Massachusetts Jaycees are gearing up for a legal shootout to protect their women against the national organization.
Jaycees here are spearheading a national drive to allow women to stay in the club, using threats of economic sanctions and political pressure to fight "discrimination" by the national organization.
Even the National Organization for Women has gotten into the act. Members picketed former president Ford when he attended an all-male Jaycees' fund-raiser in Grand Rapids, Mich. several weeks ago.
Robert Adley, a former Louisiana Jaycees president who heads the majority move to bar women, claims that a feminine influence in the men's club would cause discord - or worse.
"You've got these guys 18 to 35 years old, all full of p - - - and vegar, and you let these single women in and the first thing you know, you've got relationships happening outside the ones that are supposed to goin' on," he said.
"I have seen women grab the bull by the horn and do some tremendous things," countered Massachussetts Jaycees' president Michael Lynch. "They have added a lot of vitality and energy and spunk to the organization."
The state chapter here, along with Jaycees in Alaska and the District of Columbia, broke with the grand old chauvinist tradition of the young men's civic association in 1975 when they were permitted to allow women membership under a "state's option" pilot program.
But the national group's sudden move to permissiveness ended abruptly at its June 21 national convention in Atlantic City - coincidentally, women Jaycees point out, the home of the Miss America Pageant.
Led by a solid southern bloc, delegates of the 377,500 national Jaycees voted overwhelmingly to cost women from the club by Dec. 1.
The Massachussetts chapter, its ranks bolstered by about 350 women, mustered its forces for a defensive strike.
The battle cry "Make It Right" has become the group's motto.
Chanting the slogan, delegates of the state's 6,000 Jaycees agreed in a resounding voice vote last month to back the women with a lawsuit against the national officers. Some local chapters have threatened to quit the national organization rather than bar the women.
The legal precedent on allowing women memberships in private men's organizations is not encouraging for the group here. A New York State court of appeals, ruling on a similar case involving the Kiwanis Club said private clubs are "an exception to the Civil Rights Act," and the U.S. Court of Appeals stated in April 1974 that "women have no constitutional right to belong to a private organization."
The Jaycees, originally called the Junior Chamber of Commerce, was founded in 1920, as a vehicle for "developing the whole man" through community service. The organization has participated in various fund-raising activities for such groups as the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the National Multiple Scierosis Society.
Traditionally, the group has seen itself as a haven for young businessmen - a social organization aimed at bettering the community while shoring up local business contacts.
"Most of them see it as fraternal organization, a chance to be out with the guys for a couple of nights a month," said Jaycees national president Barry Kennedy, who downplays dissension in the organization.
Women, he said, have their outlets in the Jaycettes, the women's auxiliary. "They have pretty much the same programs we have, but they just can't vote."
"We're not doing the tea and cookies thing anymore; we're not a subservient group," said Jayceettes president Judy Ettinger, of Dayton Plains, Mich., who represents 55,000 members.
"Women who have joined the Jaycees are undermining the Jayceettes," she said. "I fail to see why they want to join the Jaycees when they have a women's organization without the hassle. Why rock the boat?"
"Because this is the best individual training group around and I just don't want to be with just a bunch of women," said Sally Funk, former Boston chapter president in the nation. "We're not going to sit back and take this thing nonchalantly."
"We may be considered just a bunch of rednecks," Louisiana's Adley said, "but, by God, we have a right to be with anyone we want to be with - and we want to be with men."