Women’s Experience at Iowa State from 1960-1979

National Organization for Women (NOW) Sues ISU

At Iowa State, the local chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) formed in order to battle the university in court for instances of sex discrimination. The class action lawsuit accused Iowa State of sex discrimination under Executive Order 11246, which in 1965 forbade universities receiving federal contracts from sex discrimination practices. The National Organization for Women filed the first suit in 1971, a year before Title IX came into law and barred sex discrimination from federally funded institutions. The second case was filed in July of 1974 and discussed how a woman’s application was overlooked despite her being the most qualified candidate. The sex discrimination court cases brought against Iowa State from the local chapter of the National Organization for Women reflected national feelings of the era towards women’s liberation and sex discrimination.

The group was not shy or scared by the university and in fact held a press conference declaring their intent to change university policy. As can be seen in the letter to President Parks, the all-male administration was equally unafraid and can be construed as diminishing the impact of the group’s press conference by stating how few members there were and how the president was a female transfer student. Along with the press release, the group sent a formal letter to Mr. John Wilks, the Director of Labor with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCC), since Iowa State received federal contracts but had yet to have a practice of sex discrimination. The letter listed key policies where women at Iowa State were being discriminated against.

Newspaper clippings from The Iowa State Daily and the local paper Ames Tribune show how the case progressed. In the 1974 case, ISU simply had to pay a settlement to the woman who was discriminated against, but NOW also requested, among other things, that ISU implement a non-discriminatory hiring process and educate both the administration and students on non-discriminatory practices.