To promote equality and women's rights.
In 1966, by an extremely diverse group of feminist activists from all walks of life.
NOW is a chapter-driven, membership-driven organization made up of over 500,000 members who operate through 550 local and regional chapters.
No organization does a more comprehensive job of working for women's equality. Whether organizing the 2004 March for Women's Lives, the largest DC protest in U.S. history (with over 1.2 million attendees), or lobbying Congress on the latest legislation, NOW is as relevant today as it was 40 years ago.
In addition to the usual criticisms of the feminist movement, specific criticisms leveled against NOW are that it focuses on abortion rights to the detriment of other feminist causes, that it is subject to internal politics, and that its sense of mission is not always clear. Critics also describe NOW as "shrill" and "hysterical," words that are curiously almost never used to describe men.
As a NOW officer, I am not an unbiased observer. I will point out, however, that there is no single monolithic "NOW." Outside of the national office, which coordinates multi-chapter activities, NOW is in effect 550 different local feminist organizations operating under the same umbrella.