“Thank God for the blogs. That’s the only thing we have left,” said Rosie O’Donnell to more than 500 women and girls assembled at Hunter College in NYC on Nov 10. The lesbian comedian spurned by The View not so surprisingly focused on the perils of media consolidation during her eagerly anticipated keynote address to the Freedom on Our Terms Women’s Conference.
Sponsored by the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, the Freedom on Our Terms conference on Nov 10 and 11 commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the National Women’s Conference in Houston. That historic event, spearheaded by the late Representative Bella Abzug (D-NY) in 1977, marked the first and only time that the federal government has ever funded a women’s equality gathering. More than 22,000 people, including 2,000 state delegates, attended and then approved a National Plan of Action with planks on abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment, and even
Three decades later, attendees at Hunter College sought to assess the impact of the Houston conference, and to generate their own agenda for change in the twenty-first century. Popular panels and workshops addressed not just media and sexuality, but also economics, immigration and, yes, the potent possibility that a woman could be elected president of the United States.
Speakers, many of whom had traveled to Houston in 1977, included feminist icon Gloria Steinem; Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation; Carol Jenkins, president of the Women’s Media Center; social justice activist Lupe Anguiano; and international human rights scholar, Charlotte Bunch.
Also on hand were Liz Abzug, head of the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute and daughter of the legendary legislator, and her family friend, Attallah Shabazz, ambassador to Belize and the daughter of the late Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz.
Speaking to the audience on Nov 11, Steinem balanced her analysis of the 1977 conference with realistic expectations for the future. “It was a huge success in what it sought ought to do, but it was one step,” she said, later observing, “I truly believe in the bottom of my heart that burnout is a function of naiveté.”