Author(s): Marjorie J. Spruill
Forty years ago, two women's movements drew a line in the sand between liberals and conservatives. The legacy of that rift is still evident today in American politics and social policies. Gloria Steinem was quoted in 2015 (the New Yorker) as saying the National Women's Conference in 1977 "may take the prize as the most important event nobody knows about." After the United Nations established International Women's Year (IWY) in 1975, Congress mandated and funded state conferences to elect delegates to attend the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977. At that conference, Bella Abzug, Steinem, and other feminists adopted a National Plan of Action, endorsing the hot-button issues of abortion rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, and gay rights--the latter a new issue in national politics. Across town, Phyllis Schlafly, Lottie Beth Hobbs, and the conservative women's movement held a massive rally to protest federally funded feminism and launch a Pro-Family movement. Although much has been written about the role that social issues have played in politics, little attention has been given to the historical impact of women activists on both sides. DIVIDED WE STAND reveals how the battle between feminists and their conservative challengers divided the nation as Democrats continued to support women's rights and Republicans cast themselves as the party of family values. The women's rights movement and the conservative women's movement have irrevocably affected the course of modern American history. We cannot fully understand the present without appreciating the events leading up to Houston and thereafter.
Forty years ago, two women's movements drew a line in the sand between liberals and conservatives. The legacy of that rift is still evident today in American politics and social policies.
[W]e will gain courage, knowledge, and tactics from reading about the historic National Women's Conference and the following decades of meetings, struggles, and campaigns that allowed women to decolonize our minds and begin to express ourselves as unique human beings. -- Gloria Steinem [A] highly detailed but well-focused account ... assiduously researched ... There are countless kernels of amazing achievement and courage throughout this jam-packed, engaging history. -- starred review Kirkus Reviews [A] timely history ... Spruill goes far behind the highlights ... A solid work and a must-read for understanding political and cultural divisions over women's lives in today's America. Booklist Spruill remains evenhanded in her treatment, tracing the tensions within each group and among their supporters ... her rigorous research and intense accuracy will make this an indispensable handbook on the history of the National Women's Conference and its enduring legacy on American politics. Publishers Weekly An authoritative history of the women's rights movement across decades arriving at its current incarnation. Library Journal Ably researched and aptly titled, DIVIDED WE STAND is must reading for anyone seeking to understand how gender politics became national politics. -- Jane Sherron De Hart, author of SEX, GENDER, AND THE POLITICS OF ERA DIVIDED WE STAND is a compelling account of the last half century's struggles over the role of women and the nature of the family. At the same time, Marjorie Spruill shows how these issues have played a critical role in the growth of the conservative movement as they have moved to the center of American politics. -- Dan T. Carter, author of THE POLITICS OF RAGE
Marjorie J. Spruill teaches courses in women's history, Southern history, and recent American history at the University of South Carolina. She is the author of NEW WOMEN OF THE NEW SOUTH and the editor or co-editor of several anthologies, including ONE WOMAN, ONE VOTE and THE SOUTH IN THE HISTORY OF THE NATION. She is on the editorial board of the Journal of American Studies, the journal of the British Association for American Studies (BAAS). She lives in South Carolina.