Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Feminism on Trial

"A Meteoric Rise"

When Ginny Foat joined NOW the organization was less than a decade old. Founded in 1966, it was still fluid, still evolving, still a work in progress. The "politics" that were later to cause deep divisions within the organization and between its leaders had not yet risen to the surface. Opportunities for advancement within the organization existed for those who were willing to work hard at spreading the word and furthering the cause. And, since there wasn't much of a budget with which to work, most of the positions within NOW and its local chapters were voluntary. Ginny threw herself into the work, volunteering for whatever needed to be done. And, most of all, she learned by listening; not yet leading.

However, within a year after Ginny's decision to join NOW, divisions between the organization's philosophical underpinnings began to surface. The founding mothers of the feminist movement were, by and large, well-to-do matriarchs who toed the line in many ways, despite their outspoken views on the rights of women. On the other extreme were those who made up a sizable lesbian contingent within the movement. The two sides were at loggerheads over how the movement should treat the issue of lesbianism. The older generation of leaders was wary of alienating those in the political power establishment of the nation over issues of sexual preferences, especially with the fate of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Federal Constitution hanging in the balance. They sought changes in the laws regarding women from a place that was safely within the American mainstream.

The younger generation within the movement was not so concerned with niceties. They wanted NOW to take stronger stands, not just on lesbianism, but also on issues regarding racism, abortion, and violence against women. A contingent known as the Majority Caucus rose to the forefront on these issues and, at the 1975 national NOW convention, this group, led by Eleanor "Ellie" Smeal, took control of the organization. Their slogan was, "Out of the mainstream, into the revolution."

Eleanor "Ellie" Smeal

Ginny found her voice and her place with this latter group. She moved comfortably within the more revolutionary and activist circles of the movement. She and other like-minded women demonstrated outside of churches that opposed abortion. She helped raise funds for various related causes. She took part in consciousness-raising sessions to elevate awareness of domestic violence and other abuses traditionally aimed at women. She counseled women who were going through divorces or having difficulties finding jobs in the workforce. Wherever she felt she could perform a valuable service to the movement, there she was.

But, Ginny's liberation was coming with a price attached. It was causing a serious strain on her relationship with Ray and with her business partner. Trying to keep her feet planted in these diverse worlds was becoming more and more problematic. She didn't want to lose Ray so, despite her "meteoric rise" within the feminist movement, she dropped out of it for the time being. She sold her half of the business to Danny, then settled down as a homemaker at her and Ray's new home in Canoga Park complete with backyard patio, swimming pool, and Jacuzzi.

Domesticity, though, didn't agree with Ginny's restless, activist spirit. After a few months out of circulation, she was right back in the thick of things again. This time the normally tolerant Ray decided he'd had enough. Especially after Ginny cut her hair short, in a style that was in vogue among other feminists in the movement. Although Ray had always been respectful of women, his attitude was more of a patronizing, chivalrous nature, not necessarily one of equality. He and Ginny separated in early 1977. It wasn't a good start to a new year and it was to get even worse. Several months later, her past would come back to haunt her.


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