After 1975 was designated as the first International Women’s Year by the United Nations, later extended to a decade, President Carter created a National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year. A national women’s conference was proposed and funded by the U.S.Congress, the first and only time the federal government funded a nationwide women’s conference. A series of state meetings were held throughout 1977 to elect delegates to the national conference and to identify goals for improving the status of women over the next decade.
This collection consists of state reports prepared and submitted to the National Commission for the Observance of International Women’s Year. Reports include details about the election of national delegates, topics of workshops held at the meetings, and resolutions adopted by individual states.
The collection is open for research.
Background on the International Women's Year Conference
The year 1975 was named International Women’s Year by the United Nations with the intent of recognizing the contributions of women in society and making progress towards equality of the sexes around the world. In response, President Ford issued Executive Order No. 11832, calling for the creation of the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year, and Congress passed Public Law 94-167, commissioning and funding a National Women’s Conference. The bill allocated five million dollars of federal funding to organize the NWC, as well as smaller state and regional meetings.
Throughout 1977, the state meetings were held in preparation for the NWC. These state meetings shared objectives in accordance with Public Law 94-167: celebrating women's contributions; bringing women together, especially a group representative of the state’s diversity, to discuss issues affecting women; voting on actions and resolutions, particularly those proposed by the National Commission; and electing delegates to represent the state at the NWC in November 1977. Each meeting and its resolutions were summarized in a final report submitted to the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year.
Results of the meetings differed widely from state to state, as did their receptions. Some meetings were met with a positive and hopeful attitude from their constituents, while others were fraught with anger and controversy. The first of their kind, these events were well attended by women ready to fight for their interests and opinions. Despite initial hopes that these women’s conferences would become annual events, without funding such meetings have not been held on this nationwide scale since 1977.
This collection consists of final reports from twenty-one state and regional conferences held in the summer preceding the National Women’s Convention. The reports from each state vary in their degree of detail. Some reports include key background information, final resolutions and election results. Other reports are much more extensive, containing programs, minutes, transcripts, surveys and virtually all records pertaining to the event. These reports serve as a useful survey of the political climate and attitude towards the women's movement in each region at the time.
Processed by Catie Heitz, July 2014.
For materials related to the International Women's Year (IWY), see:
Cite as: International Women's Year Conference Collection (MS 510). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.