– The Veteran Feminists of America (VFA) presented “Labor & the Women’s Movement: The untold story and why it matters” at the Renaissance Grand Hotel in downtown St. Louis on September 27, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. –
IMAGE: Logo of Veteran Feminists of America. Courtesy of VFA.


By Albert Nall, Staff Writer for The Current

The Veteran Feminists of America (VFA) presented “Labor & the Women’s Movement: The untold story and why it matters” at the Renaissance Grand Hotel in downtown St. Louis on September 27, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

A group of prominent speakers on feminist history delved into an exploration of the key roles that women played in the second wave feminist movement with an emphasis on organized labor. Topics at the seminar ran the gambit from “What happened to Rosie the Riveter?” to “Equality in the Age of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” In addition, the objective of the seminar included highlighting triumphs for women, as well as the role that women are playing in contemporary organizational strategy. At the end of the lecture, there was a cocktail and awards dinner to honor national and local labor leaders, as well as to name feminists from the past.

The second-wave feminist movement was a period of political crusading for women’s issues that first began in the United States in the early 1960 and lasted through the early 1980s. Second-wave feminism expanded past the initial triumphant achievement of voting and property rights secured in the first wave feminist movement in the early part of the 20th century. It spread into public debate on such issues as the workplace and its effects on the family, sexual harassment and equal pay and conditions for women.

Pam Ross, a treasurer of VFA introduced Kathy Rand who gave an overview of the second wave feminist movement in St. Louis. Rand, a member of the VFA’s Board of Directors, elaborated on the origins of second wave feminism, which she described as the “untold story.” According to Rand, many women during World War 2 worked in factories while the men were at war, the so called “Rosie the Riveters.” “When the second wave women’s movement was beginning in the early 1960’s, the assumption was the movement was led by professional, well-educated upper middle-class suburban women.” Rand said.

“Many of the women factory workers did not want to go back home to be housewives. They wanted and needed the well-paying jobs they held during the war. The women spent the time from 1945 to the early ‘60s, fighting to keep their jobs, and working within their organizations and unions. They were involved in starting the second wave feminist movement.” Rand said.

Kimberly Gardner, a member of the Missouri House of Representatives in the 77 district in St. Louis, was also part of the introductions. “This conference is very important, because when we talk about the movement, it is about the vote for equal opportunities for all,” Gardner said. “We ask you to encourage women, as well as men with the same ideas to support universal rights for all.” Gardner said.

The conference included a line-up that featured keynote speaker and feminist scholar Brigid O’Farrell, the author of “Rocking the Boat-Union Women’s Voices, 1915-1975.” “I look forward to a discussion of how we can move forward with one movement. The challenge for each of us in the room today, is how we can use our history to help in our continuing struggle for women’s equality.” O’Ferrell said. She then quoted from Eleanor Roosevelt who said at a convention in 1955, “We can’t just talk, we’ve got to act.”

The Veteran Feminists of America is a nonprofit organization for those who were involved in activism during the second wave of the feminist movement. The aim of the organization is to chronicle material from archives and oral histories about the second wave women’s movement for the benefit of journalists, historians and other scholars of feminism. The end goal of VFA is to encourage the solidarity forged during years of impassioned activism, to honor feminist heroes, as well as to document the history of the women’s movement. For more information about Veteran Feminists of America, contact their website at http://www.vfa.us. VFA also has pages on Facebook and Twitter.

© The Current 2014