The Alternate Feminist Movement

1968 was the year of women. It was an extremely vulnerable year in which many groups in society were insistent on changing their identities for the better. For example, many African Americans sought laws in which they were not discriminated simply because of their race. But there was another movement going on at the same time known as the feminist movement in which women demanded fairer political and social rights all throughout the United States. Originally called the women’s liberation movement, the feminist movement became part of the many societal shifts that took place in the year 1968. Women began to use their attitudes as power and publicly spoke out for the first time in history. The only problem was that there was no true set group with officers; not until Elizabeth Boyer and the Women’s Equity Action League.

For the first time in history, women were publicly protesting for equal rights.

Elizabeth Boyer

Born on November 12,1913, Elizabeth Boyer went to college at Bowling Green State University and studied as an American lawyer. She was extremely successful and even achieved her Masters in law at the age of 37. However, her most notable contribution was founding the Women’s Equity Action League in 1968 in Cleveland, Ohio. She was elected as the president of the organization and was even able to further its cause so greatly that they were able to establish their main branch in Washington, DC. Boyer was a large factor in the passing of the Title IX legislation and equal right for women would not have been possible without her. However, she unfortunately passed away in 2002 but she is commemorated by Bowling Green State with the Elizabeth Boyer award which recognizes students’ mothers and gives them financial aid. With this award, she will always be remembered throughout history as an advocate for women’s rights and will continue to guide women even after death.

“We saw a need for an organization that would coordinate other organizations and concentrate on economic advancement for women…”

-Boyer on the creation of WEAL.

Women’s Equity Action League and Their Purpose

Founded in 1968, the Women’s Equity Action League (WEAL) was created as a separate branch from the National Organization for Women (NOW). Both were very similar in that they used the tactic of lobbying for institutional change and even some original members in the NOW were also in WEAL. Both organizations fought against sex discrimination in society; however, it was the finer details and instances of discrimination that separated the two. For example, the NOW was supportive of abortion, a topic that WEAL disapproved of. In addition, WEAL was more focused on women’s discrimination in education and economic ability. Throughout history, especially in the 1960’s and 1970’s, women were unfairly treated in the workplace and discriminated by men simply because of their gender despite the implementation of the Equal Pay Act. In fact, the wage difference the two genders was so extreme that the difference in lifetime earnings between men and women was around $38,000.

But WEAL believed that one of the biggest challenges women faced in society was that they were discouraged from entering a higher education level. Especially in the 1960’s, women were very discouraged from becoming more educated simply because of the ideal that the women were supposed to stay at home. They were almost forbidden from developing their career outside the home and were oppressed in a sense. So WEAL was determined to allow women to be able to pursue more diverse careers in the world besides the labor force and being a housewife. This organization also wanted justice for the women who did make it into higher level fields, such as medicine and law, and were still discriminated in the workplace. So WEAL’s method of attack was to file hundreds of sex discrimination cases against universities and companies and overwhelm them. By doing so they were able to support a larger cause such as the Equal Rights Amendment and Title IX. They even created a newsletter called the WEAL Washington Report in order to update their followers on the state of their cause.

Publication by WEAL on how budget cuts impact women.
Even men supported the feminist movement.

Disbandment

However, in 1989 WEAL was dissolved due to lack of funding. After being a strong force in the women’s movement for 20 years, the non-profit organization was unable to continue because of funding issues and was forced to dissolve. But its efforts will always be remembered because of how influential it was at the time. The specific designation for a group of people to fight for economic equality for women was unheard of at the time. It inspired many to join along and publicly fight against the government for the first time in history. WEAL was a catalyst for women in the United States to realize that enough was enough. They decided that they were no longer going to be limited in their advancement of their careers and wanted economic equality. Women finally realized that they could use their voices to lawfully and legally fight against job discrimination. They lobbied, filed grievances, and mobilized American women against the sexist ideals that were holding them back from succeeding. And although WEAL is no longer, their impact will always be recognized throughout history as an organization that sought nothing but legal justice for women. They changed society as a whole by not only supporting the economic advancement of women; but also allowing them to seek higher education.

Sources

Almquist, Vicki. “Women’s Equity Action League Closes Its Doors.”Proquest, 4th ed., vol. 2, Minerva’s Bulletin Board, 1989. https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/docview/231214441?pq-origsite=summon

Burkett, Elinor. “Women’s Movement.”Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2 Aug. 2016, www.britannica.com/topic/womens-movement. https://www.britannica.com/topic/womens-movement

Steenbergen, Candis. “Women’s Equity Action League.”Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 18 Dec. 2015, www.britannica.com/topic/Womens-Equity-Action-League. 

“WEAL Combats Discrimination.”Women in the Workplace, salemhist128.web.unc.edu/2015/04/06/weal-combats-discrimination/. https://salemhist128.web.unc.edu/2015/04/06/weal-combats-discrimination/

“Women’s Equity Action League. Records of the Women’s Equity Action League, 1966-1979: A Finding Aid.”Women’s Equity Action League. Records of the Women’s Equity Action League, 1966-1979: A Finding Aid, oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~sch00323. http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~sch00323