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Monday Matters from Laura Baxter, Executive Director

By 1970, second-wave feminists had inspired women and men across the United States. Whether in politics, in the media, in academia or in private households, women’s liberation was a hot topic of the day.

The most intense struggle for feminists during the 1970s was the fight for the passage and ratification of the ERA (the Equal Rights Amendment was originally drafted by Alice Paul in 1923). Although it was defeated, the idea of equal rights for women began to influence much legislation and many court decisions. Among these are Title IX, the Women’s Educational Equity ActTitle X, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, the outlawing of marital rape (although not outlawed in all states until 1993), and the legalization of no-fault divorce (although not legalized in all states until 2010). However, the changing of social attitudes towards women is usually considered the greatest success of the women’s movement.

In 1973, the National Organization of Women (NOW) created a Rape Task Force in 1973 to push for legal reform at the state level. This was instrumental in defining rape as a crime of violence. Domestic violence, such as battery and rape, as late as 1975 were both socially acceptable and legal.

Women in the 70s were talking about these issues and demanding attention! Women in Springfield were among them. A group of women and some allied men created a grass roots group which they called Project Woman; discussing issues core to the Equal Rights Amendment and how it impacted our community and specifically women.

These courageous women recognized that there was no safe option for women fleeing violence – especially if it was from their spouse. Together they developed a volunteer program, answered their home phones at all hours, and drove out into the night to collect women and get them to a safe place. The safe place was often their own homes! This network of volunteers grew in strength and in 1974 they founded Project Woman and became the 3rd established Emergency Shelter – Rape Crisis Center in the state of Ohio!

It was 1974… A time when there were no laptops, no iPads, no cell phones…our phones were hard wired into the wall and if lucky, there was a 6 foot spiral cord that allowed the handset to go with you around the kitchen table!  And yet, these women were dedicated to rotate an “on call” response and to be there for women fleeing from abuse whenever called upon.

It was 1974…A time when no one really had this conversation – at least not with the support of government and officials in that day. It was a new conversation; one that caused people to be nervous and uncomfortable. These were women of courage and our Founding Sisters (truly Wednesday’s Women!).

It is important to remember where the women’s movement came from; how much passion, courage and grit went in to getting us to where we are today; and quite simply that it wasn’t that long ago that what we do enjoy today was fought for and earned.

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Until next Monday Matters – Peace, Laura

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