a) a person who believes that women should have political, economic and social rights equal to those of men.
b) one who believes the implementation of feminist principles will create a more humane type of political power.
Welcome to the website of one of New Jersey's most active, organized and innovative chapters! Our goal is to show you what we are all about and in doing so we hope you will become as enthusiastic as we are about our work. You can browse through and find out about one of the local heros of the women's movement and see why our chapter is named after her. We have included our chapter herstory, task forces, and letter writing suggestions. Our extensive calendar of events will keep you informed on what is happening in the Burlington, Camden and Gloucester County areas.
This chapter of NOW is involved in so many different activities that there is usually something for everyone. Whether your key issue is equal pay for equal work, ending violence against women, reproductive rights, child care, divorce law, ending racism or women in politics, this chapter is doing something about it. We would love to answer any of your questions at (856) 778-8320 or by email. Feel free to come to one of our meetings to "check us out". Program Meetings are held at the First Baptist Church in Moorestown on Main Street (see our home page for the specific date and topic).
Here's one of my favorite quotes that played a part in my involvement in NOW: "I wondered why somebody didn't do something. Then I realized, I am somebody."
Thanks for stopping in!
Address: South Jersey NOW-Alice Paul chapter
P.O. Box 2801
Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
According to a December 1971 article, women held their first local feminist workshops in the fall of 1970 and the spring of 1971. Each attracted about 75 women and was held in the basement of the First Baptist Church in Moorestown . At the meetings, discussion groups were held on job discrimination, divorce, women and the law, and abortion.
Women of South Jersey were being introduced to consciousness raising (CR) which the article called the "non-structured strand of the feminist movement" as opposed to the "structured activist arm exemplified in NOW." The Moorestown CR Group (each local geographic area had its own group but the combined groups sent out a newsletter to 300 women) found free meeting space in the second floor of the First Baptist Church annex at 15 W. Main Street, presently the home of Burlington County Family Services. Besides holding group meetings, the building also housed a feminist reading room. The battle with NJ Bell to get the phone installed was a story in itself.
On June 2, 1971, the Courier-Post carried a story entitled "Women Break the Sex Barrier, Eat with Businessmen." The women in the article were described as "mothers who claimed to be part of a women's liberation movement" and who asked the hostess to seat them in the "businessmen's lunch grille" instead of the large dining room of the Cherry Hill Inn. The Inn manager said that the policy was to only serve men in the grille at lunchtime but added that "there may be a meeting of the management to discuss changing this policy." The article ended with the comment to reassure readers that Dr. Wible's husband cared for their two children and another member of the "women's lib" group cared for Mrs. Karklin's son during the luncheon and that Mrs. Schatten's two children were attending school. (See Judy Buckman for copies of the above mentioned articles.)
In October 1971, two members of the Moorestown CR group who had helped to create the commotion at the restaurant - Judith Wible, a psychiatric resident doctor at Ancora Hospital and former Philadelphia NOW member, and Ruth-Ellen Karklin, a law student and former member of Syracuse, NY NOW - went on to convene the South Jersey NOW - Alice Paul chapter at the same church annex. This building was later the home of the Burlington County YWCA which ran off the NOW newsletter on its mimeograph machine.
At the first meeting of the chapter, Wible and Karklin invited speakers from the Philadelphia and Delaware NOW chapters (there were about 50 chapters in the country at that time.) The women from Delaware told the 11 people who showed up - an unexpectedly high turnout - that NOW was established on the belief that someone must look out for women's interests and if it wasn't women who did it, it might not get done.
Unlike the unstructured CR groups, NOW was structured with officers, dues ($10 at the national level) and specific goals. The article gave NOW's statement of purpose which could have just as easily been written today:
"We reject the current assumptions that a man must carry the sole burden of supporting himself, his wife, and family, and that a woman is automatically entitled to lifelong support by a man upon her marriage, or that marriage, home and family are primarily women's world and responsibility - hers to dominate, his to support.
"We believe that a true partnership between the sexes demands a different concept of marriage, an equitable sharing of the responsibilities of home and children and of the economic burdens of their support.
"We believe that proper recognition should be given to the economic and social value of homemaking and child care."
The goal at the national level of NOW was to actively push for an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the constitution which had been authored by Alice Paul in 1923. The individual NOW chapters set up committees based on members' interests. Issues being researched by the Moorestown group could have once again been written today: equal opportunity in employment; divorce; abortion; the masculine mystique; and women in education and religion. The group also planned to become very active in the 1972 elections.
