The founders of the National Organization for Women wanted women in the United States to enjoy equal rights and responsibilities as American citizens. The NOW founders created seven initial task forces to work on women’s issues, one of which was the Task Force on Legal and Political Rights.
Task force chair Jane Hart outlined the vision and early goals in a 1967 statement. One major problem feminists perceived in society was that women did not enjoy equal rights and responsibilities in American politics. The NOW Task Force on Legal and Political Rights sought:
- Full participation in political decision-making in the power structure of political parties
Many people had a vision of politics being an “old boys’ network.” Important men gathered in smoke-filled rooms to wield their power, with no women in sight. In some places, this depicted the truth. Women were often overtly or subtly excluded from political party leadership. No woman chaired or co-chaired one of the two major national political parties until the 1970s. Gradually throughout the 20th century women began appearing in greater numbers at political conventions, in leadership positions and eventually as keynote speakers. The NOW task force wanted to see results soon.
- Full participation in selection of candidates and formation of national policy
Just as women should be present in leadership positions and political party structure, their voices should be heard in framing the debate. The feminists of NOW recognized that women’s ideas and voices had often been excluded, unless their views were shared by men. It took more than a century after the ratification of the Constitution for women to gain the right to vote. The Task Force on Legal and Political Rights did not want women to wait any longer for full participation as citizens.
- Full participation in the holding of public office
This is a continued goal of NOW and other feminist organizations: supporting women candidates and creating a society in which women participate in professional and civic roles in equal numbers with men.
- Full participation in service to the nation
Whether military service, jury service or other service to one’s nation and community, the Task Force on Legal and Political Rights wanted women to participate. These feminists stood up to unjust laws that kept women off juries and recognized that women could participate more fully in other service to their country as well.
Feminist theorists argued that most of society’s institutions were structured by and for men. The NOW Task Force on Legal and Political Rights called for a change to this underlying structure, with their sights set on a time when women would enjoy equal rights and responsibilities in American politics.