Given today’s political contentiousness, it is reassuring to remember a moment in American history when Democrats and Republicans stood together to advocate for women’s rights. In 1977, the federal government sponsored a National Women’s Conference to discuss the status of women in the United States. Although this might sound like a scheme of the Democratic Party, actually the process began under Republican President Gerald Ford and then was implemented under Democratic President Jimmy Carter. The platform party depicted here reflects the bipartisan nature of the event, with former first lady Betty Ford (R) sharing the stage with Rosalyn Carter (D) and Lady Bird Johnson (D). The others on stage are the fiery New York congresswoman Bella Abzug, the poet Maya Angelou, and the civil rights activist Coretta Scott King.
All of these women (with the exception of Linda Johnson Robb to the right of her mother) are fifty or over here. It is interesting that those who had lived in the White House are all in jewel tones, while the others—Abzug, Angelou, and King—wear earth tones. And do you notice that political identities are not yet color coded? The Republican Ford is in blue, while the Democrat Johnson wears red. It’s nice to remember a time when you could not tell political affiliations at a glance. It even looks like Abzug and Ford are wearing the same shoes!