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Woman who led Augusta charge 'knew we could outlast them'

Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, talks with the media during Masters week protests outside the gates of Augusta National on April 12, 2003 in Augusta, Ga.

The woman who led a protest starting in 2002 calling for the Augusta National Golf Club to admit female members on Monday welcomed the club’s decision to end its males-only policy, saying, “I knew we could outlast them.”

Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne announced Monday that it had invited Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore to become the first women members when the club begins its new season in October and that they had accepted.

The home of the Masters was under growing criticism due to the policy. Dr. Martha Burk made national headlines when she led a protest against it, culminating in a 2003 parking lot protest during the National Championships. At the time, former club Chairman Hootie Johnson said Augusta National could one day have a woman in the member's green jacket, ''but not at the point of a bayonet.''

Augusta National announces inclusion of women

Burk, former chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations and now director of its corporate accountability project, told NBC News she was pleased with the decision.


“I think it has pretty broad significance because the club is emblematic of the power structure of corporate America,” Burk said from Albuquerque, N.M. “It makes a statement that women are going to be accepted into, shall we say, these off-campus venues of power that the leaders of corporate America hang at.”

 

 

Burk attributed the change to their unrelenting pressure.

"I thought it was going to take a long time but I knew we could outlast them," she said. “I knew that if we kept bringing pressure and did not let up, which we have not, that it would happen."

While there are other organizations that maintain a males-only policy, none of them is functioning as “de facto public accommodations as Augusta was,” Burk said.

“None of them … are able to make the statement that Augusta makes as to the place of women, not only in society, but in corporate America, because none of them have the six-star roster that Augusta National has,” she added.

The lesson learned for women’s rights groups,  is to “never give up, never give up, never give up. That’s it,” she said.

When asked if she would be interested in becoming a member, she said one doesn't apply, but "if they offer me a membership, I will certainly accept it. 

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