Return of the Minute Women
"We believe that the world cannot be safe without good women. We women
must mobilize all our efforts on the basis of absolute honesty and trust in our homes
and our communities."
-from Objectives of the Minute Women of America, Inc. Newsletter, February 1951.
By Carol Bartholdi
Though Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum group, the Women Who Want to Be
Women (WWWW), and the Mormon, Ku
Klux Klan and John Birch Society women
have stolen the limelight of conservatism
among women's groups in the 1970s, right
wing groups did not begin with the efforts
to STOP ERA.
The Minute Women, one of the
strongest conservative organizations in this
country, had its heyday in the 1950s and
still has a small membership across the
One of the group's key national figures, Mrs. Ross Biggersof Houston, will be
working with Schlafly and her anti-feminist
forces during the conference.
The Minute Women organization was
founded in Norwalk, Conn, in 1949 by
Suzanne Silvercruys Stevenson. The major
goals of^the group were to fight communism and to demand the removal of socialism and communism from the U.S. government. Any woman could join, as long as
she pledged to support the traditional
American way of life and to vote in every
An early advertisement for the Houston chapter of the organization stated its
goals as follows: "For God and Country;
Anti IWY demonstrators welcome Bella Abzug
at the National Commissioners Meeting in Houston, July 1977
For a Free Press and the Truth; For Patriotic Teaching in Our Schools; Against
Socialism and Communism." The ad went
on, "Those who oppose the Minute Women
evidently do not believe in our principles."
The patriotism of the Minute Women
was depicted by a large bronze membership
pin showing an engraved eagle in red, white
and blue with the slogan: "Guarding the
Land we Love."
The eagle appears as the symbol of
Phyllis Schlafly's anti-feminist group.
Though the membership of the Minute Women was never officially revealed,
Stevenson claimed in 1952 that its national membership was 500,000. For years, a
Minute Women radio program was broadcast in Virginia and chapters appeared
across the country.
Eighteen months after the founding
of the national organization, the Houston
chapter was established. It was destined to
have a stormy future.
Mrs. Ross Biggers, chairperson of the
Houston Minute Women for several years,
said the organization was run very informally. Stevenson had not written a constitution or any by-laws for her organization.
All officers around the country were appointed by the central leaders. Local chairpersons and executive committees decided
on meeting agendas.
"We were more of an educational
organization," said Biggers. "We met as
study groups, to discuss issues. We were
more interested as individuals, and never
took action as an organization."
"The Minute Women were interested
in preserving the Constitutional government in the United States, as it was originally intended to be," said Biggers.
She explained that one reason for
the formation of the Minute Women was
as a reaction to President Harry Truman
and his policies. "I was a delegate for
(Robert A.) Taft at the stockyards in
1952, and we thought that after Truman
any Republican would have been elected."
Truman aroused people and caused a
great deal of reaction and indignation
against his policies and arrogance, Biggers
said. At one point during his presidency,
Truman proposed that the government
seize the steel industry and "it wasn't his
fault" that he was not able to do it,
The Minute Women did not consider
themselves a lobbying or pressure group.
They did not support candidates. Topics
discussed at their meetings included,
"Untangling our Entangling Alliances," the
danger of world government imposed by
the United Nations and the almost treason
ous nature of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
When recently asked why the Minute
Women would never reveal its membership,
Biggers replied, "Do you know how many
people belong to the Houston Country
Club? Do you know how many people
belong to the River Oaks Country Club? I
supposed we never told anyone because it
was nobody's business."
Though the Minute Women did not
support or endorse candidates, they did endorse a book for sale to members of the
M. E. Foster Elementary School Parent-
Teachers Association. The book, The Turning of the Tides, showed the connection
between socialist philosophy and public
education in the United States.
In October 1953, reporter Ralph
O'Leary of the Houston Post, wrote a
series of 11 articles about the Houston
Minute Women. He claimed the organization had connections with other right wing
groups in the Houston area and that it had
pressured churches and organizations to rescind the invitations to speakers of whom
Despite the fact, or rather because
the Houston Minute Women asked each of
its members to act individually, they had
more power than they would have had
acting as a group. In fact, what Mr.
O'Leary charged was that these individuals
were acting as a coordinated group, though
they claimed not to be.
O'Leary said that this group of
"individuals" in Houston constituted "a
reign of terror among patriotic clergymen,
educators and school teachers here, particularly those interested in social improvements."
How did a group of women, working
"individually," have so much power?
O'Leary claimed that the modus operandi
of the Minute Women was the key to their
effectiveness. When a speaker they found
to be objectionable was invited to speak
before some Houston organization, persons
in charge of the engagement were bombarded with so many complaining phone
calls or letters, that often they would cancel the planned speech. Those in favor of
the speaker were rarely so organized.
"Any organization that believes in
the Constitution is slandered by the left
wing," said Biggers. She says that the Minute Women were attacked by many of the
leftist and communist media organizations
in the country, including the Houston Post.
Biggers has not subscribed to the Post since
1953, partially because of the series of
articles written by O'Leary.
iVo. MAGAZINE CONGRATULATES THE WOMEN WHO HAVE COME TO HOUSTON
TO MOVE HISTORY FORWARD
IN THE NOVEMBER ISSUE:
COUNTDOWN TO HOUSTON: MEMO FOR THE FIRST NATIONAL WOMEN'S CONFERENCE
COMING UP IN DECEMBER:
SPECIAL ISSUE: THE ARTS EXPLOSION WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
Ms. Magazine. A good place to find yourself.
PAGE 4 NOVEMBER 18,1977 DAILY BREAKTHROUGH