1974 BJK Co-founded womenSports Magazine

Billie Jean King published the debut issue of womenSports in June 1974. Her publisher's letter expressed her hope that through womenSports "more women will take pride in their performance in sports and ... the enjoyment a well-toned body can bring them." King faced a difficult financial reality. In an oversaturated market, the magazine had to capture a divided female audience interested in competitive sports and recreational fitness. Staff struggled with how much to cover King herself and whether the magazine's advertisements should reflect its values. Readers expressed concern about sexism in ads and even articles, male writers, the lack of acknowledgement for lesbians. womenSports was still truly extraordinary for its day though. Instead of stories about fitness increasing sex appeal, womenSports published reports on women's health issues and self-help articles like "How to Pick up Men and Throw Them against the Wall." Following the progress of Title IX and women's athletic scholarships, womenSports encouraged young women to not just make due in a changing world, but to be a part of changing it. With profiles of female athletes from every sport, the magazine offered the "best chronicle of the athletes, issues, and events that were important during the 1970s revolution in women's sports." Although womenSports folded in February 1978, it continued its extraordinary dedication to women as individuals and athletes as the monthly newsletter for the Women's Sports Foundation until 1998.

President's Commission on the Status of Women

In December 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order establishing a Commission on the Status of Women to investigate barriers for women and develop recommendations for assisting working women. Census reports from the Administration indicate women made up over ⅓ of the workforce, with the percentage of married women working almost double that in 1940. Headed by Eleanor Roosevelt until her death, the Commission spearheaded legislation to support working women, including the 1963 Equal Pay Act. Employing member Pauli Murray’s monumental strategy, the commission used the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection for "any person" to create protections against sex discrimination. The commission also investigated and eliminated discriminatory policies in government hiring, abolished restrictions on the number of women officers in the military, advised legislation for day-care facilities, and conducted research on the effects of discrimination on working women of all races. While Roosevelt was also anxious to involve more women in political decision making and traditionally male-driven professions, JFK and many on the committee did not share her view. The commission’s report emphasized women’s primary responsibility in the home, focused on women who worked only out of necessity, and did not acknowledge sexual discrimination to be as serious as racial bias. The commission also had unfulfilled recommendations for the expansion of protective labor legislation to cover both men and women, paid maternity leave, the expansion of adult education, unemployment insurance, and part time work opportunities. However, Esther Peterson’s awareness-raising had inspired state commissions in all 50 states. Spurred by the research, ideas, and fellowship of the original commission and dissatisfied by it’s limits, the women in these state commissions continued developing a network of activism. Several, including Pauli Murray, would go on to found the National Organization for Women (NOW).

Title VII of Civil Rights Act

Signed into law on July 2, 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in the workplace. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was first proposed, it had no protections for women. In response, Representative Martha Griffiths (D-MI) planned to include an amendment that banned sex-based discrimination. Before she could do so, Representative Howard Smith (D-VA) introduced Title VII with the intention of causing the entire bill to fail; he objected to the threat that the Civil Rights Act posed to segregation laws, and believed that extending protections to women would erode support for the Civil Rights Act. Despite his efforts, the bill was enacted into law. Title VII gave women crucial legal rights in the fight against gender-based discrimination. Women in the United Auto Workers union used Title VII to sue against wage discrimination. Labor activist Mary Keyserling invoked Title VII in a 1965 speech to call for the end to the designation of work as a 'man's' or 'woman's' job. In 1971, flight attendant Mary Celeste Brodigan applied Title VII to overturn her airline's policy of firing married women. Title VII and the subsequent emergence of the focus on "sex discrimination" led to a shift in the cultural understanding of the role of women in the workplace.

Equal Employment Opportunity Act

Eight years after Congress introduced Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the House of Representatives succeeded in adding an amendment to it: the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 (EEOA). The EEOA gave the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the power to enforce Title VII and expanded it to cover more workers. Title VII had made it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based off of their race, gender, religion, or national origin, but the process for filing a complaint, seeking legal justice, and actually enforcing the law was unclear even to the government. Women had been advocating for the addition of this amendment to help them regain the jobs they had lost since the end of the Second World War, during which they had taken over the workforce. Women in the news business used the act to sue papers such as Reader's Digest, The New York Times, and The Washington Post for limiting them to secretary and mailroom positions while men of the same qualifications got to work as reporters and writers. Many of these cases were successful and resulted in training programs, scholarships, and funding for the women at these companies. The EEOA continued to aid people, leading to a decrease in unemployment rates among POC, extending the rights of Title VII to educational workers, and legally obligating employers to accommodate the religious practices of their employees.

Ladies Home Journal Sit-In

In 1970, a wave of women protested misogynistic media run by men. In January, feminists of the new left took over the RAT newspaper, and later that year female staff members at Newsweek issued a formal complaint. In March, the Ladies Home Journal (LHJ) Sit-in commenced: two hundred women marched into the offices of the LHJ and protested for eleven hours. The sit-in was organized by the group Media Women, but women from all over the city came to join, including feminists of NOW, the Gay Liberation Front, and New York Radical Feminists. As they occupied Editor-in-Chief John Mack Carter's office, members of the sit-in insisted that women's voices be heard. They pushed for an exclusively female staff and employment of more women of color. They advocated that the magazine's resources be put towards childcare (having a daycare available to mothers on staff ) and an established minimum wage of $125 per week. Male staff listened to the women's claims but wouldn't step down to make way for female editors. Instead, the Editor-in-Chief designated eight pages in the August 1970 issue to a section called "New Feminism." The supplement discussed feminist takes on topics such as beauty standards, work, divorce, and sex, and encouraged readers to respond with their own ideas. In years subsequent to the Sit-in, the LHJ included a few feminist columns, and in 1974 female editor Lenore Hershey became Editor-in-Chief. Most significantly, the sit-in's prominence in popular media encouraged other women's magazines to hire more female writers/editors and fold feminist ideas into their usual content. In 1972, Ms. Magazine was successfully founded, proving that women's liberation could hold its own in the magazine industry.

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