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Wilma Scott Heide: Wikis


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Wilma Scott Heide (February 26, 1921 – May 8, 1985) was an American feminist author and social activist who was a leader in the feminist movement in the United States. Heide was involved in the Pittsburgh Press case that ended the practice of listing separate help wanted ads for men and women, decided in 1973 by the Supreme Court of the United States in Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations. She also served as the third national President of the National Organization for Women (NOW).


Early life

She was born on February 26, 1921, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania to William Robert and Ada Catherine Scott. She completed training as a Registered nurse in 1945 at Brooklyn State Hospital. She attended the University of Pittsburgh, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology in 1950 and was awarded a Master of Letters there in 1955. She earned her Ph.D. in feminist theory and public policy in 1978 from the Union of Experimenting Colleges and Universities.[1]

Nursing and social activism

Heide worked in the nursing profession at Chatham College as a resident nurse from 1948 to 1950. She shifted to teaching nursing, starting with a position at the State University of New York at Oswego in 1950 and 1951, followed by a position at the Pennsylvania State University from 1957 until 1967, where she ultimately became the school's director of nursing education.[1]

Her involvement in social activism began in the mid-1940s, with her involvement in causes ranging from pre-school and adult education to fundraising and health issues, and she was involved with organizations at the local and national level. She was elected as president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Organization of Women in 1967. She served from 1969 to 1972 as commissioner of human relations in Pennsylvania.[2]

She challenged the practice of the Pittsburgh Press of separating help wanted classified advertising by those employers seeking women or men in columns with different headings in a complaint she filed in 1969 to the Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission.[3] The city passed an ordinance banning the practice and the newspaper filed suit, claiming that the restriction violated its rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to freedom of the press. The Supreme Court of the United States upheld the ban in its 1973 decision in the case Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, ruling by a 5–4 margin that the practice was discriminatory.[4]

In February 1970, Heide led a group of 20 NOW members who staged a protest at a hearing by the United States Senate on reducing the voting age to 18, unfurling posters and demanding that consideration be given to passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, actions that led Senator Birch Bayh to conduct hearings on the ERA later that year.[5]

She was elected for two terms as NOW's Pennsylvania state president and she had served as chairwoman of the organization's national board.[2]

Heide was elected in September 1971 as NOW's third president, succeeding Aileen Hernandez.[5] She served two terms in office, stepping down in 1974 after she decided not to run for a third term in office. During her term as president, Heide grew the organization into 700 chapters with 50,000 members worldwide and an annual budget of three-quarters of a million dollars by the time she left office, having started with 3,000 members and a $28,000 budget when she took office in 1971. In 1974 and 1975, she was chairwoman of a NOW national advisory board.[2]


Following her NOW presidency she was involved with a wide range of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Board of Partners in Housing, the National Coalition for Human Needs and Budget Priorities, the National Women's Political Caucus and at Social Policy magazine.[2] She wrote a book titled Feminism for the Health of It (ISBN 0-931911-01-X), which she completed shortly before her death.[1]

A resident of Norristown, Pennsylvania, she died there at Sacred Heart Hospital at age 64 from a heart attack on May 8, 1985.[2] She had been married to Eugene E. Heide from 1951 to 1972, and they had two daughters together.[1] Heide was the subject of Eleanor Humes Haney's 1985 book, titled A Feminist Legacy: The Ethics of Wilma Scott Heide and Company.


  1. ^ a b c d Heide, Wilma Scott, 1921-1985. Papers, 1968-1985: A Finding Aid , Harvard University Library. Accessed July 30, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e Coughlin, William P. "WILMA SCOTT HEIDE, 64; SCHOLAR, PRESIDENT OF NOW FROM 1971-74", Boston Globe, May 13, 1985. Accessed July 30, 2009.
  3. ^ Weber, Bruce. "Gerald Gardner, 83, Dies; Bolstered Sex Bias Suit", The New York Times, July 28, 2009. Accessed July 29, 2009.
  4. ^ Staff. "Law on Sex-Labeled Job Ads Is Upheld", The New York Times, June 22, 1973. Accessed July 29, 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Celebrating Our Presidents", National Organization for Women. Accessed July 30, 2009.
Preceded by
Aileen Hernandez
President of the National Organization for Women
Succeeded by
Karen DeCrow

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