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The 1976 Democratic Convention

Carter MondaleThe 1976 Democratic Convention was the first in many decades in which women and women’s issues played an important role. This was due in part to the fact that the nominee – Jimmy Carter – was known weeks before the convention met, thus making its major official duty of selecting the Democratic Party ticket purely pro forma.

It was also due to the maturing of the political arm of the women’s movement. Feminists had been present in large numbers at the 1972 national nominating conventions, but were ignored when political considerations conflicted with the feminist agenda. At the 1976 Democratic National Convention feminists were taken seriously as political players.

By the time the Democrats met at Madison Square Garden in New York City from July 12 to July 15, much had been decided. Carter had locked up the Presidential nomination when he won the June 8 Ohio primary, though three other names were placed into nomination. His people had written the Democratic Party Platform, which was deliberately kept vague in order to avoid discord. The only minority report was quickly adopted by a voice vote with little debate. The Democrats felt that 1976 was a Democratic year and wanted to have no public displays of disharmony.

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Unlike the previous three conventions there were no credentials challenges, largely because the delegate selection rules had been changed to make it harder to bring such challenges. The main disagreement was on the rules themselves. Because the rules for 1976 made it harder for women and blacks to challenge delegations in which they felt they were under represented, there was a minority report to change the delegate selection rules. In another year, this report might have been debated on the floor. But the Carter forces didn’t want public disagreement so he met with representatives of a women’s caucus on Sunday and Monday to work out a compromise.

Nonetheless, the Democratic Women’s Caucus met each morning. The most important meeting was Tuesday, where women debated the wisdom of accepting the compromise versus having a floor fight. This meeting was held in the headquarters hotel; anyone could come and could speak, but only delegates and alternates could vote. After much eloquent debate, the women accepted the compromise. [link to the agreement]

Inside the convention Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas was the keynote speaker on Monday night. Elected to the House in 1972, she achieved national prominence from her work on the Judiciary Committee during the debate over impeaching President Richard M. Nixon. She spoke to the Women’s Caucus on Wednesday.

Several women’s organizations organized actions at the convention. On Saturday, July 10, the National Organization for Women paraded east on 34th St. to hold a rally in front of the General Post Office, across from the Garden.

NOW March

NOW March

Rally speakers included

Flo Kennedy

Flo Kennedy

Carol Bellamy

Carol Bellamy

The next day about ten thousand pro-life protestors rallied in the Central Park before marching to Madison Square Garden. At the rally they were addressed by Ellen McCormack, who had run for the Democratic nomination for President in order to speak out about abortion. A small pro-choice group rallied across the street.

Rally in Central Park

Pro-Choice Rally

Pro Life Rally

Pro-Life Rally

The March from Central Park

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Monday morning Democratic Women’s Caucus: Patt Derian & Koryne Horbal DC76 67-30an

NWPC Monday night fundraiser

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem

Hugh Carey

Hugh Carey and Ed Muskie

Candace Bergen and Liz Carpenter

Candace Bergen and Liz Carpenter

Birch Bayh

Birch Bayh

July 13 (Tuesday) women’s caucus DC76 70-12an

Bella, King, Tucker DC76 68-33an

Betty Friedan DC76 70-25an

Bella Abzug DC76 70-29anS

C. Delores Tucker DC76 71-03an

Arlie Scott and other NOW members watch from the non-delegate section DC76 71-13an

Shirley Chisholm and Elizabeth Holtzman, DC76 71-23an

July 14 (Wednesday) women’s caucus

Barbara Jordan at the Wednesday women’s caucus, DC 76 74-11n

Scenes inside the convention:

Jesse Jackson at the Caucus of Black Democrats DC76 72-3n

Barbara Mikulski in the upper balconies of the convention hall DC76 76-4n
Signs DC 76 76-8n

Walter Mondale speaks DC76 76-11n

Bella Abzug listens DC76 76-12n

Carter slogan DC76 76-18n

Scenes outside the convention:

The sidewalk in front of the Post Office across 8th Ave. from Madison Square Garden was set aside for protests. The press entrance was on that side so the media got a good view of the many different groups which had something to say. However, the delegates entrance was on the other side of the Garden, so they didn’t see the nightly protests unless they came looking for them.

Stop Govt. Spying DC76 74-17n

Hare Krishna DC76 74-23n

STOP ERA DC76 72-34nS

Parental Rights DC76 72-29n