Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women's Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics

Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women's Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics

Marjorie Spruill

10.11.2017

Marjorie Spruill

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.

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 in 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.
 
“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.