Photo: Marie D. De Jesus, Staff
Dee Coleman needs extra had modified.
She was only a 30-something gross sales consultant for Xerox when she attended the National Women’s Conference in Houston in 1977.
The 73-year-old plans to take part once more this weekend as occasions kicked off for the 40th anniversary conference on the University of Houston. The conference, which can be held Monday and Tuesday on the college, will function workshops on women’s issues, a dialogue with Gloria Steinem and a march to embrace the #MeToo motion.
“I still can’t believe we’re fighting for the same old stuff,” stated Coleman, who got here from Alabama for the gathering.
Coleman was one among 2,000 delegates through the unique gathering. The 1977 conference, which was supported by federal funds, included greater than 30,000 members. Delegates voted on 26 coverage planks regarding women’s rights and delivered them to Congress and the president in a report referred to as “The Spirit of Houston.”
A trio of University of Houston professors determined to carry the conference once more in 2017, and the Houston Women’s March group joined in partnership.
“We’re part of the legacy and influence resulting from the 1977 conference, and we’re continuing the work undertaken by the delegates and the suffragettes and the people asking for equality,” stated Robin Paoli, founding father of Houston Women’s March. “You’ve heard it said, ‘If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.’ Women have been on the menu for far too long with men at the table making decisions about them.”
Sara Youngdahl was simply a young person when she ventured to the conference together with her mom, Pat, who attended as a delegate from Arkansas.
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The mother-daughter duo each keep in mind feeling excited to collect with feminine leaders from everywhere in the nation.
“This was a dramatic moment,” recalled Pat, now 90. “We were really full of hope (about) how things were going to be for women.”
Sara, now a 54-year-old lawyer in Houston, plans to hold on the custom once more this weekend by attending the conference together with her 17-year-old daughter, Olivia. She hopes her daughter will really feel impressed seeing different highly effective women collectively.
Youngdahl additionally will probably be part of a dialogue dinner at St. John’s United Methodist Church on Sunday night, the place the unique 26 coverage planks shall be mentioned. Participants will consider the planks to see how a lot progress has been made in areas of health care, schooling and employment and to debate what new injustices they need to concentrate on.
On Saturday, Coleman made calls inside a Heights-area enterprise, ensuring individuals join health insurance coverage by the deadline beneath the Affordable Care Act. The calls have been part of a telephone financial institution occasion tied to the conference.
Coleman remembers eager to attend the unique gathering due to her position as president of National Organization of Women in Montgomery.
She had a number of issues on her thoughts she needed to debate, together with the circumstances of women’s prisons and health care. The single mother to 2 daughters additionally was the primary African-American president of her chapter, and she or he needed to ensure minority women had their voices heard.
“There was no way that we were not going to be a part of it,” Coleman stated. “Whatever they needed to call it, whatever they needed to do, it needed to be all inclusive.”
During the gathering in 1977, a counterconference with about 15,000 attendees was held 5 miles throughout city. It was led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. The Youngdahls are nonetheless amused by Schlafly’s stance at this time.
“Phyllis Schlafly was a very powerful women, very independent and very outspoken but still advocating for all the things that she wasn’t,” Sara stated. “It’s really a contradiction if you think about it.”
The Youngdahls are amazed that some discussions are nonetheless persevering with now. The Equal Rights Amendment, which was a hot-button problem on the conference, nonetheless doesn’t have sufficient ratifications from every state. The laws has been reintroduced to Congress each session since 1982.
“Clearly, we’ve taken a step back with Trump,” Sara Youngdahl stated. “It’s very hard to see how going forward what will happen as he chips away at the progress that we’ve made. It’s obviously an unknown. It doesn’t look too promising.”
Despite the many years which have handed, Coleman needs women to know progress has been made. She feels there are some key issues nonetheless at stake regarding threats to women’s health care and reproductive rights.
“I just remind them how long we’ve been doing this,” Coleman stated. “Just tell them what it was like before. Remember, we weren’t allowed to have credit in our names. Remember we weren’t allowed to have abortions.”