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MC 311

Women's Equity Action League. Records of the Women's Equity Action League, 1966-1979: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 311
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, 1966-1979
Date(s): 1966-1979
Quantity: 5.54 linear feet (3 cartons, 1+1/2 file boxes, 2 folio boxes)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: 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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 75-52, 75-62, 75-80, 75-83, 75-200, 75-201, 75-238, 76-90, 76-320, 76-342, 77-M5J 79-M126, 79-M135, 79-M165, 86-M26
The records of the Women's Equity Action League were given to the Schlesinger Library by the Women's Equity Action League national office and by Jane Robens,Nancy Dowding, Laurine Fitzgerald,Elizabeth Boyer,Leslie Gladstone,Norma Raffel,Loraine Grant,Paula Treder, and Bert Hartry between 1975 and 1979, and in 1986.
The records were processed under a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (#79-4). Series I-IV and XI were transferred to MC 500 (WEAL Records, 1967-1990) in March 2004.

Processing Information:

Processed: December 1981; revised April 2004
By: Katherine Gray Kraft, Zephorene L. Stickney
Updated: October 2009
By: Katherine Gray Kraft


Access. The agreement between the Library and WEAL signed in 1974 was revised in 1978, and again in 1981. WEAL dissolved in 1989. Most of the restrictions on research use have now expired. Access to the membership records (#191-202, and folio boxes 5 and 6) is restricted to those past national officers, board members, and executive directors who sign a special permission form until August 1, 2029. In addition, #204 is closed until January 1, 2026.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in records created by WEAL is to be determined. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Records in open files may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures; restricted records may not be photocopied. The library may make copies of open documents, upon request, for deposit in other institutions, so long as credit is given to WEAL as the source of the documents.

Preferred Citation:

Women's Equity Action League Records, 1966-1979; item description, dates. MC 311, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Records of the Women's Equity Action League, 1967-1990 (MC 500) and Women's Equity Action League Audiotapes, 1973-1987 (T-126).


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.
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 six series:


