Season 1

Feminist Files: Episode 3 – Bunny Goes to Washington

Representative Edith Green of Oregon, wants to hold hearings about sex discrimination, but she doesn’t think she has the evidence she needs to do anything about it – until she meets Bunny Sandler.



Leigh: Bunny Sandler was living a quiet middle-class life in a Maryland suburb with her husband Jerry and their two daughters, when she accidentally stumbled upon a footnote in a civil rights pamphlet that would become the legal basis for Title IX.

Jodie: And that was a really Eureka experience. I literally screamed. Ah! You know, that kind of thing.

Leigh: The footnote added sex to an already existing executive order that prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or national origin by institutions receiving federal financial assistance.

Jodie: I screamed, because most universities have federal contracts.

Leigh: The discovery of the footnote led Bunny to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance at the Department of Labor. And Vince Macaluso, who knew about the executive order, had been waiting and hoping for someone to contact him. That person was Bunny Sandler.

Jodie: He said, “This is what you need to do. You need to gather all the information that’s out there.” And I’m saying, “Well, there isn’t much information out there.” He said, “It doesn’t matter. You need to have a whole packet of stuff, because no one’s going to read it anyway. But if the packet is thick, people will believe that there’s a problem.”

Leigh: Bunny started collecting the evidence. She was going to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what she knew to be true–that university women everywhere were up against the same old boys’ network of deeply ingrained systemic sexism.

Jodie: So I gathered all this material, a stack of pages that was probably 80 some odd pages thick. And paper was thicker in those days. Now this was proof that it wasn’t individual bad experiences. It was a pattern of discrimination.

Leigh: Bunny didn’t know it yet, but it was the start of something. It was the start of something big.


 Leigh: From Frequency Machine and Leigh Fondakowski comes the story of the 1972 landmark legislation for women’s equality in education: 37 words that would change the world.


Leigh: Join me and an ensemble of actors as we discovered the stealth politics of Title IX. This is Feminist Files episode 3, “Bunny Goes to Washington.”

In addition to encouraging Bunny to begin filing complaints against colleges and universities on behalf of women experiencing discrimination, Vince did something else that would change the course of Bunny’s life. I first read about it in Bunny’s oral history transcript. She said. 

Jodie: Think of a time that there were no women’s newsletters at all. There were no women’s caucuses in any of the disciplines. There’s no women’s studies network. There’s no women’s conferences even. So how are you going to get in touch?

Leigh: You’d call the Women’s Bureau. When I first read about the Women’s Bureau, the dramatist in me imagined some kind of covert spy operation in DC. Women secretly posing as telephone operators and secretaries and typists in the typing pool. In my imagination, they were all wearing those Halston wrap-around dresses and sunglasses. Maybe some of them were even wearing pants. They were posing as government workers, but really behind the scenes, they were influencing federal law that would affect generations of women to come.

Oh, actually come to find out, that’s not too far off. In 1969, the Women’s Bureau in Washington was really the hub for any activity or legislation surrounding women’s issues. Everything from maternity leave to women getting credit cards or being allowed to legally have their own checking accounts. Everything related to women in the workforce, the Women’s Bureau was on it.

When Bunny met with Vincent Macaluso at the Office of Federal Contract Compliance:

Jodie: Also at the end of that meeting, he said:

Chris: Do you know Catherine East? 

Jodie: I said, “No.” He said:

Chris: You have to meet Catherine East. She’s in the Women’s Bureau. So she has contact with the other women there. She’s working on women’s issues, and you’ll really like her.

Jodie: And I went to see Catherine.

Leigh: We’ll add Catherine East to the list of consequential feminists whose names we’re compiling. Some of her second-wave feminist contemporaries refer to her as the midwife of the women’s movement. And here’s why.

Jodie: Catherine was the hub. She was very powerful. Her power resided in her knowledge. She was the one who came up with the whole concept of maternity leave, you know. The first part is childbearing. The second part is child rearing. She did that. Absolutely brilliant woman who should have been an attorney, but again, the times were different. She knew the laws, and she taught me a lot at the beginning–particularly for the federal policy. She taught us. I mean, you know, many of us had not come from policy. Many of us were just babes in the woods.

