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Guide to the National Organization for Women, Des Moines Chapter records

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1971-1987
Creator: National Organization for Women, Des Moines Chapter
Extent: 2.50 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0014
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Feminist activist organization records.

Access: The records are open for research

Use: Copyright held by the donor has not been transferred to The University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The records (donor no. 15) were donated by Virginia Watkins in 1987. The Task Force on Volunteerism file was received from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, 1999.

Preferred Citation: National Organization for Women, Des Moines Chapter records, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Address: 100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5068
Curator: Kären Mason
Email: lib-women@uiowa.edu
Website: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa

Early in 1971 Virginia Watkins convened the Des Moines Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), having sought out the required ten founding members. Membership was built primarily through word-of-mouth in the early days. Louise Noun, future president of the chapter; her sister-in-law Dannie Rosenfield; and Sally Hacker, future NOW national board member, were among the founding members. By June the chapter had elected Watkins as president along with a full slate of officers. In the fall of 1971 Watkins moved to Minnesota, where she later served as president of the Twin Cities and then Minnesota chapters of NOW and as a member of the NOW national board.

The Des Moines chapter of NOW grew in its first two years from ten to ninety members and by 1973 had almost three hundred people on its mailing list. Early issues and activities of the chapter included a petition drive to support the Federal Child Care Bill, efforts to legalize abortion, and action against Northwestern Bell and General Mills for unfair labor practices. In 1971 the Des Moines chapter raised money to help establish a lobby office for NOW in Washington, DC. The chapter supported Drake University students in establishing the Drake Women's Center and helped local high school students establish a women's liberation group. The chapter also established and ran a series of workshops and consciousness-raising groups exploring issues such as reproductive rights, sexuality, fair employment, and legal rights in marriage.

Researchers should consult Louise R.Noun's, Journey to Autonomy (1990) and More Strong Minded Women (1992) for further information about the early history of the Des Moines chapter of NOW.

The records of the Des Moines chapter of NOW measure 2.5 linear inches and date from 1971 to 1987. They consist primarily of newsletters with some correspondence and lists of activities. The bulk of the material dates from 1972 to 1975. The newsletters carry information on items of interest to women, activities of the chapter, calls for action and letter-writing appeals, news of other chapters, announcements of upcoming workshop topics, and contributions from readers which range from poetry to stories of breaking the discrimination barrier in employment situations. The printed material contains such items as a committee membership list, a fund-raising appeal to friends and members, a printed statement before the school board in 1973, the agenda for a "Think Tank Session," and a list of accomplishments in the chapter's first two years. A letter written by Virginia Watkins in 1987 that describes the early history of the Des Moines chapter of NOW has been placed in the collection.

The Task Force on Volunteerism conducted a study of the United Way of Greater Des Moines in 1973-74, finding economic and sex discrimination in the practices of the United Way. The initial report, along with an open letter to the United Way and a report of a meeting between the task force members and the United Way's board of directors are included.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Correspondence - 1971, 1987
  • Newsletters - 1972-1973, 1976
  • Printed material - 1972-1973
  • Task Force on Volunteerism: Report and Action against the United Way of Greater Des Moines - 1974-1975