Governing NOW: Grassroots Activism in the National Organization for Women

Overview

Boasting more than five hundred thousand contributing members and five hundred chapters nationwide, the National Organization for Women has been politically active for more than thirty-five years. In a book that offers tools for predicting the long-term viability of a range of organizations, Maryann Barakso traces the political development of NOW. According to Barakso, NOW's activities and the stances it has taken throughout its history have been shaped primarily by the organization's internal political system. ...
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Overview

Boasting more than five hundred thousand contributing members and five hundred chapters nationwide, the National Organization for Women has been politically active for more than thirty-five years. In a book that offers tools for predicting the long-term viability of a range of organizations, Maryann Barakso traces the political development of NOW. According to Barakso, NOW's activities and the stances it has taken throughout its history have been shaped primarily by the organization's internal political system. Established during the group's founding period, NOW's governance structure consists of a set of principles and institutional rules that continue to guide the group's internal political dynamics and its decision-making.Focusing on interactions between NOW leaders and rank-and-file members, Barakso reveals how the organization's internal structure affects its development and its participation in the wider political arena. The author also reveals why strategic change has always been such a contentious issue for the organization, the ways in which NOW enhances civic and political engagement, and the limits on NOW's future mobilizing capacity.Governing NOW contributes to a deeper understanding of membership-based voluntary associations: why they choose some goals and tactics over others, why they invest resources as they do, and why they join or abstain from coalition politics.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Barakso has written a brief and accessible history of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the first group of the 'second wave' of feminism and still the primary women's movement association. . . . The heart of the book focuses on almost 40 years of national politics and players within the organization. Recommended for large public libraries and academic libraries."—Library Journal, February 1, 2005

"Barakso takes a measured approach to her analysis, neither overly praising the NOW leadership for adhering to founding principles, nor chastising them for slavish adherence to ideals that may have compromised the organization's ability to react to changing circumstances. Recommended."—E. Broidy, Choice, September 2005

"Barakso's data sources are impressive, including documents from the national NOW archives, interviews with a small stratified sample of NOW leaders and members, and participant observation at NOW conferences. . . . I find Barakso's depiction of NOW as being more complicated that a cookie-cutter liberal feminist organization convincing and her argument about the impact of governance structure an important return to earlier approaches focusing on internal movement processes. . . . The book has much to offer both social movement scholars and scholars interested in the women's movement from a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspective."—Leila J. Rupp, University of California, Santa Barbara, Mobilization, 10:3

"Through a careful and original case study of NOW, Maryann Barakso demonstrates that social-movement organizations can maintain a commitment to their founding principles while weathering the vagaries of the political-electoral system. The key to NOW's persistence, according to Barakso, is linked to its governance structure, which altered over time to provide ongoing mechanisms for member input and leadership accountability in ways that enabled the organization to stay true to its guiding principles. This well-written, informative account is linked to such critical moments as NOW's founding, formalization, and transformation in light of changed political circumstances."—Debra Minkoff, University of Washington

"Few political scientists have examined a single organization with such clarity and insight. Maryann Barakso's Governing NOW is an important and impressive work."—Jeffrey M. Berry, author of A Voice for Nonprofits

"Maryann Barakso's analysis of the organizational tactics and strategies developed by NOW is exceptionally well done. She combines field research, documentary analysis, and interviews of activists, members, and leaders with participant observation at NOW conferences. Further, she ties together a range of the literature on political organizations and interest-group politics with social-movement theory, presenting a unique and persuasive interpretation of NOW's actions."—Anne Costain, author of Inviting Women's Rebellion

"Maryann Barakso has captured the excitement and frustration of NOW's external and internal struggles. Whether or not you were lucky enough to live this history, this is a must read."—Lois Galgay Reckitt, longtime NOW activist and domestic violence advocate

Library Journal
Barakso (political science, American Univ.) has written a brief and accessible history of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the first group of the "second wave" of feminism and still the primary women's movement association. Barakso frames her discussion with a modest analysis of organizational structure and dynamics, but the heart of the book focuses on almost 40 years of national politics and players within the organization. Relying on documentary research and interviews, Barakso offers a largely favorable assessment, although she notes that NOW's insistence on being the "vanguard" feminist organization limits its impact on the legislative process. But NOW's ostensible radicalism takes the form of fighting for a constitutional amendment and appointments of women to federal positions, establishing PACs, and raising money to elect feminists to office, which dramatically reveals the narrow limits of American political discourse. Despite the title, Barakso says little about the work of NOW chapters. Recommended for large public libraries and academic libraries.-Cynthia Harrison, George Washington Univ., Washington, DC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801489105
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Governance structures and strategy choice and change in membership organizations 1
2 Inventing NOW : principles and processes, 1966-1971 11
3 NOW's strategic evolution 39
4 Out of the mainstream, into the revolution? : the legacy of NOW's guiding principles, 1972-1978 51
5 The ERA "emergency" 70
6 From the ERA strategy to the electoral strategy 90
7 The Clinton years and beyond 121
8 Analyzing grassroots representation and participation 143
NOW documents cited 179
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