Santa Fe National Organization of Women
As the president of the Santa Fe chapter of the National Organization of Women, Rebecca “Becky” Langford sits at the head of the table. The only thing louder than the sound of her gavel is her voice as she calls 10 women of different ethnicities and ages to order. It is time for the monthly meeting to begin.
Santa Fe NOW is a local coalition dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights of women through political and social action. Langford and her team of veteran feminists organize fundraisers, awareness campaigns, scholarships and more to directly help local women obtain health care, reproductive rights and political involvement. “And then it occurred to us…” Langford says, “all of the women in our meetings were well over 50 [years old].”
With the help of a $10,000 grant from Planned Parenthood, Santa Fe NOW was able to begin the search to recruit younger, college-age women who are impassioned about their bodies and their liberties. By joining Santa Fe NOW, young women are asked to participate and organize fundraising and educational events regarding women’s rights, equal pay, reproductive choices and healthcare. “Every generation has its own [obstacles],” Joan Krohn says. Krohn is a retired professor of social work and a member of the National Organization of Women since its founding in 1966. “We, the older women, want to help you. Because we think that young women are the saviors of our whole civilization.”
Santa Fe NOW is an opportunity for young women to host a variety of awareness initiatives. Guest speakers at events in the past have included Jessica Valenti, an American feminist writer. Just recently, Santa Fe NOW represented a table for Equality Day in Albuquerque and held a fundraiser for the Alumbra Midwives of Las Vegas at the DeVargas Center health fair. In March 2016, the only Ob-Gyn department in Las Vegas, New Mexico closed its doors, stranding dozens of pregnant women nearly 70 miles away from prenatal care and a safe place to deliver their children. Santa Fe Now raised $300 to present to the midwives who have essentially taken over all prenatal care in Las Vegas. About 45 minutes into the drive from Santa Fe to present this donation, Langford says, “Imagine making this drive while in labor.”
Since the closing of the Alta Vista hospital Ob-Gyn department, a woman named Desiree Castillo has died in a fatal car accident while returning home from receiving prenatal care in Santa Fe.
The future of Santa Fe NOW and what it can offer others will be decided by its newest and future members. “[We must] bring women’s [healthcare] and reproductive rights to the women whose lives it is most prevalent in,” Langford says. “Here are these older women who are very open and willing to talk about [their experience].”
Several years ago, Krohn initiated the Pro-Choice Safety Network Fund, one of the most successful focuses of Santa Fe NOW. The fund exists to assist women around the country who need safe access to abortion but have multiple financial obstacles such as being unable to take time off of work, to provide childcare for the families they already have or to access transportation to clinics that can be hundreds of miles away from home. The Pro-Choice Safety Network funds these women and volunteers even provide them shelter in their own homes during travel.
Santa Fe NOW reminds each individual that they can have an impact. “It’s important for women to come together to meet [our own] needs,” Krohn says. “It’s this idea of organize, don’t agonize.”
Santa Fe NOW offers an inclusive environment to all women whether LGBT, trans, young or old. “The women who are part of this [organization] are passionate feminists,” Janet Gotkin says. Gotkin is the former treasurer of Santa Fe NOW and remains heavily involved. “They have been for their whole lives.” For Gotkin, a pivotal moment was understanding what it means to actually connect with other women, beyond talking about work or relationships or money troubles. “Of all the things we had talked about in our lives, we had never discussed our reproductive [choices].”
Even for those who can’t yet participate in regularly scheduled activism, the women of Santa Fe NOW still deliver a powerful message. “Vote for women that support you,” Langford says. “You’ve got to earn money. You’ve got to have time off if you have children. You’ve got to have health care. There is nothing that says because you are a woman or because you can get pregnant, you can’t have the health care that you need. [Voting] is your only avenue to get people to speak for you.”
And while voting in presidential elections will always be important, the first step to make big change is voting locally. “I am a survivor of decades of political [involvement],” Gotkin says. “We used to say in the 60s and 70s, all politics is local. Maybe when you’re younger you may not realize the extent to which local government, school boards, city councils and commissioners impact the choices you get to make.” Gotkin also expresses how in a state as small as New Mexico, each voice causes an even greater ripple. “[Activism in New York] is like being a grain of sand in the sahara desert. It’s not like that [in New Mexico].”
It is the hope of Santa Fe NOW that women never stop growing. When asked about the future, Krohn says, “If there is going to be development for our culture… and we are going to raise children that are more broad-minded and compassionate, it’ll be the young people today who have to raise them.”
Visit the official website of the Santa Fe Now organization of women to find out how to become a member.