The 1977 National Women’s Conference in Observance of International Women’s Year (IWY) was in many ways the zenith of U.S. second-wave feminism, producing a Plan of Action that remains a comprehensive statement of the movement’s ideals. It also played an important role in the growth and visibility of anti-feminist activism. The conference accomplished meaningful inclusion of women of color and lesbians, both as participants and as authors of the Plan. Notably, this diverse group of over 2,000 delegates agreed on twenty-six of twenty-seven proposed planks, presenting the U.S. public with an image of feminist unity. In this article the authors examine the factors that contributed to both the diversity of the conference and its apparent unity. They argue that two factors were particularly important. First, the threat of anti-feminists motivated lesbian participation and contributed to strategies that minimized dissent among supporters of women’s rights. Second, many of the Washington feminists in leadership positions were committed to inclusion and worked to achieve a diverse conference. The article provides important historical detail about the politics of inclusion within second-wave feminism in the late 1970s.


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pp. 88-112
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