Articles

Man to Lead Madison Chapter of National Organization for Women
By Chris Martell
Madison.com
November 20, 2011

What: NOW was founded in 1966 with six primary goals: reproductive rights; prevention of violence against women; countering racism; lesbian rights; economic justice; constitutional equality.

Where: Wisconsin Now is at 122 State St.; 313-4669, admin@winow.org, www.winow.org. Local chapters are in the Fox Cities, La Crosse, the Northwest areas and west suburban Milwaukee and Madison.

Info: To reach the local chapters, contact the state organization. Email the Madison chapter at nowmadison@gmail.com.

Dennis Goodenough doesn't seem an obvious choice to be president of the Madison chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Besides being a man, he's 65, the size of an NBA player and a semi-retired building contractor.

But Goodenough says his passion for the environment means working to improve the status of women, particularly increasing access to family planning services and contraception. He blames the growing world population for many problems.

"Every problem we have is the result of dwindling resources," he said. "The environment is connected at the hip to women's access to family planning."

Goodenough has been involved in women's rights and domestic violence issues since shortly after his son was born 27 years ago. He's a longtime member of NOW and volunteered at women's shelters in Janesville and Madison. He plans to hold monthly meetings of the Madison chapter and work to recruit young women to the organization.

Terry O'Neill, the current national president, said statistics on the number of men in leadership roles are not available. But men have always been involved. "This was created as the National Organization ‘for' Women, not ‘of' women. There's no resentment of men because we're working for the same things."

NOW has had setbacks over the years on the national, state and local levels. Membership peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Wisconsin NOW dropped from 8,000 members to between 1,000 and 2,000. Wisconsin was once blanketed with NOW chapters but now there are just five.

But O'Neill said with cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid being discussed as well as cuts to family planning clinics, women need to get involved.

"They appreciate the rights they have, but they don't yet realize how fragile those rights are and how easily they could be taken away," she said.

Judy Goldsmith, of Fond du Lac, who was president of the national NOW in Washington, D.C., from 1982 to 1985, said she sees the election of a male president at the Madison chapter as "a very positive development. Until men and women get on the same side together we'll never be able to solve the world's problems. I've always rejected the concept of the battle of the sexes. We aren't each others enemies and we need to come and understand that."