Leigh: Bunny had become a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about discrimination in employment and in admission practices. It was a pervasive problem that Bunny became convinced could only be fixed by the force of law. But by her own admission, when it came to public policy, she knew very little.

Jodie: What did I know? Nothing.

Leigh: Bunny found something that would become essential to her life’s work. She had found community. She got connected at the Women’s Bureau. And she had compiled a whole packet of stuff that proved widespread discrimination on the basis of sex across academia, in both admissions and employment. She filed class action lawsuits against major universities, including the entire UC system in the state of California. She gave up her dreams of becoming a college professor to work with Vince to bring colleges and universities into compliance with federal nondiscriminatory practices. Executive Order 11246.

Jodie: So then what happened? I’m filing complaints now like mad. And it’s kind of fun, you know, all by typewriter, no computers, carbon paper. This is not easy to do because I’m not a great typist, but I’m filing complaints. We were filing complaints like crazy.

Leigh: Another reason this was not easy to do is that, while Bunny’s life outside the home was expanding, the gender roles within the family system were not. This is Great Aunt Bunny’s niece, Rora Brodwin.

Rora: At the same time, her husband Jerry who had been super supportive in the beginning–while he believed in the idea of equality and was generally, you know, a good guy–didn’t believe in doing half of the house work. So she’s getting super busy, and she’s no longer relying on him as much. And it starts to be really tough for them, because he’s not the type of guy that feels like he should be doing that. And their relationship was built on a different understanding, when they met and married, of what their roles would be. And so she’s growing in this way that he’s unwilling to follow.

Leigh: And Bunny’s life was about to get even bigger. When Betty Boyer from Novelty, Ohio set up WEAL, the Women’s Equity Action League, she had established a national advisory board, and on that board were three members.

Jodie: When Betty Boyer set up WEAL, she had good contacts. She was persuasive. She had three congresswomen. She had Martha Griffiths, Edith Green, and I think Shirley Chisholm.

Leigh: So when Bunny filed the complaints, she also sent a copy of each complaint to these three women.

Jodie: It was any college that had any kind of federal contract. And so most of the bigger universities had them: Michigan, Harvard, Yale, all of them. And every complaint I made went to Representative Edith Green, Representative Martha Griffiths from Michigan, and Representative Shirley Chisholm.

Leigh: This is the part of the story where a lot of people’s individual efforts begin to converge.

Rora: So Bunny’s doing all this work at home and sending all the stuff. And at this point she becomes known as the sex discrimination expert on Capitol Hill.

Leigh: One day Bunny receives a call from an attorney who was also on the advisory board at WEAL. His name was Phineas Indritz.

Jodie: P-H-I-N-E-A-S I-N-D-R-I-T-Z. He was an attorney on the Hill. Extraordinarily helpful. 

Phineas was an environmental attorney who sort of dabbled in women’s rights. His daughters were professionals. He saw what was happening to them. 

Leigh: He worked at the National Organization for Women, and he knew everyone. He was also a professional juggler. Little known fact: he used to juggle on the steps of the United States Congress. And this was Bunny’s connection to Edith Green.

Jodie: I didn’t know this initially, but Representative Edith Green from Oregon–a Democrat former teacher–had been in the Congress a long time. She had a lot of seniority at that point. Committee chairs were by seniority. She was a chair of this special subcommittee on education, which dealt with higher education. She was aware of discrimination. She had thought that she ought to do something, but there’s no constituency. You can’t hold hearings if there’s nobody. Who would you ask to come testify? 

