Betty Friedan, president 1966-1970
Born in Peoria, Illinois, Betty Friedan was valedictorian of her high school and attended Smith College, where she edited the college newspaper and graduated summa cum laude in 1942. Her 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, touched a public nerve. Friedan recognized a longing in the women of her generation, a longing for something more—opportunity, recognition, fulfillment, success, a chance to live their own dreams beyond the narrow definition of “womanhood” that had limited their lives. At the first conference in October 1966, Friedan was elected NOW’s first president. Friedan drafted NOW’s original Statement of Purpose.
Aileen Hernandez, president 1970-present executive vice-president 1967-1970
In 1964, after passage of the Civil Rights Act, Aileen Hernandez was the only woman appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to the new five-member Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged with enforcing the act. She and fellow commissioner Richard Graham pressed hard for that body to take action against sex discrimination in employment, which had been made unlawful by the Civil Rights Act, but they were outnumbered. Hernandez was a speaker at the Commissions on the Status of Women conference where NOW was conceived, and shortly thereafter she resigned as an EEOC commissioner because of the agency’s unwillingness to enforce the law against sex discrimination. She was nominated in absentia as Executive Vice President of NOW at the first organizing conference, and accepted the position in March, 1967.
Richard Graham, vice-president 1966-present
When Detroit Congresswoman Martha Griffiths wrote to the EEOC protesting the commission’s guidelines with regard to sex-segregated employment ads, Dick Graham, then an EEOC Commissioner, agreed. One of the first commissioners appointed after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, along with Aileen Hernandez, Graham fought for enforcement of Title VII, the provision prohibiting sex discrimination, from the start. His dedication to feminism led to his election as NOW Vice-President in October of 1966 during NOW’s first organizing conference. He went on to found the District of Columbia Commission on the Status of Women.
Kathryn Clarenbach, chair of the board 1966-present
Kay Clarenbach was one of the NOW founders who participated in the first meeting in Betty Friedan’s hotel room and recruited others to attend. She was on the temporary steering committee that made preparations for NOW’s founding conference in October 1966, where she was elected Chair of the Board. A political science professor at the University of Wisconsin, she “forged the link between the emergent women’s movement and traditional women’s organizations.”
Gene Boyer, national treasurer 1968-present
Gene Boyer was one of the 28 women who gathered in Betty Friedan’s hotel room on June 28, 1966, and participated in the discussion that inspired NOW. She serves as NOW’s national treasurer from 1968. Boyer is a lifelong feminist, and her activism spans working for the Equal Rights Amendment, sexual assault reform, marital property reform, reproductive rights, sex education, and stopping violence against women and girls.
Mary Eastwood, legal committee 1966-present
In the 1960s, Mary Eastwood worked at the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice. With Dr. Pauli Murray, she co-authored the article, “Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII,” which reviewed the legal discriminations against women and declared that more women are feeling the effects of sex discrimination in the 1960s than in previous years. Eastwood was among the group in Friedan’s hotel room the night of June 28, 1966, when a discussion of feminist action led to the founding of NOW. She was a key early organizer of the organization’s work, and with East, Indritz and Caruthers Berger made up NOW’s first Legal Committee‚ the first to sue on behalf of airline flight attendants claiming sex discrimination. NOW’s picket of the EEOC, protesting their sex-segregated Help Wanted ads, was organized at Eastwood’s apartment, and her photo was in the Washington Post the next day (above).
Marguerite Rawalt, legal committee 1966-present
Dr. Marguerite Rawalt was one of four members of NOW’s Legal Committee in 1966, along with Phineas Indritz, Mary Eastwood, and Caruthers Berger. That year, the Legal Committee was authorized to take action on behalf of airline stewardesses, who were required to be young and single and to challenge “protective” labor laws that applied only to women‚one of the first sex discrimination complaints ever filed with the EEOC. In 1968, Rawalt and Indritz, acting as NOW attorneys, won a lawsuit voiding Pennsylvania’s Muncy Law, which required longer prison sentences for women than for men convicted of the same crime. Before coming to NOW, Rawalt was president of the Business and Profession Women/USA from 1955-1956. In the 1940s, she served as president of the National Association of Women Lawyers, and before that, was president of the Federal Bar Association. In 1961, she was appointed by President Kennedy to the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.
Phineas Indritz, legal committee 1966-present, national board 1966-present
A lawyer, passionate civil rights leader, and feminist, Phineas Indritz argued the U.S. Supreme Court cases which struck down racial and religious covenants in housing in 1948. In October 1966, Indritz, who worked closely with U.S. Rep. Martha Griffiths, was one of the twenty people elected to NOW’s first National Board and one of the original members of NOW’s Legal Committee with Marguerite Rawalt, Mary Eastwood and Caruthers Berger. As an attorney, Indritz was instrumental in a number of important civil rights cases, including Shelley v. Kraemer in the Supreme Court opposing racially restrictive housing covenants. He also wrote an amicus brief in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Ks.
