The 1960s is often referred to as the age of “Camelot on the Potomac”. John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic to be elected as President of the United States. Under his leadership, the threat of nuclear war is avoided. It was a shining moment of triumph for President Kennedy. The bright promise of a new Camelot was shattered by his assassination in 1963. Martin Luther King Jr.’s gentle vision of racial reconciliation was overwhelmed by hatred, killings, and riots. There were lunch counter sit-ins and “freedom riders”. President Lyndon Johnson’s promise of a “war on poverty and a truly Great Society” was undermined by inflation and economic mismanagement. The “counter-culture” took hold. Social norms about clothing, music, drugs, dress, sexuality, formalities, and schooling dramatically changed. More women were getting jobs outside the home.
The decade was not without its victories: Americans landed on the moon, Israel humiliated the Arab States in the Six-Day War, the Beatles captured the world, and “the pill” was beginning to lower birth rates. An oppressed majority and a vilified minority finally demanded justice in the feminist and gay-rights movements. Young people memorized the young President Kennedy’s Inauguration speech and volunteered for the Peace Corps. The “forgotten” American gained a measure of recognition with the election of Richard Nixon. By 1969, 43% of women were in the workforce and many of them were wives and mothers.
Women continued making strides:
• A fifty-five-year-old woman, Mary Kay, retired from her job; started writing a book on how employees, especially women, should be treated; started a cosmetic company based on those tenets, and became a millionaire.
• Wilma Rudolph set a new world record for the 100-meter dash.
• Muriel Siebert owns a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
• Shirley Chisholm, of New York City, is the first African American woman elected to Congress.
• Ecologist Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, inspired the environmental movement.
• Betty Frieden’s book, The Feminine Mystique, launches the modern women’s movement. She helped form the National Organization for Women (NOW) to ensure equal rights for women.
• Marion Wright Edelman, an activist for children’s rights, founded the Children’s Defense Fund.
• The United States Congress passes the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act. The Zonta Club of St. Louis continues to provide community support by:
• purchasing monthly supplies for the Malcolm Bliss Mental Health Center.
• contributing to the establishment of a research laboratory for schizophrenia.
• establishing a staff library for doctors and nurses for research and study.
The 1970s is the era of women’s liberation, a woman’s right to achieve opportunities equal to those of men. This change was seen on college campuses across the country. Enrollment in colleges increased by 60%. By 1979, for the first time, more women than men entered colleges in the United States. The role of women in society was profoundly altered by growing feminism across the world. Women were making strides to compete for positions normally filled by a man. A significant number of women became heads of state in a number of countries across the world: Argentina’s Isabel Martinez de Peron (Evita), Central African Republic’s Elisabeth Domitian, India’s Indira Gandhi, Israel’s Golda Meir, and acting chairman Soong Ching-ling of the Peoples Republic of China.
Watergate set the tone and dominated the political agenda in the United States for two years. Double-digit inflation and unemployment, with a degree of unrest not matched since the Depression, caused people to turn to personal pleasures and preoccupations. The “Me” generation was born.
Women continued the fight for equality:
• The National Women’s Political Caucus is founded.
• The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. Almost 100,000 demonstrators march in Washington DC, in support of the ERA. It fails by 3 states.
• The Supreme Court decision on the case of Roe v. Wade ruled that a state law banning a woman’s right to safe legal abortion is unconstitutional.
• Women are admitted into US military academies.
• Toni Morrison, one of the most celebrated modern novelists of the 20th century, won the National Book Critics Award in 1978 for Song of Solomon and later the Pulitzer Prize Fiction for Beloved.
• Barbara Jordan is the first African-American woman to serve as a State Senator in Texas since 1833. As a three-term Congressional House Representative, she played a key role in the 1974 Watergate hearing. In 1976 she was the first woman and the first African American to give a keynote speech before the Democratic National Convention. In 1976, The Zonta Club of St. Louis celebrated its 50th Birthday as a member of Zonta International. The Club of St Louis continued its goal of Service and Advocacy:
• The club provided funds to establish a dental office at Elias Michaels School for handicapped children. This included a dental chair, mobile dental cabinet, and x-ray equipment.
• The club sponsored a Sheltered Workshop to teach working skills to the handicapped and retarded children that would enable them to enter the labor market.
• For the first time in the 27 year history of the Salvation Army’s Tree of Lights the project, a women’s organization, the Zonta Club of St. Louis, won the Grand Championship Award!
• The Zonta Club of St. Louis won the Reserve Grand Champion Award for having collected the largest amount in the Women’s Division in 1974.
• The club organized a Z Club at the Academy of Visitation.
• The club collected funds for cancer research, for children’s projects, and for the elderly.
• The Club refurbished the Zonta House at the Central Institute for the Deaf.
• In 1974, the Salvation Army’s program on the rehabilitation of alcoholic women became the club’s major service project.
• The club assisted in the organization and chartering of the Cape Girardeau Club (1977).