Leigh: Representative Edith Green was elected to the House from Oregon in 1954. She was a radio commentator and writer in the 1940s and was an education lobbyist before entering politics. She made significant contributions to the legislation to keep the US ahead of the Soviet Union during the space race. And she is one of the women responsible for the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

Jodie: Edith Green was the force behind the Equal Pay Act. And it’s the first discrimination in employment act, which incidentally was the first federal legislation on discrimination

Leigh: The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was first proposed in 1955. The goal being simply equal pay regardless of sex. Good idea. The bill she drafted was finally passed and signed into law by President John F. Kennedy as the Equal Pay Act of 19 63. However, the Equal Pay Act had lots of loopholes and exemptions, including administrative, professional, and executive employment.

Jodie: In order to get the bill through, they had to exempt executive, professional, and administrative persons.

Leigh: Basically any job that had a negotiable salary. And whole categories of employers were exempted–such as educational institutions. So the Equal Pay Act meant progress in theory but didn’t achieve equal pay for most women. Gotta love the legislative process. Edith Green wanted a legislative fix for these carve-outs, understandably so, but didn’t have the constituency to do anything about it until she met Great Aunt Bunny.

Rora: Edith Green from Oregon, who is on the education committee and is a former teacher herself, has wanted to do something about this for a long time, but there’s been no constituency.

Jodie: Meanwhile I’m sending her complaints. Phineas Indritz knows her. He’s saying, you know, you got to hold hearings. And she’s now getting all this stuff from me. I’m sending, you know, I think I ended up filing about 250 complaints, including all the California state system,  all the Florida state system, all medical colleges, and whatnot. So I’m filing complaints like mad, and Edith Green gets interested. She decides she’ll introduce a bill.

Rora: She wants to introduce a bill, but she needs to set up hearings. And so her team asks Bunny to gather witnesses. Can she create the constituency? And Bunny’s like absolutely.

Jodie: And the women’s movement is bubbling. And Edith Green was in a position where she could do something about education. She was called Mrs. Education or Mrs. Higher Education actually. And I get called in by her staff member. I mean, it was so heady, you know, cause here I am a little Jewish girl from Flatbush. Here I am someone on the Hill, you know. An attorney wants to talk to me.

Leigh: Hold that thought a moment while we take a brief intermission.


Leigh: So now imagine Great Aunt Bunny having worked on her kitchen table, answering letters and filing complaints, is about to walk up the steps of Congress to meet with Edith Green’s team and convince them that this is their moment to strike.

Rora: So Bunny convinces her and her team that she can have a constituency; that she can set up these hearings; that there’s enough experts, enough witnesses, enough testimony. And so then Edith Green’s like all right, and Bunny works with the people at NOW. And she spearheads finding all these witnesses and arranging them to create the most compelling testimony.

Leigh: To preserve the anonymity of the letter writers, Bunny did not bring those individuals in to testify but rather compiled their experiences into tables and statistics that would be included in the Congressional Record. And invited experts who could speak directly about the problem. Professional women who could testify that sex discrimination is a pervasive problem in colleges and universities all across the country. 

Jodie: So I worked on the hearings in terms of who to invite, because I knew all the people. They traditionally invite people from the administration to testify. Anyone with interest in the bill, like someone from the Women’s Bureau testified and then the Commissioner of Education testified. But all the other people–most of them who came to testify–were people I had already had some contact with. And I testified also at the hearings.

Leigh: Let’s imagine Bunny on that morning, the morning before she would testify. Bunny probably woke up before the alarm went off–not the beep of a digital alarm clock–but it could have been a clock radio maybe tuned to WMAL or WTOP the local go-to am stations for the morning weather and traffic. Late June so it would be hot. And DC so there would be traffic.

An on-again, off-again smoker, maybe Bunny had a cigarette lit before she had her slippers on, before she made her first cup of coffee. A pot of coffee for her and Jerry. Maybe she cooked breakfast for the two of them, or just toast and jam.

She would definitely have had her outfit picked out the night before though maybe she’s still debating whether to wear her dress pumps or sensible flats. It’s going to be a long day, and she’s going to be sitting at a table for most of it. So guessing that the comfortable shoes would have won out.

