast, and online reports that relate to our organization and to our core issues and have spoken out against racist and sexist actions by media figures. When Don Imus, a CBS “shock jock” described the Rutgers University women’s basketball team in an extremely derogatory manner, NOW’s then president, Kim Gandy, called for his firing. A joint press conference of women’s organizations followed, corporate sponsors echoed the call and Imus was fired.
Highlights Through the Decades
- 2020-2023: NOW hosts annual Racial Justice Summits.
- 2020: NOW celebrates the 100th anniversary of the right to vote with Sisters in Suffrage to honor suffragists of color.
- 2002: NOW rallies on the Supreme Court to uphold the race-based affirmative action policies in colleges and higher education.
- 1998: NOW holds its first Women of Color and Allies Summit during which activists staged a demonstration in support of equal wages for women janitors in the U.S. Capitol.
- 1985-1989: Loretta Ross served as the director of Women of Color Programs for NOW and organized the first national conference on Women of Color and Reproductive Rights in 1987. She went on to co-found and lead SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective.
- 1991: NOW serves on the drafting committee of the 1991 Civil Rights Act, landmark legislation making it easier to establish employment discrimination in court. The Act represented the first effort since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to modify some of the basic procedural and substantive rights provided by federal law in employment discrimination cases.
- 1990s: NOW President Patricia Ireland declared a NOW hunger strike to oppose welfare reform and Republican attacks on women receiving welfare assistance that used the racist and derogatory term, “welfare queens.”
- 1970: NOW became a party to the landmark EEOC petition against AT&T for “pervasive system-wide and blatantly unlawful” discrimination against women and people of color. In 1973, AT&T signed a $38 million agreement to pay victims of the discrimination.
More on NOW’s work on racial justice and equity is at the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library of the History of Women in America, at Radcliffe/Harvard.