Claire: It's August 26th, 1970, exactly 50 years since women in America got the vote. But many of the women who've benefited from that first wave of 1)feminism now find themselves 2)frustrated. Equality of opportunity still seems a way off. It's time for action.
Jacqui Ceballos: I was so scared that, when I'd get to Fifth Avenue, I wouldn't see anything but about 5,000 women, and I'll just never, never forget it, that when I turned the corner you could not see the end of the crowd. It was unbelievable!
Claire: Jacqui Ceballos of the National Organization for Women has been planning this for months. The women have three specific demands: equal opportunity in employment and education, free 3)abortion on demand, and centres to provide 24-hour child care. But mostly the march offers a chance to express 4)solidarity.
Jacqui: Now they had started us at 57th street. Cars were beeping on the sides because they had only given us half the street, mind you, even though every other 5)parade always had the whole avenue. When the whistle blew, the women ran in the front with “women of the world unite” took the whole avenue. The cars on the side were beeping like mad because they couldn't cross the avenue, you see, and it was unbelievable. It wasn't a march like the early marches in the 1900s. Everybody was running this way and that; there were women pushing 6)buggies, there were men, it was unbelievable—all ages. And on the sidewalks, the sidewalks were packed and people... we would say to the women: “Join us! Join us!” And lots of them would join us. Of course there were men there with signs saying we belonged in the home and all of that. Later on I heard stories of many women who worked in Fifth Avenue talking about it. Their bosses would say: “Well those crazy women.” They'd say: “Those crazy women? I'm gonna join them!” And they'd run downstairs and join them.
Claire: Jacqui herself only became active in the feminist movement in her 40s, when trying to combine life as a mother of four and as director of a successful new opera company.
Jacqui: My husband was very jealous, okay? And he left the house—it was very 7)traumatic—and some said he was right, you know. I shouldn't be so involved in public life. And a friend just handed me Betty Friedan's book, The 8)Feminine Mystique. I know I was a feminist from the time I was a child, but Betty's book hit me right where I was at the time. And it just like I knew it wasn't me, it wasn't men, it was society, and society had to change. My committee was the strike committee—how to get things going—and I said: “How are we gonna get fifty thousand to march?” And this young woman—her name was Pat Lawrence—she said: “We'll take over the Statue of Liberty.” I said: “What do you mean? The Puerto Ricans took it over last year and they're in jail, and they've tripled the guard.” And she said, “We'll know how to do it!”
Claire: When August 26th came around, the women were ready. Across the country, thousands got involved. Some demonstrated against businesses considered 9)sexist, such as advertising agencies. Others refused to do the housework. Posters instructed “Don't iron while the strike is hot.” Jacqui got her message across through theatre, taking part in an 10)alternative 11)Mass in Times Square.
Jacqui: Do you know, I was brought up a Catholic and I changed the Lord's Prayer and I said, “Our mother, who art in heaven, Sister we call 12)Thy name. Our kitchen's done, our nursery's run on Earth and it isn't Heaven. Give us the right to earn our bread and forgive us our 13)trespasses as we forgive men who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from Adam. For 14)Thine is the freedom and the power and the glory for ever. A-women.” And a couple of Irishmen said, “That's 15)sacreligious!” But it made its point.
Claire: Most importantly, that point seemed to 16)resonate for a whole new 17)swath of women.
Jacqui: This was a joyous expression of “Ahhh, I'm free at last and nobody is gonna stop me now!” I think what we were realizing is, “We have the power!” The hell with what our mothers told us because some of our mothers told us: “That's 18)unladylike; don't do this;” etc. We're gonna do it! And maybe that was the joy that it took, how long—from 1920 to 1970?
Claire: Did it feel like a turning point? Did it feel like real power?
Jacqui: Yes it was because before—listen, even my family was embarrassed. My mother, later on she joined us and she worked for the 19)ERA; she even got the Catholic Daughters to vote for the Equal Rights Amendment. Before this they had laughed at us, they made fun of us, they…we heard horrible things, but once we had this march and the strike, we were a movement. And around the United States, all these women who had been watching us, they joined!