Then there’s her papers. One last look through the note she made–the tables and statistics to cite, the typed copy of her testimony to be submitted as part of the official record. And then, she’s there walking up the steps to the Capitol to testify in a congressional hearing.

Mercedes: Section 805 of H.R. 16098 to prohibit discrimination against women in federally assisted programs and in employment and education. 

Leigh: For five days in June of 1970, a group of women held hearings on Capitol Hill. The hearings were not broadcast on CSPAN or CNN. Those things weren’t even around back then. They were not written about in the papers. They certainly didn’t make the nightly news. But the women were there in their dress pumps and sensible shoes. And one by one, the women told their stories. It was a who’s who of consequential feminists in the House circa 1970. The hearings came to be known as the Edith Green hearings. No recordings of the hearings are part of the public record. We only have a printed transcript, and until now no one has ever heard these stories.

Jodie: The bill was introduced, and the hearings were held.

Leigh: Representative Edith Green of Oregon

Mercedes: It is with a great sense of personal pleasure that I welcome to the subcommittee today witnesses who will offer testimony on Section 805 of H.R. 16098.

Jodie: It is also traditional, not only to ask government agencies that have an interest in it, but you also ask the organizations that might have an interest. A major organization is the American Council on Education, so they were asked, “Would you like to testify on this bill?” And their answer was “No, thanks. There is no sex discrimination in colleges. It’s not a problem.” And that is almost a verbatim quote, so they were not watching. They were not watching.

Mercedes: It is hoped that the enactment of the provisions would be of some help in eliminating the discrimination against women, which still permeates our society.

Jodie: I mean, not understanding, for example, athletics and the impact of that. But see the NCAA wasn’t involved. This is an education bill. Who’s looking?

Leigh: Mrs. Green shared an anecdote.

Mercedes: A gentleman once said to me, “You know, I agree completely with what you have said. I agree 100%. You are absolutely right. But I am not going to vote for you.” I said, “Well, that’s interesting. I’m curious why.” His answer was “Well, you know, we had a woman mayor here in Portland, and I voted for her. And just see what an awful job she did.” He said, “I am never going to vote for another woman as long as I live.” I said, “I understand that. We had a sheriff, and I worked for him. And he turned in such a bad performance that I helped to circulate petitions for his recall. The sheriff did such a bad job I am never going to vote for another man as long as I live.”


Leigh: That was a laugh track. And for the record, I don’t think anyone laughed when Representative Edith Green said that. They were a 100% business. So now imagine when Bunny arrives to testify, she represents all the women who wrote to her–all of the hundreds of women whose letters she answered one by one. This is an excerpt from Bunny’s testimony that day from June 1970. 

Jodie: I am Dr. Bernice Sandler of the Women’s Equity Action League (WEAL), where I am chairman of the action committee for federal contract compliance in education. 

Leigh: Bunny had become the go-to person in Washington on matters of discrimination in education. The sex discrimination expert.

Jodie: Madam Chairman, believe it or not, it is completely within the law to discriminate against women in universities and colleges. Let us not forget that the executive order does not have the status of law. It can be amended or suspended at the pleasure of a particular administration. There are simply no laws whatsoever that forbid universities and colleges for continuing their vicious patterns of sex discrimination and their violation of the human rights of women.

Leigh: One of the things that fascinated me about this story is how the informal network of women in Washington began to organize. All these women who were working for women’s rights. And a movement was born. A movement that one of them would call the academic sex revolution.

Jodie: New legislation is vitally needed. If women are to be accorded the fair treatment that is the birthright of their brothers, we need to begin to redress these wrongs. Passage of Section 805 is a symbolic and actual beginning. It will give hope and dignity to women, the second-class citizens of the nation.

Leigh: The person who coined that term, the academic sex revolution, was Dr. Pauli Murray. Before working on this project, I had never heard the name Pauli Murray. One of my favorite classes in college was a course on 60s history–all about civil rights and women’s rights in America–but the name Pauli Murray never came up. And yes, Pauli Murray is one of the most consequential feminists of the 20th century. And one of the most consequential activists of the 20th century too.

