How women got in on the Civil Rights Act.
July 20, 2014 4:35 AM   Subscribe

For twenty years, the belief that the sex provision was a monkey wrench that unintentionally became part of the machine was the conventional wisdom about Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964]. But when scholars—including Michael Gold, Carl Brauer, Cynthia Deitch, Jo Freeman, and Robert Bird—dug into the archives they not only learned that the real story of the sex amendment was quite different; they essentially uncovered an alternative history of women’s rights.
The Sex Amendment by Louis Menand tells the story of "how women got in on the Civil Rights Act." It focuses especially on the role of the National Women's Party, led by septuagenarian suffragette Alice Paul. Here is a long interview with her which focuses on her activist youth.
posted by Kattullus (5 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
That quote by Susan B Anthony was disturbing. Beware of heroes and all that.
posted by rikschell at 5:40 AM on July 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

Sunlight is necessary, and the sexism on the civil rights side was as ugly as the racism on the feminist side. Doesn't excuse either one, but it's best to know the truth. Of course racism in feminist political leadership is a very live issue that's caused some painful but needful discussion especially on Twitter. I have hopes for improvement.
posted by emjaybee at 6:49 AM on July 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

This is fascinating, thanks.
posted by likeatoaster at 8:58 AM on July 20, 2014

One of the things that struck me when I used Google Scholar to follow up on the researchers that Menand mentioned was that their work is not exactly hot off the presses; it all dates back to the 1980s and 1990s.

For example, in 1983 Carl Brauer published a paper [need to sign up for MyJSTOR to read for free] in the Journal of Southern History called "Women Activists, Southern Conservatives, and the Prohibition of Sex Discrimination in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act".

A few other citations I turned up are: posted by metaquarry at 9:07 AM on July 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

That interview with Alice Paul is something else:

"I can’t remember how long I was in jail that time. I was arrested a number of times. As for forcible feeding, I’m certainly not going to describe that."
posted by notyou at 9:10 AM on July 20, 2014

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