Today in Feminist History: Fighting Sex-Segregated “Help Wanted” ads (August 30, 1967)

Today in Feminist History is our daily recap of the major milestones and minor advancements that shaped women’s history in the U.S.—from suffrage to Shirley Chisholm and beyond. These posts were written by, and are presented in homage to, our late staff historian and archivist, David Dismore.


August 30, 1967: Today, the 14-month-old National Organization for Women took on the 116-year-old New York Times over its policy of segregating “Help Wanted” ads by sex.

Members of the organization’s 300-member New York Chapter marched outside the Times’ classified ads office carrying signs that read: “Women can think as well as type,” and “I didn’t get my job through the New York Times.” (The latter is a reference to the paper’s advertising slogan of “I got my job through the New York Times.”)

The protesters also distributed leaflets explaining the purpose of the demonstration to passers-by on the street outside the classified ads office on Broadway between 41st and 42nd Streets.

The action got the attention of several local TV stations, as well as the New York Times itself, which will be reporting on the story in tomorrow’s edition of the paper. In the meantime, Monroe Green, a vice president of the Times, defended its policy of segregation by saying:

“It is my belief that the best interests of job applicant, employer, city, state and Federal anti-discrimination laws are being served by our present practice, which is to require the following legend on each page which includes classified help wanted advertising: ‘The New York State and City Laws Against Discrimination and the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit discrimination in employment because of sex unless based on a bona fide occupational qualification. Help Wanted and Situation Wanted advertisements are arranged in columns captioned ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ for the convenience of readers and are not intended as an unlawful limitation or discrimination based on sex.'”

The Times’ policy is in compliance with a ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September, 1965, that “Help Wanted – Male” and “Help Wanted – Female” advertising is legal, so long as it is also stated that discrimination on the basis of sex in hiring is illegal. As a result of actions by N.O.W., the E.E.O.C. held hearings on this issue again on the second and third of May, but no ruling has yet been issued.

The battle will continue, both to get the E.E.O.C. or the courts to ban sex-segregated want-ads, and to get the New York Times to integrate its ads immediately.


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About

David Dismore is the archivist for the Feminist Majority Foundation. His journey from would-be weather forecaster to full-time feminist began with the powerful impression made by a photo and a few paragraphs about the suffragists in his high school history textbook; years later, he had his first encounter with NOW—in which he carefully peeked in a window before opening the door to be sure men were allowed. He was eventually active in the ERA extension campaign of 1978, embarked on a cross-country bikeathon for it in 1982 and even worked for pioneers Toni Carabillo and Judith Meuli.