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Call No.: MC 500
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Women's Equity Action League
Title: Records of the Women's Equity Action League, 1967-1990
Quantity: 79.46 linear feet (78 cartons, 3+1/2 file boxes) plus 6 folio folders, 3 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 37 folders of photographs)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Addenda to the records of the Women's Equity Action League (WEAL), a national membership organization with state affiliates, founded in 1968 and dedicated to improving the status and lives of all women primarily through education, litigation, and legislation.
The Women's Equity Action League was a national membership organization, with state chapters and divisions, dedicated to improving the status and lives of all women primarily through education, litigation, and legislation. Its sister organization, the WEAL Fund, was incorporated in 1972 "to help secure legal rights for women and to carry on educational and research projects on sex discrimination." The Fund was not a membership organization, and under federal tax law, as a 501(c)3 organization (non-profit and tax-exempt), could not engage in legislative activities. The two organizations merged in 1981 (see below), following changes in the tax code in 1976 that clarified the extent to which public charities could lobby without jeopardizing their tax status.WEAL had its beginnings in Cleveland, Ohio. Objecting to the National Organization for Women's (NOW) support of women's right to abortion, as well as to NOW's tactics of picketing and demonstrating in pursuit of its goals, Elizabeth ("Betty") Boyer and other Ohio members of NOW founded WEAL in 1968. Boyer, first national president, explained why and how WEAL was organized (see #1.27)."In 1966 and earlier many of us saw a need for concentrated activity in the women's rights area. We saw a need for an organization that would coordinate other organizations and concentrate on economic advancement for women.... To explore the possibilities, we asked Martha Griffiths to come to speak in the spring of 1968. Nearly 300 persons came. From this attendance list we circulated a letter inquiring whether they would be interested in an organization such as WEAL. The response was encouraging.""We held several small planning meetings that summer and by autumn we had lined up nearly a hundred members, mostly Clevelanders. In October we held an incorporating meeting to apply for corporate status as an Ohio nonprofit corporation. In early November the actual incorporation took place...."WEAL's stated purposes were to promote greater economic progress on the part of American women; to press for full enforcement of existing antidiscriminatory laws on behalf of women; to seek correction of de facto discrimination against women; to gather and disseminate information and educational material; to investigate instances of, and seek solutions to, economic, educational, tax, and employment problems affecting women; to urge that girls be prepared to enter more advanced career fields; to seek reappraisal of federal, state and local laws and practices limiting women's employment opportunities; to combat by all lawful means, job discriminations against women in the pay, promotional or advancement policies of governmental or private employers; to seek the cooperation and coordination of all American women, individually or as organizations to attain these objectives, whether through legislation, litigation, or other means, and by doing any and all things necessary or incident thereto.The following brief chronology for 1968-1980 combines information from Betty Boyer (prepared for the 1975 convention) and various WEAL publications. The national newsletters, as well as Board minutes and mailings, are excellent sources of detailed information; additional historical material is in #1.27-1.36.
- 1968: WEAL was founded in Cleveland, Ohio; the members elected Betty Boyer to be their first president. An early project was de-sexing help-wanted ads. WEAL member Vera Glazer wrote "The Female Revolt," prominently mentioning WEAL, thus obtaining for it nationwide and Congressional Record coverage.
- 1969: WEAL was invited to appear before a number of Congressional committees including those on guidelines for holders of federal contracts. Complaints of discrimination in education were received from all over the country. By the end of the year, WEAL had members in 22 states.
- 1970: Nancy Dowding was elected national president. WEAL began publishing a national newsletter. The New York division was organized, and WEAL membership nationwide continued to expand. Bernice Sandler began filing complaints against colleges and universities for sex discrimination under Executive Order 11246.
- 1971: State- divisions numbered 16 by the end of the year (New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, District of Columbia, Maryland, California, Colorado, Texas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio, Hawaii, and Virginia). The WEAL Washington Report (WWR), a summary of federal legislation of interest to women, began publication. The WEAL Legal Defense and Education Fund was incorporated.
