NOW’s President Steps Down After Racism Charges

Toni Van Pelt, who has led the National Organization for Women for three years, announced this week that she is quitting. She cited health reasons, but her decision comes after an internal investigation sparked by allegations of toxic workplace behavior and racism.

Trouble reportedly started soon after Van Pelt was elected to her position in 2017 with Gilda Yazzie, a Native American woman, as her running mate. More than a dozen staffers alleged that Van Pelt said she’d only picked Yazzie because she needed a minority on her ticket, among other complaints. Yazzie eventually quit NOW and sued the feminist organization for racial discrimination, saying she experienced retaliation after pushing back on Van Pelt’s misconduct. The issues came to a head in June when The Daily Beast published an exposé describing systemic problems within NOW. “This organization has a problem of racism and ageism and [they] don't know how to deal with it,” The Daily Beast quoted one disenchanted member. “I thought when I was coming into the feminist movement I was joining this big sisterhood, and that was the biggest disappointment in my life.”

The problems at NOW are the latest in a trend of turmoil at women’s organizations whose feminist values seem to be mismatched with how they actually function. Planned Parenthood’s HR trouble was most recently in the spotlight, with leaders at both the national and regional levels getting axed. —Margaret Brady

Democratic National Convention Gets Underway, Virtually

The nominating convention for the Democratic National Committee kicked off this week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but in a bid to keep COVID-19 at bay, the event was presented virtually. Viewers were treated to appearances by speakers like Michelle Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Bill Clinton. Clinton’s speech was closely watched after a photo of him being massaged by a Jeffrey Epstein victim emerged mere hours before his scheduled appearance.

The convention also featured presentations from Republicans who have soured on the presidential incumbent, Donald Trump, including former Ohio governor John Kasich and Cindy McCain, the widow of the late senator (and Trump nemesis) John McCain.

The virtual setup is a deep disappointment for the city of Milwaukee, which had hoped to turn the national spotlight into a windfall for the tourism, hospitality, and entertainment industries. The outbreak of the pandemic crushed that dream and most of the 50,000 expected visitors have not shown up. Some leaders have called for a 2024 DNC convention “do over” for the city.

The turn of events is especially unlucky for local Democrats, who had hoped to host an effective convention to prove a point and heal a wound: Wisconsin was a key state that Hillary Clinton unexpectedly lost in 2016.

Former vice president Joe Biden accepted his party’s nomination for president on Thursday night, live streaming his remarks from his home state of Delaware. —MB

New Princess Diana Cast for The Crown

The makers of the prestige Netflix show The Crown announced this week that seasons five and six of the series will feature a new actress playing Princess Diana. Their choice is Elizabeth Debicki, who has previously appeared in The Great Gatsby, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and the soon-to-be-released Christopher Nolan movie, Tenet.

Debicki takes over from Emma Corrin, who portrayed a younger Diana in the series’ fourth season, which is scheduled to hit TV screens this November. A teaser trailer was released this week. Debicki’s seasons are expected to cover the 1990s period, which saw the disintegration of the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales, and the violent death of the princess in a car accident in Paris.

Previously announced casting changes include Jonathan Pryce taking over as Prince Philip and Imelda Staunton stepping into the starring role as Queen Elizabeth II.

At one point, creator Peter Morgan had decided to only produce five seasons of the show; however, he’s changed his mind back again, and fans will get to see a sixth season, after all. Morgan has made it clear, though, that more current controversies like those involving Prince Andrew or Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, will not be addressed on the show.

“Meghan and Harry are in the middle of their journey, and I don’t know what their journey is or how it will end. . . . I’m much more comfortable writing about things that happened at least 20 years ago. . . . That is enough time and enough distance to really understand something, to understand its role, to understand its position, to understand its relevance,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. —MB

President Trump Pardoned Women’s Rights Suffragist Susan B. Anthony

President Donald Trump pardoned women’s rights suffragist Susan B. Anthony on August 18, exactly 100 years after the Senate ratified the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution under President Woodrow Wilson’s tenure. First introduced to Congress in 1878, and passing after decades of parades, silent vigils, and hunger strikes, the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Six years prior to the bill’s introduction, Ms. Anthony had already cast her vote in Rochester, New York—an act that led to her arrest and conviction. At the end of her two-day trial, which she called the “greatest judicial outrage history has ever recorded,” she was charged with a $100 fine, about the equivalent of $620 today.

Critics of President Trump, including Deborah L. Hughes, president and CEO of the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, say that Ms. Anthony wore her conviction and fine as a badge of honor and would not have wanted a pardon. Others criticized Trump for pardoning Anthony, who withdrew her support for the 15th Amendment that gave Black men the right to vote. But supporters say that Anthony worked closely with Ida B. Wells and often met with leaders of black churches and with black students on college campuses. Anthony never paid the judge the $100 fine, calling it an “unjust penalty.” —Melanie Wilcox

Shopping in America Rises to Pre-Pandemic Levels

American shopping has risen back to pre-pandemic levels, the Commerce Department reported. This comes as a surprise since millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and about 40 percent of those who have lost their jobs or had a reduction in take-home pay cannot last more than a month on savings of any kind, according to survey data from SimplyWise.com. Because government benefits expired at the end of July, spending levels may reflect an altogether different story next month.

U.S. retail sales rose 1.2 percent in July from June, according to data from the Commerce Department. The winners: building and garden supply retailers, supermarkets, sporting goods stores, and hobby supply and musical instrument shops. However, most parts of the retail industry have not been as lucky: in 2020 alone, more than 6,000 retail stores will close or plan to close, and perhaps as many as 25,000, according to data from retail research and advisory firm Coresight Research. Among the most notable stores that have filed for bankruptcy in recent months include Stein Mart, Tuesday Morning, JCPenney, Sur La Table, and Muji. (Pier 1 Imports, which was scheduled to close, has found a buyer). —MW

Good News of the Week

Newlyweds Donate Cancelled Wedding Dinner to Women’s Shelter

Tyler and Melanie Tapajna planned a traditional wedding reception for 150 guests. Then, COVID-19 hit and their party got cancelled. Instead, they celebrated their vows by serving up their catered dinner to Laura's Home, a facility that serves women and their children in Cleveland, Ohio.

The groom wore his tux and the bride was dressed in a white gown with long lace sleeves. Both donned face masks and headed over to the shelter after saying “I do” in a small backyard ceremony for immediate family. Together they helped serve green beans, mac and cheese, fried chicken and more to 135 “guests,” the women and children of Laura’s Home.

“We were actually kind of excited, I think more, about donating the food than being stressed during the wedding,” the bride told CNN. What a great way to start married life! —MB

Watch of the Week

The new trailer for season four of The Crown features Princess Diana. 

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