As we’re staring the Golden Anniversary of Salute to Women directly in the face (the 50th anniversary will be in 2024), it’s appropriate to consider the genesis of this particular piece of YWCA and Lafayette history in the context of the larger lens of the 1970’s feminist movement.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) states that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” This amendment was introduced to congress in 1923, and had been unsuccessfully presented to every session of Congress between 1923 and 1970. Endorsed by the National Organization for Women (NOW), lobbying for the ERA was made a priority by NOW and it was finally passed in 1972. Passed doesn’t mean ratified, though, and it’s important to note that the ERA was officially ratified (approved by at least 38 states) IN 2020. Let that sink in for a minute.
Anyway – back to the 70s.
The mid-70s saw a sea change in the perception of women as “the fairer sex” and all the negative connotations that carries, and indeed, the women’s lib movement was so powerful that in 1975 Time Magazine awarded its “Man of the Year” accolade to “American Women.” It was in the midst of the rising tide of feminism that the first Salute to Women event was held.
The Lafayette Women’s Political Caucus noted that the women of Lafayette weren’t being acknowledged for the work they were doing in the community. They conceived the idea of an awards dinner dedicated solely to recognizing the work that women did — often behind the scenes — to improve the communities in Tippecanoe County. The Purdue Women’s Caucus joined this effort and the first event was held on March 15, 1974.
Salute became a yearly event and for the first two-and-a-half decades the American Association of University Women, Lafayette Business and Professional Women, Lafayette Altrusa Club, the Association for Women in Communications, the American Business Women’s Association, the Association of Women Business Owners, and YWCA Greater Lafayette joined Purdue and the Lafayette Women’s Political Caucus in coordinating the event. In 2000, YWCA became the sole sponsoring organization, and has continued to shepherd this Greater Lafayette treasure to this day.
As we look forward to this year’s event, the Golden Anniversary, and the next 50 years, it’s important to recognize that Salute to Women is truly a community event that exists solely to shine a spotlight on the good work women do and the importance of that work. It is a big undertaking every year, both in time and resouces, but YWCA will continue to give this gift to the community as long as there are women to honor. Your support of Salute helps to not only ensure continued events, but shows our mothers, sisters, and daughters that their time and talent are appreciated and worthy of celebration.
Attend. Sponsor. Share. Like. Donate. Nominate. All are actions that you can take to ensure the legacy of great women in Greater Lafayette.