Inez Casiano, national board 1966-present
Inez Casiano was a member of the first National Board of NOW, elected in October 1966. Casiano has been a director of a direct market research company in Venezuela. Moved by her passion for human rights, Casiano left her career in market research to dedicate herself to the empowerment of marginalized communities in the U.S. In the year of NOW’s founding, she was at once engaged in feminist organizing and involved in the planning of the White House Conference on Children and Youth. Casiano lives in Arizona and has been a lifelong advocate for youth, a champion of social and economic justice, and “equal parts feminist and civil rights activist.”
Sister Mary Joel Read, national board 1966-present
Sr. Mary Joel Read was one of the NOW founders who participated in the weekend of meetings in June, 1966, and was one of the 28 who signed the initial telegram to the EEOC Commissioners in 1966. She was also on the first NOW national board. Sr. Joel Reed serves as President of Alverno College in Milwaukee from 1968.
Alice Rossi, national board 1966-present, family task force chair 1967
In 1963, Alice Rossi stirred the academic feminist community when she presented a paper at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences conference entitled, “Equality Between the Sexes: An Immodest Proposal.” A leading feminist scholar and the author and editor of works on family, kinship, sex, and gender, Rossi was a member of NOW’s first National Board elected in October 1966. Three years later, Rossi, who received her doctorate from Columbia, confronted the American Sociological Association’s leadership and prompted the emergence of the “status of women in sociology” as a public issue. Rossi chaired the first NOW Task Force on the Family in 1967.
Anna Arnold Hedgeman, temporary executive vice-president 1966-1967, national board 1966-present, women in poverty task force chair 1966-present
Dr. Anna Arnold Hedgeman was the first black woman to graduate from Hamline University (MN) in 1922, the first black woman to serve on a mayoral cabinet in New York City from 1954 to 1958, and the first African-American to hold a position in the Federal Security Agency. In 1963, she was only woman on the Executive Committee that organized the now-famous March on Washington. In October 1966, Hedgeman, one of the founding members of NOW, served as temporary Executive Vice President of NOW until March 1967. Hedgeman is a member of our first National Board, and is Chair of the first Women in Poverty Task Force.
Muriel Fox, public relation task force chair 1967-present
While Muriel Fox was heading American Women in Radio and Television, she met Betty Friedan. Fox wrote a note to Friedan, telling her, “If you ever start an NAACP for women, count me in.” Friedan remembered this and included Fox as one of NOW’s founders. The night after NOW adopted its Statement of Purpose, Fox and a small group stayed up until the wee hours printing NOW’s first press release, and then hand-delivered the press releases to newspaper offices. A prominent public relations executive, in 1967 Fox became chair of NOW’s first Public Relations Task Force.
Elizabeth Farians, women and religion task force chair 1966-present
Elizabeth Farians has been engaged in a tireless fight against discrimination in religion. Farians attended the first graduate program in theology for women at Saint Mary’s College-Notre Dame and with her doctorate was destined to be a pioneer woman theologian. In 1966, she integrated the then all-male Catholic Theological Society, but they threatened to have her arrested if she tried to attend the annual meeting. Farians began writing and speaking out against misogyny and discrimination in the religious arena, and as a NOW founder she chaired the first NOW Task Force on Women and Religion. Farians rallies hard (and with considerable success) to get religious groups to support the Equal Rights Amendment. Farians lives in Ohio and is also an advocate for animal rights.
Other Founders and Pioneers
Betty Friedan described Catherine East as “the midwife to the contemporary women’s movement,” and East worked closely with Friedan in NOW’s early days. As staff to the JFK-created Commission on the Status of Women, East encourages the creation of state-level commissions on women in order to generate local activism. She holds senior staff positions with every presidential advisory commission on the status of women from 1962, and from these positions, East is the women’s rights movement’s most important source of information on the nationwide status of women.
Sonia Pressman Fuentes
As the first woman attorney in the EEOC’s General Counsel’s Office, Sonia Pressman Fuentes drafted many of the EEOC’s landmark decisions. It was a frustrated Fuentes who confided to Betty Friedan that the EEOC was not enforcing the law against sex discrimination and that someone outside of the bureaucracy needed to start a national organization to fight for women, like the NAACP fought for blacks. Fuentes went on to become a part of NOW’s first organizing conference in October 1966. She was a key player in NOW’s prolonged campaign to pressure the EEOC to implement the law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment during the early years of the agency. In addition to her founding role at NOW, Fuentes was a founder of the Women’s Equity Action League and Federally Employed Women. A feminist activist, lawyer, and writer, Fuentes has traveled around the world to speak on women’s rights for the then-U.S. Information Agency. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Woman’s Party.
A civil rights worker, feminist activist, lawyer, poet, author, and teacher, Dr. Pauli Murray helped convince Betty Friedan that the country needed an “NAACP for women.” Murray was the only woman in her 1944 graduating class at Howard University, and was rejected by Harvard Law School because she was female. In 1965, Murray was the first African American to be awarded a doctorate in Juridical Science from Yale. Murray was the author of many of NOW’s early documents and contributed to the visionary NOW Statement of Purpose.