IOWA WOMEN’S ARCHIVES
UNIVERSITY OF IOWA LIBRARIES
IOWA CITY, IOWA
WOMEN’S EQUITY ACTION LEAGUE, IOWA DIVISION
5 linear inches
The records (donor no. 236) were donated by N. Peggy Burke in 1988.
The records are open for research.
Copyright has been transferred in part to the University of Iowa.
Bridgett Williams-Searle, 2000. [WORD 7, WEAL.doc]
The Women’s Equity Action League (WEAL) was founded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1968. Originally formed as a “middle-of-the-road” organization, WEAL promoted economic equality for women by focusing on educational, legal, and tax issues that affected women. They had notable success in establishing equity in estate taxation, eliminating gender-specific job listings, and removing sex-based bias in vocational education training programs. WEAL is perhaps best known, however, for its initiatives to reduce sexism in American colleges and universities. Its members filed hundreds of lawsuits against schools that received federal operating aid, successfully arguing that any recipient of federal contracts had to conform to already existing affirmative action guidelines contained in the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1965. Although its membership numbers were always fairly small nationally (no more than 2000), its members included many high-ranking government officials, university professors, and influential business people. WEAL leaders believed that the high visibility of its members in public life gave the organization more clout than the numbers suggested. WEAL members, like their more radical counterparts in the feminist movement, strongly endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment. (See Iowa: State president’s manual, 1975-1976 and National: Membership lists, 1976, for more historical information on WEAL as a national organization.)
The Iowa regional affiliate, from which most of these records have been collected, was formed in late 1972. In 1973, Iowa WEAL had forty-five members, most of whom taught at the state’s universities or worked in state government. Membership was concentrated in Des Moines, Cedar Falls-Waterloo, and Iowa City; few western Iowa women joined. Members agreed to concentrate state resources on the problem of discrimination in educational institutions, leaving local chapters to develop their own special projects. (They appear to have borrowed their institutional structure directly from the League of Women Voters, an organization familiar to many members.) Annual conferences hosted by Iowa WEAL gave professional women a chance to network and exchange information with those of like interests. A concerted membership drive in 1974 raised membership numbers to over seventy, but by 1976, only twenty-two members remained in the organization. Too small to be a viable political force, Iowa WEAL dwindled away while larger feminist organizations, notably the Iowa Women’s Political Caucus and Iowa NOW, picked up its former members.
Scope and Content Note
The Women’s Equity Action League records (1972-1977) measure 5 linear inches and are organized in five series: Iowa; Law; National; Sister chapters; and Women’s media.
The Iowa series (1972-1976) contains annual meeting minutes, correspondence to and from the state president’s office, a membership list for 1975, one copy of The WEAL Scoop (the newsletter of WEAL’s Iowa Division), and state treasurer’s papers from 1973-1976. This series also contains the manual for state presidents (1975-1976), which provides a comprehensive overview of the organization and its history.
The Law series (1973-1975) offers a layperson’s overview of the issues considered critical by WEAL members. Topics include “How to File a Patent,” principles of employment discrimination and sexual discrimination law, and a copy of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
The National series (1972-1977) contains national board meeting agendas and minutes for select meetings. It also includes advice from the national organization to its state and local affiliates about how to increase membership, develop chapters, and raise funds. Finally, the series contains the testimony of Arvonne Skelton Fraser, a WEAL activist and the daughter of farmers, who spoke on the subject of estate taxation before the national House Ways and Means Committee in 1976.
The Sister Chapters series (1975, 1976) contains one document each from Iowa WEAL’s sister chapters in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The North Carolina document is a program from a pro-ERA rally in 1976. The Pennsylvania document is a state chapter newsletter from 1975.
Finally, the Women’s Media series (1972-1975) contains a miscellany of items related to the coverage of women’s issues in contemporary media. Included are small collections of feminist publications Women Today and The Spokeswoman; also included are the McGraw-Hill guidelines for non-sexist writing. A mid-1970s flyer outlining a month of “women’s programming” on Iowa public television establishes the arid intellectual context within which audacious feminist media projects were launched.
Box no. Description
Annual meeting minutes, 1973
Correspondence from state president’s office, 1973, 1975
Correspondence to state president’s office, 1975-1977
Direct action training, Midwest Academy, 1974
State board meeting minutes, 1973-1975
State chapter membership list, 1975
State presidents’ manual, 1975-1976
State treasurer’s papers, 1973-1976
Title VII, Iowa Civil Rights Commission, notes, ca. 1975
The WEAL Scoop, 1974
Waterloo chapter activities, 1975?
Anti-discrimination resources, 1975
Correspondence with General Accounting Office re: affirmative action lawsuits, 1974
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines regarding employment discrimination in the case of pregnancy, maternity, and childbirth, 1972
How to file a patent, 1974
Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965, as amended, ca. 1975
Jacky Adams lawsuit, 1975-1976
Principles of employment discrimination law, ca. 1975
Sex discrimination in vocational education, 1977
Annual conference program, 1975
Annual meeting, Philadelphia, 1976
Board meeting agenda and related materials, October 1975
Board meeting minutes, February 1977
Expanding WEAL membership, 1974
Fundraising letter, 1975
Membership tallies by state, 1976
Policy regulations concerning relationships between local, state, and national WEAL, February 1973
Resolutions from WEAL convention, 1974
Suggestions for state chapter development, ca.1970
Testimony of Arvonne Skelton Fraser (on farming women and estate taxation), House Ways and Means Committee, March 18, 1976
Title IX action alert and information sheet, 1975
WEAL education and legal defense fund, 1976
Rally for ERA/WEAL dinner, November 1976 (North Carolina)
Pennsylvania Report, February 1975 (Pennsylvania)
McGraw-Hill guidelines for non-sexist writing, ca. 1974
Sex-role attitudes survey, Impact (Winter 1972)
The Spokeswoman (Chicago), scattered, 1974
Women’s programming on IEBN/KRIN (Iowa), ca. 1974
Women Today (Washington, D.C.), scattered, 1973-1975