Politics and Professional Societies: The Women’s Classical Caucus and the NOW ERA Boycott


  • Samantha Morris Tulane University


This case examines the role of academic societies and their members in political movements. It focuses on the Women’s Classical Caucus’ (WCC) efforts to relocate the American Philological Association’s (APA) 1980 Convention from Louisiana because the state had not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The WCC annually attended the APA’s national convention yet worked specifically to promote women’s scholarship in Classical Studies. The WCC also hoped to advance opportunities for women outside of their academic society, leading to their participation in the NOW ERA Boycott, which refused to support the economies of states that rejected the ERA. After the APA repeatedly denied the WCC’s proposals for relocation, the WCC promoted a ‘partial boycott’ of the 1980 APA convention, prompting members of both the WCC and APA to question whether an academic organization dedicated primarily to Classical scholarship should take a position on this political matter. The ensuing debates among members reflect the diverse risks that organizations must weigh in combining professionalism with politics. Politics can promote conflict in even the smallest of settings; therefore, professional societies must proceed with caution in the face of a political decision, constantly reconsidering what affects their choices will have for the future of their organizations.