Published On: Wed, Sep 6th, 2023

Nobody wanted to be called “a feminist”

By: Marci Shatzman

After activist and author Betty Friedan’s brand of feminism morphed into a more inclusive movement, some women opted out. They didn’t want to be labeled “a feminist.”   

I covered what happened nationally for nearly a decade as the only reporter for a major newspaper tracking the women’s movement. Or what detractors called “women’s lib.”

But even with fewer followers, the marches and votes mostly worked. Abortion was legal, and women like me joined formerly male-only professions. But the country never adopted the Equal Rights Amendment, and salary discrimination remained rampant.

When Philly’s Evening Bulletin went out of business in 1982, all my stories were lost to “herstory.” But I was transported back in time on Aug. 26 at the Delray Beach Library, when Palm Beach County NOW (National Organization for Women) celebrated its 50th anniversary, appropriately on Women’s Equality Day.

“We honor the women who came before us,” said the chapter’s longtime president Sheila Jaffe, alluding to suffragettes who made the 19th amendment happen giving women the right to vote in 1920.

The chapter’s Alice Paul Award, named for a famous activist of her day, was presented to State Sen. Tina Polsky, whose district covers parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties. Polsky pledged her “commitment to gender equality and justice,” via video, apologizing for not being there in person since she was taking her daughter to college.

Progress was evident with more women elected officials speaking, like county Vice Mayor Maria Sachs and Constitutional Tax Collector Anne Gannon. But Gannon summed up the current situation the best: “This is like a nightmare for women,” she said, imploring the audience to “get involved.”

Nobody needed imploring.

Several women candidates were invited to say a few words. Understandably, most plan to center their campaign on wider issues like climate change.

Who could blame them.

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