In 1981, under a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (#79-4), archivists Katherine Kraft and Zephorene Stickney processed the records given to the library by WEAL between 1975 and 1979. Records relating to the founding of WEAL, including by-laws; minutes and other papers pertaining to annual and board meetings; other administrative records; mailings, publications, speeches, and clippings, all originally contained in this archive, were transferred to the larger body of WEAL and WEAL Fund records received by the Library between 1980 and 1998, and processed in March 2004 (see WEAL Records, MC 500). Correspondence with officers, board members, government officials, state chapter and division presidents, and the general public; committee and membership records; and photographs (#230), remain in this collection. For audiotapes, see T-126.
The WEAL records were given to the Schlesinger Library by a number of individuals and the national office; filing practices varied greatly. A large proportion of the archive was not in folders; existing folders were not always labeled correctly. In 1981, the archivists created eleven series. In March 2004, Series I-IV and Series XI were integrated into WEAL Records (MC 500). Series V-X and their respective folders, consisting mostly of correspondence, were left intact to facilitate citation tracking. The six remaining series are described more fully below.
Series V, NATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD (#48-49), is a short series that consists almost entirely of correspondence with and about prospective advisory board members.
Series VI, OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE; ACTIONS (#50-97, 203-207, 230), includes correspondence files of the national office, integrated with those of Betty Boyer, Nancy Dowding, Laurine Fitzgerald, Leslie Gladstone, Loraine Grant, Bert Hartry, Norma Raffel, Jane Robens, and Paula Treder, to create the first part of this series. Correspondents include board members, officers (national and state), government officials, et al. The arrangement is generally chronological. Included are several folders of correspondence removed from the "Resource File," WEAL's alphabetical reference file that consisted almost entirely of published materials (transferred to the Library's book division); they retain their original folder headings, and have been added in chronological sequence. Folders containing correspondence and notes for which original restrictions have expired (#203, 205-207) were added to the finding aid in October 2009; #204 is closed until January 1, 2026. The Actions files consist mainly of correspondence; they were designated "Actions" by the WEAL national office. Original folder headings have been retained. There is also one folder of photographs (#230), originally listed as part of Series XI (which no longer exists).
Series VII, CORRESPONDENCE WITH STATE CHAPTERS AND DIVISIONS (#98-123), contains national office files; the original order was retained.
Series VIII, GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE (#124-131), contains inquiries re: WEAL, sex discrimination, the women's movement, and related topics. The archivist selected a representative sample of letters requesting copies of publications but containing no other information about the author; more than 50 such letters from libraries, other institutions, and individuals were discarded.
Series IX, COMMITTEES (#132-191), combines the correspondence, leaflets, and related papers of standing and ad hoc committees in one alphabetical sequence. For most of the committees, documentation is sparse. Records may still be held by past or present committee chairs. Membership committee records are in Series X. For the education committees, see Education (#139-140), College Action (#134), Federal Contract Compliance on Education (FCCE files of Bernice "Bunny" Sandler, chair, #147-160), and Higher Education (#163-164). The Help-Wanted Ads Committee (#161-162) was established in 1972, and consists of Paula Treder's correspondence; see Legal Committee (#171-174) for earlier correspondence on the subject. The International Women's Years files (#166-170) are those of Bert Hartry.
Search note: There is no correspondence index for the WEAL archive. However, with the exception of WEAL officers and board members, the names of selected correspondents can be searched using the "search this finding aid" feature. In addition to those WEAL leaders whose names appear in the additional catalog entries at the end of this finding aid, the following WEAL leaders (including active members) have extensive correspondence in this collection: Daryl J. Bem, Sandra L. Bem, Barbara R. Bergman, Carolyn Bishop, Carol Brocato, Mildred Bulpitt, Patricia Calkins, Christine Candela, Christine Y. Conaway, Arlene Kaplan Daniels, Nancy E. Dowding, Lucy H. Draper, Dorothy Fuldheim, Lela S. Gilbert, Wanda W. Ginner, Barbara W. Glenn, Phyllis Hamm, Rebecca Thacker Halbrook, Vilma R. Hunt, Phineas Indritz, Marsha King, Frances M. Kompare, Paula Latimer, Margaret A. Leister, Judith L. Lichtman, Lizabeth A. Moody, Frances S. Norris, Mary V. O'Connor, Jane Picker, Sandi Risser, Leila Sullivan, Betty Wright.


Container List

Additional Index Terms

Affirmative action programs
Associations, institutions, etc.
Equal rights amendments
Feminism--United States
Help-wanted advertising--United States
International Women's Year, 1975
Sex discrimination--United States
Sex discrimination in consumer credit--United States
Sex discrimination in education--United States
Sex discrimination in employment--United States
Sex discrimination in insurance--United States
Sex role--United States
Women--Education (Higher)
Abzug, Bella S., 1920-1998
Baum, Jessie
Bird, Caroline
Boyer, Elizabeth
Burroughs-Grossman, Carol
Dowding, Nancy Elsie, 1924-
Dresselhuis, Ellen
East, Catherine, 1916-1996
Fields, Daisy B.
Fitzgerald, Laurine E.
Fraser, Arvonne S.
Gates, Margaret
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader
Gladstone, Leslie
Glaser, Vera
Goodwin, Carolyn
Grant, Loraine
Green, Edith, 1910-1987
Griffiths, Martha W. (Martha Wright), 1912-2003
Hartry, Bert, 1929-2015
Heckler, Margaret
Holmes, Olive
King, Jean L.
Koontz, Elizabeth D. (Elizabeth Duncan), 1919-1989
Overton, Ellen S., 1925-
Parr, Carol, 1941-
Polowy, Carolyn
Raffel, Norma K.
Rawalt, Marguerite, 1895-1989
Robens, Jane
Sandler, Bernice Resnick
Seward, Doris
Theodore, Athena
Thornton, Eileen, 1942-
Treder, Paula, 1925-
Truax, Anne Thorsen
Wade, Betsy
Weal Fund
Young, Margaret M.
Zatlin, Phyllis, 1938-