DON'T iron while the strike is hot," advised the slogan of the Women's Strike for Equality. No one knows how many shirts lay wrinkling in laundry baskets last week as thousands of women across the country turned out for the first big demonstration of the Women's Liberation movement. The strike, on the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the women's suffrage amendment, drew small crowds by antiwar or civil rights standards, yet was easily the largest women's rights rally since the suffrage protests.
Barefoot and Pregnant. The day's crowds ranged in size from as many as 20,000 marchers on New York's Fifth Avenue to four women hurling eggs at a Pittsburgh radio station whose disk jockey had dared protesters to flaunt their liberation. In nearly half a dozen cities, women swept past headwaiters to "liberate" all-male bars and restaurants. At the Detroit Free Press, women staffers, angered because male reporters had two washrooms while they had only one, stormed one of the men's rooms, ousted its inhabitants and occupied it for the rest of the day.
In Manhattan leafleteers collared brokers at financial-district subway stops early in the morning; teams of women activists made the rounds of corporations whose advertising "degrades women" to present them with "Barefoot and Pregnant Awards." Also women are boycotting Cosmopolitan magazine because it emphasizes sex rather than the person. Editor Helen Gurley Brown, author of Sex and the Single Girl, nevertheless endorsed the women's liberation movement as "fantastic."
The city had attempted to confine the women's parade to a single lane on Fifth Avenue during rush hour ("You mean trucks and women keep left" was one scornful reply), but to no avail. Chanting, singing, waving posters, carrying babies, cajoling men friends along the line of march into joining them, they took over the entire avenue, providing not only protest but some of the best sidewalk ogling in years.
In the nation's capital, 1,000 women marched down Connecticut Avenue behind a "We Demand Equality" banner. Members of the organized Federally Employed Women, mindful of the law against striking Government workers, assembled only at lunch, though some participated in a teach-in at the Old Senate Office Building later in the day, and opened lobbying efforts for the equal rights for women amendment, which is to be considered by the Senate. Los Angeles liberationists were confined to the sidewalk during their march, which drew only 500. Seven women dressed in suffragette costumes stood a "silent vigil" for women's rights during the day at the Federal Building.
Easygoing street theater and speeches marked demonstrations in other cities. More than a thousand women and men sympathizers attended a noon-hour rally in Indianapolis, where they watched guerrilla theater. In Detroit, guerrilla actresses played out "a woman's place": she enters the world as "sugar and spice," looks forward to being "Daddy's little girl," then becomes a newlywed who "whistles while she works" and ends up as an "everyday housewife" whose world is circumscribed by "ring around the collar" and who dreams only of winning daytime television glory as "Queen for a Day."