Divided We Stand The Battle Over Women's Rights & Family Values / Politics

Marjorie J. Spruill

About Divided We Stand

Forty years ago, two women's movements drew a line in the sand between liberals and conservatives. The legacy of that rift is still evident today in American politics and social policies.

One of Smithsonian Magazine's “Ten Best History Books of 2017”

Gloria Steinem was quoted in 2015 (the New Yorker) as saying the National Women's Conference in 1977 "may take the prize as the most important event nobody knows about." After the United Nations established International Women's Year (IWY) in 1975, Congress mandated and funded state conferences to elect delegates to attend the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977. At that conference, Bella Abzug, Steinem, and other feminists adopted a National Plan of Action, endorsing the hot-button issues of abortion rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, and gay rights--the latter a new issue in national politics. Across town, Phyllis Schlafly, Lottie Beth Hobbs, and the conservative women's movement held a massive rally to protest federally funded feminism and launch a Pro-Family movement. 

Although much has been written about the role that social issues have played in politics, little attention has been given to the historical impact of women activists on both sides. DIVIDED WE STAND reveals how the battle between feminists and their conservative challengers divided the nation as Democrats continued to support women's rights and Republicans cast themselves as the party of family values. 

The women's rights movement and the conservative women's movement have irrevocably affected the course of modern American history. We cannot fully understand the present without appreciating the events leading up to Houston and thereafter.


“Spruill…convincingly traces today's schisms to events surrounding the National Women's Conference, a four-day gathering in Houston in November 1977. These divergent narratives from 40 years ago offer many lessons to those hoping to maintain the momentum of the Jan. 21 women's marches.” –  New York Times Book Review

“Marjorie Spruill describes a polarized America that will be recognizable to any consumer of today's news…A story crucial to understanding American politics over the past 40 years…The question raised by the battle of 1977--who speaks for women?--still bedevils American politics.” –  Wall Street Journal

“This timely history anatomizes two bitterly opposed women's movements, tracing a connection between 1977 and 2016.” –  The New Yorker

“While the shortcomings of the women's movement in protecting their advances is well-documented in this book, it is the rise of conservative women and how they redirected the Republican Party's positions that makes the book so interesting. Feminists and supporters of women's rights will find this difficult to swallow, but this is an important book for them to read.” –  New York Journal of Books

“Fascinating…DIVIDED WE STAND evokes two movements, two equal mobilizations, struggling over the role of women in America.” –  The Nation

“The NWC [National Women's Conference] featured people and political trends whose significance is all the greater given the election's outcome. The book details how the conference provoked a bitter debate between feminists and conservative women activists…[Spruill's] interviews of key participants both illuminate the narrative and preserve first-hand accounts for future scholars.” –  Washington Independent Review of Books

“Spruill strives to be evenhanded, pointing out the mistakes and excesses of both sides…DIVIDED WE STAND lucidly explains just how we got so divided.” –  Dallas Morning News

“Spruill's project of historical reclamation is an important one … The value of reconstructing those days [of the 1977 National Women's Conference] and pondering their meaning for the light they might shed on ours is unquestionable.” –  New York Review of Books

“Noted historian Marjorie J. Spruill has written a well-researched, detailed history of the modern-day fight over women's rights and its 'essential role' in bringing the United States to the fractious state we currently endure . . . Divided We Stand is essential for understanding the recent past as well as the present.” –  Southwestern Historical Quarterly













Bloomsbury USA


16-page black & white insert


6 1/8" x 9 1/4"


2 lb