Between the time of the first chapter meeting and May 1972 when the first newsletter was sent, chapter membership grew from two to seven to 15 to 33. In the mid-70's the chapter busied itself in trying to get a state ERA passed to guarantee equality for NJ women, but despite a lot of support for it in South Jersey, the measure was defeated as a result of organized opposition in North Jersey.
Chapter planning meetings at this time were held around the president's kitchen table. When more people got involved, planning meetings rotated on a monthly basis to different members' living rooms. The chapter newsletter was collated by placing the mimeographed sheets on a dining room table and having people walk around it picking up sheets and stapling them together.
Shortly after Alice Paul's death at a
In the late-70's, the biggest chapter push was to get the national
ratified. Although NJ had defeated the state ERA, it was one of the 35
which had ratified the federal ERA. Leaflets were printed up and
Letter writing sessions were held every Sunday afternoon around
dining room table (frequently with small children crawling under it) in
to bombard legislators in the 15 unratified states. Phone banks were
set up to
obtain permission for Public Opinion Messages to be sent to the same
legislators. Women gave up (relatively) well-paying jobs and disrupted
lives for months and years to become "missionaries" in unratified
states such as
The momentum created by our all-out effort as well as the bitter realization that we were "banging our heads against a brick wall to try and get through to these guys" led to a push to "Elect More Women to Office" which continues today.
In November of 1982, two chapter activists, Shirley King (who was going to be one of the 1983 co-presidents) and Judy Zitter were killed in an auto accident going to a NOW Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in Maryland. The aftermath of funerals and memorial services led us to organize a "Dealing with Death and Making Your Wishes Known" conference.
In the late-80's, the chapter organized a Clinic Defense group. The Clinic Defense Task Force has had a presence at the local Women's centers every Saturday morning since, and was responsible for both drafting and pushing for legislation to create a protester-free barrier around the clinic which was later used successfully as a model at the state level.
In 1990, the chapter lost activist Ruth Leppel to cancer. She had been committed to the advancement of women for many years before joining our chapter in 1974. Ruth served as Membership Chair in 1978, 1986-1990 and as Co-President in 1981 and 1982. Ruth also co-chaired three major conferences sponsored by the chapter: 1984 - "Women United: Majority Power" which featured Bella Abzug and Joan Mondale; 1986 - the chapter's 15th birthday party celebration; and 1987 - "Conference on Women and Health." Ruth's major areas of concern were passage of the ERA and Reproductive Freedom. She served as Reproductive Freedom Task Force Chair from 1982-1986. Ruth represented the chapter as a voting delegate at numerous National NOW Conferences. She attended countless demonstrations and rallies, not only locally, but also in Washington, Chicago, and New York. Ruth was involved and made a major contribution to almost every chapter function and activity. Her hard work, enthusiasm, and good humor are very much remembered, appreciated, and missed. In memory of our Chapter sister's tireless work and dedication to abortion rights, the Ruth Leppel Memorial WIN Fund fund was formed. The WIN (Women In Need) Fund gives assistance to poor women seeking abortions.
In October 2011, the chapter celebrated its 40th anniversary. During these 40 years, it has produced a newsletter and has held a program meeting every month. It has elected over 40 chapter presidents and a chapter video. It has had chapter outreach tables at the Burlington County Farm Fair for more than 20 years and at dozens of other locations. It has organized countless demonstrations and actions both at the local level and by joining national marches in Washington. It has educated and activated the public on hundreds of issues from women and spirituality to sexual harassment. Its leaders have presented workshops at National NOW conferences and have been elected to public office. Untold numbers of women have become empowered by discovering skills they didn't know they had as result of chapter involvement. It has created a support group for separated and divorced women and a divorce information packet in response to thousands of phone calls to the chapter phone requesting help. chapter members have participated in local productions of The Vagina Monologues, testified for paid Family Leave in New Jersey, marched against the war, and marched for marriage equality. Dozens of ALICE's List political candidates have benefitted from the chapter's PAC. One of the most ambitious projects, the production of the play "The Waiting Room" in 2010, raised over $2,000 for the Women in Need (WIN) fund. You can find us on Facebook, and there is a NOW-in-the-Afternoon group for members who can't make night-time meetings. The chapter's Feminist Essay Contest just celebrated its 20th year. The list goes on and on.
Today, the Alice Paul Chapter is the largest in the state with over 400 members and by far, one of the strongest and most active in the country. We have come full circle and have completed our third consciousness raising retreat weekend where even more women learned that sisterhood is indeed powerful.