In Bunny Sandler’s feminist files box 7, folder 9, there’s a collection of letters under the heading Pauli Murray, written from 1970 to 1976. It was Rora Brodwin who first pointed me to these letters.

Rora: Pauli Murray was a founding member of NOW, you know. So Bunny spent a lot of time with the NOW people eventually, you know, in early 1970. So they definitely were talking and brainstorming and figuring out all the stuff before the hearings came up.

Leigh: I asked Rora if she had heard about Pauli Murray before studying her great aunt Bunny’s story.

Rora: I was in an unusual position in that I am at Yale, and they had just named a residential building after her a year before I started doing this stuff. So I knew her name, and I was on a campus where she was one of the first people to get a law degree. It was like, it was just like an emotional thing. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. That was even before I found the letters.

Leigh: Looking at the papers in the archive is like mining for gold. The first letter is dated March 5th, just days after Bunny’s 42nd birthday. Feminist file: letters exchanged between Pauli Murray and Bunny Sandler. The letters between Bunny and Pauli opened with a simple line.

Jodie: Here are the materials we talked about.

Leigh: And then on March 8th, Bunny writes:

Jodie: The day after you called, I was talking with Phineas Indritz, counsel for one of the House subcommittees. He’s been very helpful working behind the scenes with us, gathering names for possible witnesses for hearings on the bill. I sent you a copy of H.R. 16098. At any rate I suggested your name. Everyone else I suggested I had cleared this with; yours was a spur of the moment thing and an outgrowth of our conversation the day previous. So now I’m somewhat concerned as to your feelings about this. If for any reason whatsoever this doesn’t make sense for you, please call me collect in the evening (301) 593-2399. And I will get your name off the list.

Leigh: Pauli is 60 years old in 1970. Pauli is a seasoned activist and civil rights attorney. Bunny is just starting out.

Jodie: Of course, should you decide to testify, we’d all be delighted. If you need a place to stay, our house is available. Hearings would be toward the end of this month most likely. Best wishes, Bernice Sandler. P.S. Did you get the materials I sent?

Leigh: Pauli writes:

Samira: From the desk of Pauli Murray: Dear Bunny. It’s a great time to be alive and to be associated with women like you and so many others who are in the movement today. I received your letter of proposed testimony before subcommittee. Meanwhile, I’ve developed the theory that admission to graduate programs, research, fellowships, et cetera, are an integral part of the employment process since they represent access to academic employment. This theory holds; we can pursue remedies against universities for discrimination against women at the student level. In sisterhood, Pauli. 

Leigh: At this point, the complaints Bunny has filed and the proposed legislation had been focused on faculty, not students. But you can see in their letters that their wheels are turning. Pauli and Bunny have a meeting of the minds. Bunny writes back:

Jodie: Dearest Pauli. Have your testimony. It looks good. Delighted to hear about your theory of admission as access, as it confirms my own that admission is the same as an apprenticeship program. Take care of yourself. The women’s movement needs you. Write on.

Leigh: Spelled W-R-I-T-E. Write on.

Jodie: Affectionately.

Rora: When I was reading through the transcripts of the hearings, I was like, oh, who else testified the same day that Bunny did? And I saw it was Pauli Murray. I like almost started crying, cause she means so much in my community. It was the magic that she and Bunny testified on the same day.

Leigh: This is an excerpt from Dr. Pauli Murray’s statement:

Samira: My own struggle for higher education through college and law school, apart from scholarships for tuition, were financed by working as a waitress, dishwasher, elevator operator, night switchboard clerk, and bus girl in a large hotel in Washington during WWII. In this last job, the waiters, whom we bus girls served, tipped us only 25 cents per night. Our salary of $1.25 cents per night. Plus a second class meal, supplemented by what we could steal from the kitchen, constituted our weekly wage. If any should ask a Negro woman what is her greatest achievement, her honest answer would be: I survived.

