Women Who Want To Be Women [Association Of The W’s]

By: Lauren Lewis

Type: General Entry

Published: June 29, 2021

Updated: June 29, 2021


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Founded in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1974, Women Who Want to be Women was a conservative women’s political organization that opposed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and advocated anti-feminism, traditional family, and religious fundamentalism. The organization, which went by several names, including the W’s, the Association of the W’s, and WWWW, evolved into a national organization under the name Pro-Family Forum and was part of a national countermovement to feminism that emerged in the early 1970s as a response to the women’s rights movement’s initial successes with the ERA.

Founders and early spokeswomen Anne Droste, Becky Tilotta, Walterine Meacham, Wilma Cawthon, and Lottie Beth Hobbs, who served as president, wanted the Texas legislature to rescind its ratification of the federal Equal Rights Amendment and remove the Texas ERA. All had leadership roles in the Church of Christ and parent-teacher organizations, and Droste served as vice-chairman of Taxpayers for Neighborhood Schools and campaigned against busing plans to end school segregation (see EDUCATION FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS). They shifted their attention after the Sixty-second Texas Legislature ratified the federal amendment eight days after U. S. Congress passed it on March 22, 1972, and approved a state amendment to the Texas Constitution, which voters approved in November 1972. To achieve their goals, Women Who Want to be Women organized local chapters; spoke to church groups, parent-teacher associations, and women’s clubs; wrote and distributed literature; and worked closely with Phyllis Schlafly’s “Stop ERA” to mobilize like-minded women to become more politically active and pressure their state legislators.

WWWW’s successful organizational model mobilized thousands of evangelical and fundamentalist women who were previously uninvolved in politics. The most effective recruiting tool was the group’s leaflet, “Ladies Have You Heard?” that they distributed at beauty shops, hospitals, public schools, and grocery stores and through church newsletters and small-town newspapers. The “pink sheet,” as it came to be known, was printed on pink paper and warned that the Equal Rights Amendment would cause social and “moral decay.” They falsely claimed that if the federal ERA was ratified women would lose their right not to work, be forced to send children to federal day care centers, lose legal right to child support and alimony, and be drafted into the military. They also warned that abortion would be legalized (see ROE V. WADE); LGBTQ individuals would be allowed to be teachers and to adopt children; all bathrooms, barracks, and hospital rooms would become unisex and coed; and women would be allowed to become ordained ministers.

The Women Who Want to be Women’s message resonated, and state legislator Bill Hilliard of Fort Worth introduced a bill to rescind Texas’s ERA ratification in 1975. In response the Texas legislature held public hearings on the amendment in Austin in 1975 and again 1977. Both pro and anti-ERA forces spoke at the hearing and protested outside the Capitol. The WWWW and other anti-ERA groups wore pink and brought baked goods tied in pink ribbons to state legislators, but the legislature decided against rescission.

WWWW president Lottie Hobbs, who initially went by “Miss X” when she spoke to news reporters, was a crucial and often overlooked leader in the conservative women’s movement both in Texas and the United States. Hobbs was outraged that the country’s news media outlets viewed the 1977 National Women’s Conference (NWC) as representative of all American women and suggested holding a counter-rally, called the “Pro-Family Rally: God, Family, Country,” in protest to give voice to conservative values. With the help of the Phyllis Schlafly Report, the rally drew 15,000 men, women, and children from all over the country to the Houston Astrodome to protest the NWC. The rally was attended by politicians and representatives of the Conservative Caucus, the National Right to Life Movement, Council of Catholic Women, the Mormon Church, and Daughters of the American Revolution. The rally played a role in bringing the pro-life movement and the Stop ERA movement together, and through Hobbs’s and Schlafly’s leadership, the combined “pro-family movement” gained power with the Republican party. Both the NWC and Hobbs’s Pro-Family Rally claimed victory, but Schlafly believed the Pro-Family Rally was crucial in stalling the ratification process that ultimately caused the ERA to languish before its expiration date in 1979.

After the 1977 Pro-Family Rally, Women Who Want to be Women was renamed Pro-Family Forum and continued to play an active role in the anti-feminist movement under Hobbs’s leadership. She served as the organization’s president, as vice-president of the Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, and the editor of The Family Educator, and was a member of President Ronald Reagan’s Council on Family Values and the Council for National Policy. While WWWW failed to get the Texas legislature to act on the federal ERA, it was an effective political force in Texas that mobilized conservative women to become politically active and helped bring about the rise of the Christian Coalition, which became an influential part of the Republican party’s voter base for decades thereafter.

In April 2020 Hulu released the mini-series Mrs. America that told the story of the movement to ratify the ERA and the conservative backlash led by Schlafly and Hobbs. Told through the eyes of women from both sides, the show used a mixture of historical fact and fiction to explore the culture wars of the 1970s, which gave rise to a movement, referred to as the “Moral Majority,” and shifted the political landscape of the United States.

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Angela Boswell, Women in Texas History (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2018). James Farney, Social Conservatives and Party Politics in Canada and the United States (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012). The Lesbian Tide, March/April 1979. Angie Maxwell and Todd Shields, eds., The Legacy of Second Wave Feminism in American Politics (Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). Judith N. McArthur and Harold L. Smith, Texas Through Women’s Eyes: The Twentieth-Century Experience (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010). New York Times, November 20, 1977. Kaye Northcott, “At War with the Pink Ladies,” Mother Jones, November 1977. The Phyllis Schlafly Report, December 1977. Marjorie J. Spruill, Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017).

Categories:

  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Activists
  • Organizations
  • Politics and Government
  • Women

Time Periods:

  • Texas Post World War II

Places:

  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Lauren Lewis, “Women Who Want To Be Women [Association Of The W’s],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 21, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/women-who-want-to-be-women-association-of-the-ws.

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June 29, 2021
June 29, 2021

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