Reflection of the 1977 National Women’s Conference

Three delegates from the 1977 Women’s Conference spoke about their fight for equality

On March 3, North Dakota State University’s Women and Gender Studies department, along with the History, Philosophy and Religious Studies departments hosted an event to celebrate Women’s History Month. This event featured three women’s rights activists sharing their own personal experiences at the 1977 National Women’s conference. 

Women’s history month occurs in March and is used as a time to reflect on women’s achievements. Throughout this month, people choose to celebrate by hosting events, listening to speakers and learning more about women’s contributions to society. International Women’s day is also celebrated on March 8. This holiday celebrates all women and their movement towards equal rights. 

The three speakers that spoke at the NDSU event all attended the 1977 National Women’s Conference. This event took place in Houston, Texas and occurred over four days. There were around 2,000 delegates attending this conference all representing different states, races, ethnicities and cultures. During this conference, women discussed important and controversial issues including reproductive rights, domestic abuse and equal rights. 

Bonnie Wallace, Dr. Cindy Phillips and Dr. Tin Myaing Thein were all delegates from the 1977 National Women’s Conference. They also have fought for equal rights for women and minority groups in the United States. Through the NDSU hosted discussion, each of these women described their experience with the Conference and their fight for equality. 

Wallace represented Minnesota in the National Women’s conference. She also represents the Chippewa and fights for indigenous peoples’ rights. Throughout the discussion, she shared her frustration with the conference and native groups’ lack of representation. 

Wallace also shared that the indigenous peoples were often forgotten about at the conference. Due to this, Wallace has had to fight to get representation. Wallace said that the conference “opened our eyes too about the fact that we were invisible and we had to do something about it.”

Delegate from North Dakota, Cindy Phillips fights for women’s equality and served as a chair for North Dakota. She explained her experience at the conference and how it affected her life. Phillips spoke on her overall positive experience with the conference and how the event allowed for all diverse women to come together to fight for change.

“It’s those threads, those strands, that have woven their way into our lives that have come from or through the National Women’s Conference.”

Thein represented California at the Conference as well as the Asian and Pacific Islander community. Thein was born in Myanmar, formerly Burma, and immigrated to the U.S. when she was around 20 years old. She helped form a group to fight against domestic violence and poverty.

Thein also spoke on trying to make resources available to those who do not speak English. She told of her positive experience at the conference and the connections she made.

They also discussed other activists that they met or saw at the conference. Some of these accomplished women included Betty Ford, Barbra Jordan, Lady Bird Johnson and Maya Angelou. 

All of these women have dedicated their lives to feminist activism and have all accomplished so much throughout their lives. Women’s rights are still being faced today such as equal pay, reproductive rights and sexual and physical abuse.

The digital world is also growing and leading to another male-dominated industry. Dr. Thein added, “We need to make efforts that more females enter this field, otherwise history is going to repeat itself.”

The conference’s purpose, as Phillips explained was “Bringing together people, most of whom were basically like-minded, and helping us all understand that there were other folks who shared those ideas and some who didn’t and gave us a platform for developing our skills.”

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