Her speech was drafted on a plane from LaGuardia to O’Hare.

When Betty Friedan, author of the bestselling The Feminine Mystique, stepped to the podium at a NOW convention on the evening of March 20, 1970, to deliver her final speech as NOW President, her words drew nationwide attention. 

Friedan called on “every American woman” to demonstrate and strike for 24 hours. She made the same call later on a Chicago radio station.

Then, on August 26, 1970  — on the 50th anniversary of the woman’s vote in the US — in cities across the country, tens of thousands of woman marched and protested in the streets. They carried signs like “Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot,” and “End Human Sacrifice — Don’t Get Married.”

That march is often remembered as the first major protest of the women’s liberation movement. In her memoir, Life So Far: A Memoir, Friedan recalls: “Somehow, improbably, August 26th worked.”

“The Strike for Equality”

March 20, 1970 — Fourth Annual Convention, National Organization for Women, O’Hare Inn, Des Plains IL

I propose that on Wednesday, August 26, we call a twenty-four-hour general strike, a resistance both passive and active, of all women in America against the concrete conditions of their oppression. . . 

I propose that the women who are doing menial chores in the offices cover their typewriters and close their notebooks, the telephone operators unplug their switchboards, the waitresses stop waiting, cleaning women stop cleaning, and everyone who is doing a job for which a man would be paid more — stop —  every woman pegged forever as assistant, doing jobs for which men get the credit — stop. . . 

And when it begins to get dark, instead of cooking dinner or making love, we will assemble, and we will carry candles symbolic of the flame of that passionate journey down through history — relit anew in every city — to converge the visible power of women at City Hall — at the political arena where the  Power of women at City Hall — at the political arenas where the larger options of our life are decided. If  men want to join us, fine. If politicians, if political bosses, if mayors and governors wish to discuss our demands, fine, but we will define the terms of the dialogue. And by the time those twenty-four hours are ended, our revolution will be a fact.



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