- 1972: Norma Raffel was elected national president. WEAL membership increased and several more state divisions were convened. The national office opened in Washington, D.C. With other women's organizations, WEAL successfully lobbied for the ERA, Title IX of the Educational Amendments, and extensions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and of the Equal Pay Act. Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, WEAL filed the first sex discrimination charges against a city government (Dallas). Filing charges of sex discrimination in higher education continued to be a major activity, as was pressing the federal government to investigate. WEAL conducted studies of sex bias in appointments to state boards and commissions, in the granting of fellowships, and in the drug industry. The WEAL Legal Defense and Education Fund was dissolved and the WEAL Educational and Legal Defense Fund was incorporated.
- 1973: Arvonne Fraser was elected national president, and the national office was fully budgeted and staffed, with Bert Hartry as director. Jessie Baum succeeded Hartry in June. WEAL trained lobbyists and other volunteers, and organized a roster of lawyers and other experts to file WEAL briefs and respond to proposed federal regulations. The WEAL Fund qualified for an IRS Section 501(c)3, making contributions tax-deductible and the Fund tax-exempt.
- 1974: The Higher Education Committee shifted its focus from filing individual complaints to a how-to-do-it advisory role. New state divisions were convened; WEAL was represented in all 50 states by the end of the year. The Schlesinger Library became the repository of the WEAL archive.
- 1975: Doris Seward was elected national president and began a program stressing enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. The annual convention date was changed from December to May.
- 1976: Eileen Thornton was elected national president. Continuing its work for the Equal Rights Amendment, WEAL pledged $3000 to ERAmerica for education and publicity. WEAL established a Women and Health Committee, created the Womanpower Roster (Talent Bank), and polled United States presidential candidates on their positions on women's issues.
- 1977: WEAL hired its first paid lobbyist, Leslie Gladstone. WEAL members participated in the Women's Equality Day march (August 26), and in the International Women's Year Conference in Houston (November). The WEAL Fund set up the Marguerite Rawalt Trust Fund for litigation of sex discrimination cases in education, employment, credit, and economic areas; WEAL's suit against Health, Education, and Welfare and the Labor Department was settled in December, with Health, Education, and Welfare committing itself to hire 898 new employees in its Office of Civil Rights, to eliminate a backlog of 3000 discrimination complaints, and to begin major civil rights investigations of universities and school districts.
- 1978: WEAL celebrated its 10th Anniversary. It presented its first WEAL Economic Equity Awards (also known as Big WEALs Awards) to honor "America's Outstanding Women in Business and Labor."
- 1979: WEAL hired its first full-time Executive Director, Meredith Homet. WEAL began publication of WEAL Informed, an update of pending legislation pertaining to women. Patricia Blau Reuss was hired in October as Acting Executive Director.
- 1980: Carol Grossman became the first paid president, serving also as Executive Director. The WEAL president moved to the Washington, D.C., headquarters for the first time. Possibilities of merger of WEAL and WEAL Fund raised.By 1980, it was apparent that WEAL and the WEAL Fund had identity problems in the larger public that were harming the fundraising efforts of each organization. With overlapping structures and interests, they were competing for the same scarce resources. After months of study and negotiation, a merger proposal was brought before the membership at the annual meeting. In May 1981, after months of discussion and negotiation, WEAL (incorporated in Ohio) and WEAL Fund (incorporated in the District of Columbia) merged, with WEAL Fund designated the surviving corporation. WEAL transferred all remaining assets to WEAL Fund, all members of WEAL became members of WEAL Fund, and WEAL Fund changed its name to Women's Equity Action League (WEAL).This newly named WEAL was headquartered and incorporated in the District of Columbia, with its stated purposes being: to be operated exclusively for charitable and educational purposes within the meaning of sections 501(c)3 and 170(c)2 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 and of any subsequent amendments or revisions thereof; to promote greater economic progress on the part of American women; to promote educational equity for women and girls; to press