Local View: Millions of women left out of 'women's' movement, marches

The News Tribune's Jan. 15 headline, "Women's March planned in Duluth," was very misleading. It implied all women would be included. This can't be true. I still recall the International Women's Year Conference in St. Cloud, Minn., in June 1977 --...

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Denfeld’s 1947 boys basketball team is the only Denfeld basketball team to win a state title. The team’s head coach was Lloyd Holm. Team members were Rudy Monson, Larry Tessier, Paul Nace, Kenneth Sunnarborg, Eugene Norlander, Howard Tucker, Tony Skull, Jerry Walczak, Bruce Budge, Keith Stolen and student manager Bob Scott.

The News Tribune's Jan. 15 headline, " Women's March planned in Duluth ," was very misleading. It implied all women would be included. This can't be true. I still recall the International Women's Year Conference in St. Cloud, Minn., in June 1977 - the supposed "grandmother" of the so-called "women's movement."

Rilla DeBot Opelt

I was there and among the pro-family women who invited Mildred Jefferson to speak to the general assembly on the last day. She would have been the only pro-family speaker. She had earned a bachelor's degree from Texas College at 16 years old. Too young for medical school, she had gone on to Tufts University for her master's degree. In 1951, she became the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School. And she was the first woman to do a surgical internship at Boston City Hospital. She also was the first female doctor at the former Boston University Medical Center and the first woman to become a member of the Boston Surgical Society.

But Dr. Jefferson was confronted by the powers that be at the bottom of the stairs behind the speaker's platform at that conference more than 40 years ago. Several women blocked her way up. They told her she would not be allowed to speak. She graciously departed, and several feminist speakers spoke instead.

It was supposed to be a conference "for women" from across the world to discuss "women's issues." The St. Cloud university campus was one of only four locations in the U.S. with the culmination in a worldwide conference in China. Delegates and resolutions from each of the satellite locations were to be brought to the China conference.


There were numerous, simultaneous sessions at the conference in St. Cloud. Women chose which to attend in accordance with their interests.

Published resolution totals were not always accurate. We pro-family women who were there knew it; we kept records, too.

One of the sessions was on "the needs of women." A pro-family woman agreed to the needs identified then asked how they could be be paid for. Other women responded by stamping their feet and shouting until she sat down. A woman from Germany broke down in tears. She said these meetings were "just like those that took place in Germany before Adolf Hitler was elected."

The general assembly that concluded the conference was chaotic and frightening, a mob of belligerence, shouting, and foot-stomping. Women bullying women. The number of feminist women had dwindled, but the feminists controlled the microphones.

Parliamentary procedure was working until a certified parliamentarian who also was a pro-family woman pointed out that procedure was not being followed. Women stomped their feet again, booed, and yelled. "Robert's Rules of Order were written by a man. We don't have to follow a man's rules!" The microphone was turned off.

It was then that I fully understood there was no place for pro-family women in the so-called "women's movement." I am a woman among the millions of American women who are not part of the so-called "women's movement." Those of us left out are mothers, employees, public servants, professionals, and volunteers. We are activists, participating in politics and in neighborhood, state, and national organizations. We march quietly, prayerfully. We make a difference in spite of being made invisible by the mainstream media.

I am deeply offended, insulted, and, at times, embarrassed by the behavior of some women in women's marches. The so-called "women's movement" does not represent millions of American women; therefore, marches and other activities should be identified by the names of the groups organizing them: the Feminist Action Collective March, for example - not "Women's March."



Rilla DeBot Opelt of Duluth is a former adjunct professor, elementary teacher, and adult educator.

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