Veteran Feminists of America


VFA receives fascinating emails and phone calls - from women and men who are writing books and articles or making movies about the movement, from the media, from many who need help and advice, and often, from pioneer feminists who have just discovered VFA. Recently we heard of two heroes of the landmark cases, Titles VII and IX. For awhile it looked like we'd have a continuation of the political party which was chipping away at all we'd won in the past 50 years, putting these landmark cases in jeopardy. If that had happened we'd be urging you to get back out into the streets to fight to keep them intact…but now we can afford to celebrate! So it is with great joy that we honor an introduce our newly found heroes to you - Merikay McLeod and Vincent Macaluso, and while doing so, celebrate them and Titles VII and IX. Our next issue of ENEWS and our webpage are dedicated to Merikay McLeod and Vincent Macaluso.


In 1971, 24-year-old Merikay McLeod Silver, a writer and devout member of the Seventh-day Adventist church was thrilled to be hired by her church's West Coast publishing house.

With a woman founder of the church, Ellen G. White, and non-discrimination written into the church's wage guidelines, Merikay expected to be treated equally in every way by her employer. But her expectations were soon shattered. Not only did she earn far less than the other (male) assistant book editor, she earned barely enough to subsist. She filed a class discrimination lawsuit under TITLE VII in 1973 and settled out of court in 1978 as a single litigant, after the judge had reduced the case from a class action sex-discrimination lawsuit to that of a single litigant. Merikay was supported in her efforts by fellow-employees Lorna & Gus Tobler, her male counterpart, Max Phillips, and her attorney, Joan Bradford.

The EEOC, using Merikay's evidence, reinstated the class action in 1978 and, eventually, won the equal-pay battle. In 1983, $600,000 was distributed to women workers in the publishing house, and wage scales were more equalized throughout the denomination.

Merikay tells her story in "BETRAYAL." She's donated her book as a gift to all donors of $200 or more to VFA. Said VFA's board chair, Muriel Fox , " This is the most riveting book I've ever read about a woman's lawsuit against sex discriminating employers - I couldn't put it down till I'd absorbed every exciting word."

VFA highly recommends this book as "a must read". One that should be in every library in the land.

I became a women's advocate in the early 1970s because of a group of managers who were determined to keep from paying women fairly for their labor. At the time I was in my mid-20s, working as an assistant book editor at a Seventh-day Adventist publishing house in Mountain View, California.

About six months after I was hired, I learned that my male counterpart earned 40 percent more than I. When I asked our supervisor about the disparity, he explained that the church had a "head of household" policy, in which the main wage earner in a family took home more money.

A few months later when my husband, Kim Silver, lost his job and said he wanted to go back to college, I encouraged him, reasoning that I would then be the main wage earner in our family and could receive head of household status. But, when I requested head of household, I was denied. In fact, I learned that no woman had ever received head of household status at Pacific Press.

Being an idealistic optimist, I was certain that the men in management simply did not understand that they were breaking federal law. So I and others, spent months trying to convince them to change their pay practices. When it became clear that the men were not going to do what was right, and that I was the only woman in the publishing house with a clear-cut male counterpart, I filed a class-action lawsuit (Silver vs Pacific Press Publishing Association, Civil Action #C-730168 CBR).

I was supported in this endeavor by Lorna Tobler, long-time editorial secretary at Pacific Press. She knew where all the records were that proved women were systematically denied equal pay and equal opportunity for advancement. I could not have successfully pursued litigation without her or my attorney Joan Bradford. It was definitely a team effort!

I have been told that I was the first person in the nation to successfully bring to bear Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on a religious employer. My suit and those that followed, changed the pay practices of Pacific Press and, in a domino effect, the pay practices of church-related schools, hospitals and colleges. My case and those that followed, including a suit by the EEOC and one by the US Dept of Labor, were precedent-setting and have been repeatedly cited in other sex discrimination lawsuits against religious employers.

My case was cited in the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court case of Ohio Civil Rights Commission v Dayton Christian Schools. I was able to be at the Supreme Court that day in support of Linda Hoskinson, the church school teacher whose contract was not renewed because she had given birth and the men managing Dayton Christian Schools believed she should stay at home with her infant rather than return to her teaching position.

(One point of interest: Linda and I had been classmates at Mattawan Elementary School in Michigan in the 1950's. She read my book, Betrayal: The Shattering Sex Discrimination Case of Silver vs Pacific Press Publishing Association, and said it gave her the courage to pursue her case all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled 9-0 in her favor.)

Since I helped Pacific Press improve its employment practices, I have pursued education, earning master's degrees in sociology, women's studies and spirituality. And I continue writing, both as a freelancer and as a daily newspaper reporter.

In 2006, I was named a Woman of the Year by the Adventist Association of Women, in recognition of the Pacific Press case. AAW posted a video interview of me on You Tube. Much of my writing supports women and men doing good in the world - from those who work with foster children to those who help AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe.

I hope my stories encourage and inspire others to do what they can to make a positive difference in this life that we all share.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., others look on. photo Cecil Stoughton

The Civil Rights Act of 1964
was a landmark piece of legislation that outlawed racial segregation in schools, public places, and employment. Conceived to help African Americans, the bill was amended prior to passage to protect women, and explicitly included white people for the first time. It also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In order to circumvent limitations on congressional power to enforce the Equal Protection Clause imposed by the Supreme Court in the Civil Rights Cases, the law was passed under the Commerce Clause, which had been interpreted by the courts as a broad grant of congressional power. Once the Act was implemented, its effects were far reaching and had tremendous long-term impacts on the whole country. It prohibited discrimination because of race or sex in public facilities, in government, and in employment .

Watch Merikay McLead "You Tube" Video: Merikay's You Tube Video

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