The idea that the most desirable girl was a demure

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discussion. The idea that the most desirable girl was a demure thing who always lost at chess or tennis was slipping away. Young women plotting their futures were not feeling compelled to go for the least- adventurous option. Some people, of course, balked at the swift- ness of the change, and others preferred not to pay attention. ("It's the funniest thing. I don't feel there's any discrimination. I know my husband feels that way," said Pat Nixon when NOW began picket- ing·the White House in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.). But the nation's consciousness was quickly, ·and sometimes pain- fully, evowing. "WHO'D BE AGAINST EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN?" In 1970 Jo Freeman had to fly from Chicago to Washington, with a choice between a puddle jumper that made several stops along the way and flight with United. She chose the puddle jumper and later wrote United a letter, saying she had picked the less-convenient flight because she was boycotting the airline that ran those men-only "executive flights" between New York and Chicago. "A yearlater they changed the policy," Freeman recalled. "And they sent me a telegram." Politicians, keenly aware that the new special-interest group they were courting represented half the population, rolled out reforms. In the early 1970s, Congress passed a bill equalizing benefits for mar- ried employees, an Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the famous Title IX prohibiting sex discrimination in federally .aided education ., .. -_-.programs. "We put sex discrimination provisions into everything," · · said Representative Bella Abzug. "There was no opposition. Who'd · ''be.against equal rights for women?" Meanwhile, Attorney General . John Mitchell sued to end discrimination against women in large cor- "j,orations, and the Nixon administration forced two thousand colleges to submit to an investigation of whether they were discriminating· ,against women in hiring and salaries. 207 ·,if
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GAIL COLLINS The states followed suit. Roxanne Conlin, who was assistant at- torney general in Iowa, wrote a bill eliminating all references in Iowa law to man, woman, girl, boy, lady, gentleman, etc. The massive re- form of the state code produced a huge protest from ... barbers. Ever watchful of their perquisites in every part of the country, the Iowa barbers staged a huge fight against allowing men to have their hair cut in beauty parlors. That was fine by Conlin, "because nobody no- ticed the rest of it, such as equalization of pensions." In 1972 the members of the National Woman's Party walked out of their headquarters and up Capitol Hill to watch the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. At 8 1 , Alice Paul was still in Washington, trying to orchestrate everything. Amelia Fry, a historian who had volunteered to assist with the lobbying, felt Paul's intensity like "a single beam of strong light." When an exhausted Fry finally escaped for a lunch where some topic other than the ERA might be discussed, she was conscious that "a mile away was Alice in the one hundred eightieth day of the forty-ninth year of telephoning, assigning tasks, getting advocate statements written, and running her small army."
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