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PUBLISHED: 10:42 AM on Wednesday, August 10, 2005
NOW members revive Juneau chapter

  Joan Cahill (left) and Ann Ropp (right), the newly elected co-chairs of the Juneau chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW).
Juneau has always been a place where people aren't afraid to express their opinions, and this applies to the female populace as well. Thinking that there were a number of women who might appreciate meeting other like-minded females, local resident Andrea Doll recently decided to see if there was any interest in re-establishing a NOW (National Organization for Women) chapter in the capital city.

"Purely on impulse, I decided to call women listed on the national NOW membership list to see if there was any interest in activating a local chapter," explained Doll. "By the third or fourth phone call, I had to hold the phone a foot-and-a-half away from my ear, because everyone was so excited. Women were saying, 'I'm so glad you called! Yes, I really want to do something! I'd be happy to help in any way!'"

Doll then called Caren Robinson, who was one of the leaders of the Juneau chapter about 10 years ago. They decided to hold a lunch meeting at El Sombrero to gauge interest in the new chapter, which 12 women attended. "I read the mission statement, because I wanted people to understand that NOW is an organization that is unabashedly based on action-we don't apologize for that," said Doll. "I wanted everyone to understand that by joining us, they were making a commitment to action. And when I asked who was still interested, every hand went up."

More meetings were held, including one at the library that was standing room only. "There were more than 25 women present, and we were still packin' 'em in," said Doll. The group selected officers, and chose issues that they felt they could make an impact on at a local level.

"Our members decided that the two issues that they were most interested in were the education of young women and girls, and poverty and welfare," explained Ann Ropp, who was elected co-chairwoman along with Joan Cahill. "We created two task forces to gather information in each area to help us determine what projects we would undertake."

According to Doll, women at the meetings also expressed an interest in creating a political action committee, or PAC, though the development of an organization like this is not yet underway. "The time has come for women to become active in politics-there is no doubt in my mind," she said. "We don't have to give a pep talk to ask if women want to get involved. We ask if they want to do something and they say, 'Yes. Yesterday.'"

"The time is definitely right to reestablish NOW in Juneau," agreed Ropp, a women's studies professor at the University of Alaska Southeast. "Women are very interested in the issues that affect them, and they need an outlet where they can take action. And starting on a local level makes them feel that they are working towards a goal."

Nationwide, the National Organization for Women has more than 500,000 contributing members, and has chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Founded in 1966, it is the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States, created with the goal of bringing about equality for all women. Membership is open to both genders, though the organization does focus exclusively on women's issues, including eliminating discrimination and harassment in the workplace, securing abortion, birth control and reproductive rights for all women, ending all forms of violence against women, and eradicating racism, sexism and homophobia.

Juneau chapter meetings will be held the second Wednesday of every month at 5:15 p.m. in the downtown library with the next meeting scheduled for August 10th. To find out more, those interested can call 364-2106 or email nowjuneau@yahoo.com. The national organization can be found at www.now.org.

"I've always been interested in women's issues and in working to advance the status of women," said Ropp of why she joined the group. "When Andrea called, of course I said yes! It's a very exciting time to be part of this chapter coming alive again."

"Women have had it; it's clear that their voices haven't been heard, and they want to see their issues up front," added Doll. "We want to see change, and we want to build a positive, healthy community. And now we're stepping up to the plate and saying it out loud."


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