Leigh: But before Pauli could finish reading the prepared remarks, Mrs. Green interjects.

Mercedes: Could I interrupt you there?

Leigh: With a point that becomes somewhat of an obsession for Mrs. Green. You’ll see why.

Mercedes: I talked with Shirley Chisholm yesterday, and she tells me very emphatically that she has suffered far greater discrimination as a woman than she has suffered as a Black.

Leigh: Pauli answers:

Samira: In matters of discrimination, although it is true that manifestations of racial prejudice have often been more brutal than the subtler manifestations of sex bias, it is also true that the rights of women and the rights of Negroes are only different phases of the fundamental and indivisible issue of human rights for all. One spends 50 years of one’s life, trying to get equal civil rights because of one’s race, and turns around and finds one must spend the second 50 years, if you should live so long, to get one’s rights because of sex.


Leigh: There should have been applause, but the printed transcript doesn’t indicate any applause. There was probably no gavel either. But for our purposes here, not only does she have one, but she intends to use it.


Leigh: After making their statements, both Pauli and Bunny were questioned.

Jodie: There were opponents. There were opponents to the Equal Rights Amendment, and there were opponents to women’s issues. And there are some things that got said on the floor of the Congress, which are very demeaning to women.

Mercedes: The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Maine.

Leigh: Congressman William D. Hathaway, Democrat from Maine

Alex: The question in simple terms: say there are 10 women and 10 men in a society. And there are only 15 openings in a school. And we know statistically to make it easy, that all 10 men have to get a job, and only five women are ever going to get a job. Isn’t the school warranted in taking more men than women?

Leigh: Bunny jumped in and responded:

Jodie: This is changing: this gap between women who work compared to men.

Leigh: Hathaway pressed the point. I guess we would call it a bit of mansplaining.

Alex: Many work after the children grow up and so forth. But for the immediate problem, it would seem to me that a college would be warranted in allowing more men than women, because they know more men will get a job.

Leigh: Which, as my father used to say, ticked Edith Green off in plain English.

Mercedes: Why don’t we play God at 13 and decide, as has been done in other countries and here a hundred years ago, that girls are just going to be homemakers and not have them go to high school? What Neanderthal thinking! Mr. Hathaway, do you believe in sexual equality?

Alex: In some, but not in all matters both ways. There are many jobs that women can’t handle that men can handle better.

Leigh: Bunny jumps in again.

Jodie: This is again the old stereotype that the male must be superior–in every way superior to females. It’s like weightlifting; most men can lift more weights than women. But being married to a man with a bad back, I will say, this is not true of all men and all women. I lift the suitcases in our family, and nobody is very upset about it, because I can do it better.


Samira: May I interject here?

Mercedes: Go ahead, Dr. Murray.

Samira: As a self-supporting woman, who has had the responsibility for elderly relatives, the opportunity for education and employment consonant with my potentialities and training has been a matter of personal survival.

Leigh: The transcripts from the Edith Green hearings are full of iconic women from the women’s movement. Great Aunt Bunny had done it. She had created the constituency. At the end of the five days, Pauli Murray wrote to Bunny:

Samira: Dear Bunny. When you’re written up in the history of this era, they should refer to you as the little woman who started the academic sex revolution.

Leigh: The Edith Green hearings were a huge success, except for this.

Jodie: When Edith Green held her hearings, very few people came to those hearings. Very few congressmen, even the men on her committee. One or two came to show up as a courtesy, but they didn’t stay.

Leigh: The women testified, and the men largely ignored them.

But their testimony was on the record. It was all part of the official record. That was the whole point. They were making history and somehow they knew it. Even if it’s taken 50 years for the rest of us to notice.

Edith Green wasn’t deterred and she wasn’t finished yet. She thought that they ought to continue hearing testimony on H.R. 16098. And so as spring turned to summer in DC, Edith Green reconvened the hearings. She created part 2, a sequel, because Edith Green had a plan.



© 2018, Frequency Machine Studios.
© 2018, Frequency Machine Studios.