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Burk: Wore bulletproof vest to demonstration

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Martha Burk received death threats, hired bodyguards and wore a bulletproof vest to a demonstration she staged against Augusta National’s no-women-members policy near the course in 2003, she told GolfChannel.com on Monday.

“They were standing right next to me when I spoke,” she said of the bodyguards.

Burk’s reaction to news that Augusta National has announced it is admitting two women as its first members this fall was predictably strong.

“We won,” Burk said. “Absolutely, that’s how I feel.”

Burk, as then chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, made the strongest public challenge to Augusta National’s all-male membership practice back when Hootie Johnson was the club’s chairman. Johnson famously said the club may well admit women one day, but “not at the point of a bayonet.”

Burk now runs the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations.

Burk hailed the importance of Monday’s news.

“It’s important symbolically,” she said. “In an absolute sense, two women playing golf is not important, but two women  being allowed into one of the enclaves of power for, basically, Fortune 500 members is a very important symbolic statement about the place of women in society.”

Burk believes her organization’s efforts were a factor in Monday’s announcement.

“Had we not started this 10 years ago, and kept at it and kept at it, it wouldn’t have happened now, and it might not have happened ever,” she said. “We did not give up. There were several confluences that came together: IBM naming a woman as a CEO was one factor. I think we were another one. We succeeded in changing public opinion pretty well.”

Burk was asked if she felt personal satisfaction.

“I got a lot of death threats, I had to hire bodyguards, and I did wear a bulletproof vest.” she said. “It was not fun. I believed in what I was doing. I don’t want to take personal credit. Yes, I was a spokesperson, but there were a lot of women standing behind me as well. That was very important, but I do feel personally vindicated.”

Burk is curious where Augusta National will go next after admitting two women. She'll be watching.