Sunday, November 15, 2015

1977 National Women's Conference in Houston Commemorated

Breakfast with long time friends at 8:30 on Thursday morning, and then two of us were off to a reception to celebrate the dedication of a plaque commemorating the 1977 International Women's Year National Conference held at Houston's Coliseum. The plaque will be permanently installed at the Hobby Center. The venue for the 1977 conference was the Houston Coliseum, torn down years ago, as is Houston's habit, to make way for the new and ostensibly better.
Be that as it may, the reception was a lovely commemoration of a conference funded with $5 million from the Federal government, and attended by the wives of three presidents, every public figure in the feminist movement, hundreds of delegates from every state and all of us who sat up in the bleachers watching every moment of this first and only conference on the state of women in our country.
The morning's line-up of speakers was grand. We heard from Mayor Hofheinz, Mayor Parker, Poppy Northcutt, Nikki Van Hightower and Keith Wade. Lots of history, lots of firsts in Houston.
Ran into Fred Hofheinz on the way into the library. Fred was mayor of Houston at the time of the conference, a great supporter of women's rights and a neighbor who lived across the alley from us when the girls were growing up.
Fred created a Women's Advocate position at City Hall in 1976. Poppy Northcutt filled the position and was followed by Nikki Van Hightower . Both women regaled us with stories of those days  when women were breaking through legal and social barriers.
Plaque on its way back to City Hall until it's installed at Hobby Center.
I met Connie Malone at the reception. She brought a unique collection of her personal memorabilia from this conference and it was spread over several tables. Connie was 17 and a student at HSPVA when, through sheer serendipity, she was given a press pass to the conference.  Connie took her camera and a journal in which she kept notes and collected the autographs and comments of wonderful feminists, including Kate Millet, Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Jean Stapleton, Susan B. Anthony's great-grand niece, Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King's sister Christine King Farris and Edith M. Savage. Connie's journal and photographs of these women are treasures and I see a book in the making. It's a book I would love to read and own.
Recognize Billie Jean King and Bella Abzug? Others?

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