The National Organization for Women was founded in 1966 by a group of women who had been appointed to review work addressing employment discrimination. After carefully preparing a report, they were informed that they were just supposed to “study” the problem and that a report wasn’t necessary. Any outcomes would be at the direction of Members of Congress who would decide what was best to address these issues. This did not go over well with members of the committee, and the result is history!
These women decided it was time to begin addressing a “new wave” of the women’s movement. Some federal legislation was making its way through Congress, but most were challenged in court. The Equal Rights Amendment, first written by Alice Paul in 1923, remained a huge priority. Tradition tells us that Betty Friedan sketched out the NOW logo on a napkin at that initial gathering.
NOW began as chapters – mostly in the major metropolitan areas of the country, but a structure coordinating their work through state organizations was soon proposed and passed. The states in the U.S. were divided into regions, which are represented by board members elected by members of those member states, creating our National Board of Directors.
The national officers were moved from Chicago to Washington DC in 1977. The organization has played a key role in legislative, judicial and societal change for over 50 years. Maryland NOW has always tried to play an active role in the program and issue priorities of the organization and has urged our membership to become involved in national actions and events.