- Discussion Guide
On a historic weekend in November of l977, twenty thousand women and men left their jobs and homes in cities and small towns around the country to end discrimination against women and promote their equal rights.
For four days at the first National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, they caucused, argued and finally hammered out a Plan of Action.
Archival footage breathes life into heated debates over issues like the equal rights amendment, reproductive freedom, lesbian rights, sexual preference and minority rights.
Former First Ladies Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford, Lady Bird Johnson, and activists including Coretta Scott King, Bella Abzug and Barbara Jordan provided inspiration.
Current interviews with Gloria Steinem, Ellie Smeal, Ann Richards, Carmen Delgado Votaw, Liz Carpenter, and Betty Friedan bring a deeper understanding to its history and to its legacy.
Running Time: 55 minutes
Produced by Cynthia Salzman Mondell & Allen Mondell, Media Projects Inc.
Aired on Award-winning National PBS Series
“…an excellent accounting of a groundbreaking event in our feminist history. Every young man and women should see this film! I think it will become one of the most important contributions to women’s history.” – Betty Friedan, Author of The Feminine Mystique & Founder of NOW
“…evokes the struggles and triumphs of women in the golden era of the women’s movement. It is a passage through memory lane recalling the most significant moment in the history of women–the momentous Houston Conference.” – Carmen Delgado Votaw, Sr. V.P., The Alliance for Children & Families
“An important piece of 20th Century history for U.S. Women. Can be used by universities, organizations, and individuals to bring context to the 21st Century women’s movement, and energize a new generation of feminists.” – Martha Burk, National Council of Women’s Organizations
“A marvelous tribute to the women who fought on the frontlines for equal rights. You’ll walk away inspired by their energy and conviction.” – Liz Carpenter, Author and Lecturer
“Does an admirable job of evoking the wonderful spirit of Houston as well as the vital and vibrant debates in the 1970s over issues crucial to women … My students will love seeing it.” – Prof. Cynthia Harrison, Women’s Studies, George Washington University
Women’s Issues Then and Now
The National Women’s Conference of 1977 attracted 20,000 women and men to discuss and set an agenda for specific women’s issues. The majority of conference attendees expressed support for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which had been written in 1923 and which would have provided constitutional protection against gender discrimination.
Many of the issues that were important in 1977 remain significant today. In this lesson, students will learn about the ERA and about some of the many issues discussed at the conference. They will investigate important women’s issues of the present time and compare those issues to the ones that women fought for in the 1970s. They will conclude by writing brief essays about one contemporary women’s issue.
Women in the Media
We all see countless media images each day, many of them portraying women and girls in distinctive ways that are not necessarily representative of the “typical” woman or girl. This is also true of portrayals of men and boys, although this lesson will focus on women and girls.
A related issue is the fact that women are underrepresented in news and sports stories and, when they are included, they are often portrayed in stereotypically feminine ways. This was true of media coverage of the 1977 National Women’s Conference and the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Both stories were under reported and often did not receive adequate or accurate coverage in the stories that did discuss the event.
Students will read about the problems of under reporting women and women’s issues, and they will explore some of the stereotypical ways in which women and girls are portrayed in the mass media. They will analyze the covers of magazines that are popular with teenage girls and write paragraphs expressing their opinions about women and girls in the media.