Texas through Women's Eyes: The Twentieth-Century Experience

By Judith N. McArthur; Harold L. Smith | Go to book overview

Part Four
FEMINISM, BACKLASH,
AND POLITICAL CULTURE,
1965–2000

When the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women issued its report in 1967, it had no difficulty documenting inequality between the sexes. Women’s rate of college attendance was well below men’s (34 percent versus 48 percent), and they earned only 10 percent of doctoral degrees. Thirty-two percent of women were in the workforce, where they earned less than men even when doing the same work; female accounting clerks in Dallas, Houston, and Fort Worth, for example, were paid $23 to $27 a week less than their male counterparts. Professional women had no advantage, most egregiously illustrated by the example of a woman in publishing, with a college degree and twenty-five years’ experience, who earned less than nondegreed men with only two to three years’ experience. Nor were women fairly represented in supervisory positions even in professions that they dominated, such as teaching. Dallas, the report noted, had 172 public schools but only 26 female principals, all at the elementary level.

Appointed by conservative governor John Connally and chaired by W. S. Birdwell of the Texas Employment Commission, the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women had been formed to explore two seemingly conflicting aspects of the female experience: how could women continue to fulfill traditional roles as wives and mothers while contributing to the workforce, which also needed their talents and labor? Although charged with recommending ways to combat discrimination against women, the Governor’s Commission suggested little of real substance. It managed to grasp that “at least half of all women who work do so out of economic necessity and to raise their families’ living standards above the level of poverty or deprivation,” but, in an obtuse follow-up, the commission advised women not to complain about unequal treatment: “Overly enthusiastic ‘soap boxing oratory’ can do the feminine cause more harm than good.”1

The commission’s only useful recommendation was the suggestion that the Texas Civil Rights Act of 1967, which forbade employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, or nationality be amended to prohibit sex

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