for full enforcement of existing anti-discrimination laws on behalf of women; to seek correction of de facto discrimination against women; to conduct research, collect, collate, acquire, compile and publish facts, information and statistics concerning facilities, services, privileges, rights and opportunities of all kinds, the use or enjoyment of which is denied, restricted, or otherwise conditioned to anyone on the basis of sex, race, religion, national origin, handicap or marital status, and to combat any such discrimination by legal action, whether through legislation, litigation or other means; to render legal assistance and services to bring women within the full ambit and application of the Unites States Constitution and of the federal, state and local laws and practices to insure their full recognition and participation in the educational and economic activities and other facets of American life without discrimination on account of sex, race, religion, national origin, handicap or marital status; to provide legal support and advice to those seeking employment benefits without discrimination because of sex, race, religion, national origin, handicap or marital status.The first Board of Directors was formed by merging the two existing boards for one year. There were seven standing committees: Executive, Legal, Program, Legislative, Finance and Development, Membership, and Editorial. Special and advisory committees were appointed as deemed necessary. Fund acting executive director Char Mollison was hired as the executive director for the new organization; she served through April 1989, when she left for another job.At the annual May meetings, the membership traditionally reviewed WEAL's activities for the past year, and set the agenda for the next. After the merger, the original WEAL's "action agenda" expanded to include public policy initiatives in the Executive branch, as well as legislation. Throughout the 1980s, WEAL's economic agenda stressed the following issues: Title IX; women in the military; reproductive health; equity in the workplace (pensions, insurance, family and medical leave, child and dependent care, pay equity, affirmative action, enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, health insurance, sexual harassment); women as entrepreneurs; ERA; women and the Federal budget; Social Security; violence, abuse and harassment; health; homemakers; and lifestyles. They participated in issue-based coalitions, conducted research, and testified before Congressional committees and other government agencies.From a dependence on federal government funding, which at one time provided 50% of their income, WEAL shifted to raising money entirely from the private sector: predominantly foundations, corporate fundraising events, and membership dues, and sales of publications. By the late 1980s, difficult economic times nationally, as well as a right-wing, anti-feminist shift in the political climate, took its toll. Unable to secure necessary funding for its many projects and activities, WEAL took steps to dissolve its corporation in late 1989.The following is a list of WEAL presidents, with their terms of office: Elizabeth Boyer (1968-1969), Nancy Dowding (1969-1970), Lizabeth Moody (1970), Sally Mann (1971), (1971-1972), Arvonne Fraser (1972-1974), Doris Seward (1975-1976), Eileen Thornton (1976-1978), Cristine Candela (1978-1980), Carol Burroughs Grossman (1980-1982), Mary Gray (1982-1988), Doris Etelson (1989-1990).The following is a list of WEAL Executive Directors, with their terms of office: Jessie Baum (1978), Meredith Homet (1979, first full-time Executive Director), Pat Reuss (1979-1980), Char Mollison (1981-1989), Vicki Almquist (1989, Acting Executive Director), Mary McCain (1989).The following is a list of WEAL Fund presidents, with their terms in office: Ellen Dresselhuis (1972-1979), Marguerite Rawalt (1979-1980), Margaret Moses (1980-1981).The following is a list of WEAL Fund Executive Directors: Carol Parr (1976-1980), Char Mollison (1980-1981).
The collection is arranged in 26 series:
- I. WEAL organization and policy
- II. WEAL administration
- III. WEAL financial records
- IV. WEAL membership records
- V. WEAL state affiliates
- VI. Fund organization and policy
- VII. Fund administration
- VIII. Fund financial records
- IX. National office
- X. Officers
- XI. Conferences
- XII. General correspondence
- XIII. Legal
- XIV. Legal: WEAL Order
- XV. Legislative program
- XVI. Intern program
- XVII. Intern working files
- XVIII. Projects
- XIX. Projects: SPRINT
- XX. Projects: Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) Coordination Project
- XXI. Press files
- XXII. Publications
- XXIII. Testimonies, press releases
- XXIV. Photographs and memorabilia
- XXV. Clippings
- XXVI. Oversize