From the Vote to the ERA: Feminist Waves

In the 1970s, women fought for property rights, equality in credit, fair divorce laws, wages for housework, and urged the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Ramona Barth

Flo Kennedy

The ERA was first proposed in 1923 by Alice Paul under the name the “Lucretia Mott Amendment.”  This amendment was introduced in every term of Congress thereafter, finally winning passage in 1972.  Indiana was the last state to ratify the ERA in 1975, leaving the amendment three states short of ratification.

Because the ERA has not been approved as an amendment to the nation’s constitution, women still lack full protection under the law.  Supporters of the ERA continue to introduce the amendment in congressional sessions, and strategize to win its passage.

from the Nancy Dibner papers

The 1980s marked a backlash against feminism, and many debated the value of, or need for, the feminist movement.  In the 1990s, the “third wave” of feminism began to find its voice, calling for a deeper understanding of the intertwining of oppression based on race, class, gender, and sexuality.  Third wave feminists have worked to examine popular culture and politics, and have looked deeply at the notion that the “personal is political,” a slogan made famous by their mothers’ generation, who argued that the choices women made in their personal lives were absolutely connected to the inequalities in society.

About the collections included in this exhibit:

Ramona Sawyer Barth papers
Ramona Barth (1911-2002) was a feminist activist, author, spokesperson for the National Organization for Women (NOW), and teacher.  She was one of the founders of Maine NOW, but participated in protests and actions in many cities along the East coast.   The photographs here represent a small portion of the materials she collected.  These photos document actions, and highlight some of the activists who Ramona Barth worked with during her years in the feminist movement.

Nancy Cushman Dibner papers
Nancy Dibner (1926-2007) was instrumental in the formation of the first Maine chapter of the National Organization for Women.  She served as the chapter’s secretary from its inception. In her own words, she stated that her significance in the NOW organization was her diligence in reminding people of the “necessity in chap[ter] and state of adequate record keeping and files [of the] communications within chap[ter] and organization, [and] press coverage of day-to-day activities as well as actions.”  Dibner was appointed by Governor Ken Curtis to serve as council member from Portland for the Governor’s Advisory Council of the Status of Women activated by the 106th Legislature.  Nancy Dibner became president of the Southern Maine chapter of NOW in 1973 and represented Maine at the 8th NOW National Convention.  She was also the co-editor with Anne Hazlewood-Brady of Mainely Now.

Anne Hazlewood-Brady papers
Born in Sloatsburg, NY in 1925, poet and playwright Anne Hazlewood-Brady graduated from Vassar College in 1946. She completed graduate work in literature at NYU, Columbia, and the University of Maine. She now lives in Arundel, Maine.  She became increasingly active in the women’s movement upon moving to New York City in 1969. Her activities there included the founding of the Women’s Interart Center and involvement in the organization of the Women’s Strike for Equality (1970), which commemorated the 50th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
Anne Hazlewood-Brady’s papers document her writing and the production of her work, as well as her personal life and activism.

National Woman’s Party collection
While these papers primarily document the Massachusetts chapter of the NWP, the influence of these women was felt across the country. The suffragists held bold pickets, confronted state and national government officials with the reality that women were being treated as second-class citizens, and were jailed and physically assaulted for their actions. This collection includes photographs, campaign books, journals, records of members and officers, copies of laws affecting women, membership forms, newspaper clippings, and scrapbooks.

We hope you have enjoyed this online exhibit.  These collections offer wonderful resources on the study of feminist action in the United States in the twentieth century.  If you are interested in viewing material from any of these collections, please contact the curator for assistance.

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