How Wall Street's Original Joan Holloway Inspired Second-Wave Feminist Protests

Cristen Conger

Francine Gottfried being police escorted through crowds of ogling men on her way to work in 1968. New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images
Francine Gottfried being police escorted through crowds of ogling men on her way to work in 1968. New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images

In 1968, Francine Gottfried became the literal center of attention in New York's financial district. Beginning in May, word spread that an especially busty woman worked as an IBM machine operator at Chemical Bank and took the same walking route to and from the subway each day. "Her name, her picture, her job location and route getting there was spread out for all to see," New York magazine reported in 1968. It was practically analog doxxing.

That September, thousands of men began lining her commute and executives leaned out of skyscraper windows hoping to catch a glimpse of Wall Street's Sweater Girl, as she was dubbed. The crowds became so disruptive, police eventually had to escort Gottfried safely from the train to the bank.

"These people in Wall Street have responsibility for millions of dollars and they act like they're out of their mind," Gottfried told New York, having described how her bust line had attracted unwanted public attention ever since middle school.

Street harassment has been an age-old issue for feminists of all waves. In our street harassment podcast, we talked about suffragists' campaign to "smash the masher," which is what old school dudes who catcalled and groped women were called. Back in those days, hat pins were a girl's best friend.

Sixty years later as Women's Liberation was going full throttle, the anti-catcall tactic was less eye gouging and more man heckling. As journalist Susan Brownmiller recounts in her memoir, women would hang out on street corners for "ogle-ins," like sit-ins but with wolf whistles. In 1970, with the Gottfried spectacle in mind, leading lesbian feminist Karla Jay decided to organize a Wall Street Ogle-In.

With a news camera following along, the feminist demonstrators yelled at the men on the Wall Street sidewalks:

"Keep your best leg forward, sweetie!"

"How about glasses? I like 'em with glasses!"

"Oh, it's a hippie on Wall Street! I'm so turned on."

The news reporter asks what at the catcalling is about.

We're trying to point out what it feels like to be whistled at an put down constantly, sexually every time we walk down the street," a brunette tells her as a turtleneck-wearing dude cheers mockingly behind.

"And we're supposed to think it's a compliment," a blonde woman next to her chimes in.

Sound familiar?

"Is sex out?" the reporter asks the women after the camera quickly pans to cluster to bemused men.

"Unless men change it's going to be very soon," the blonde promises.

As for Gottfried, her 15 minutes of fame appear over by the time the Wall Street Ogle-In took place. In its 1969 retrospective, LIFE cites her among the previous year's "Winners and Losers" and opines about her brief stardom, "She might have wished for less."

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