According to its constitution, the Women's Resource and Action Center (WRAC) was founded to serve as "a cultural, social and organizational center for U. of Iowa women--students, staff, and faculty, and for all women of the Iowa City community." As the organization has grown and prospered, this mission has been extended to the entire state of Iowa.
WRAC evolved during the second wave of the feminist movement. In 1970 some Iowa City women formed a group called the Women's Liberation Front (WLF). This group challenged the University of Iowa to recognize and combat sexism within the institution. One result of this challenge was the creation of the Women's Center. The Student Development Center (now the Office of Student Activities) provided funding and direction but the Center operated as a collective, making group policy decisions.
In the summer of 1974, a group of people revised the organizational structure of the Women's Center. They established an advisory board to act as a governing body and changed the center's name to the "Women's Resource and Action Center" as a reflection of its expanded goals. It encompassed an on-site coordinator who worked in conjunction with the advisory board to implement WRAC policies.
In 1976, WRAC moved to the former alumni records building on the corner of Madison and Market Streets. Over time the University has expanded its support of WRAC. For instance, in 1975 the WRAC coordinator's position was changed from half-time to full-time. WRAC's funding is somewhat complex. According to a 1977 informational statement on WRAC's finances, WRAC was classified as a university department, a student organization, and a community organization. It developed one budget as a department under Student Services and submitted another to the student senate for funding as a student organization. It also received community support, primarily in the form of individual donations and volunteer time.
Over the years, WRAC has grown to be a multi-service agency which seeks both to improve the status of women as a group and to meet the needs of individual women. In order to accomplish these goals, WRAC acts as a referral center for community and state services for women, supports a small library of feminist materials, publishes a newsletter, maintains resource information on counseling about such issues as rape, sexuality, and careers, and sponsors workshops, speakers and conferences addressing women's concerns. Additionally, WRAC supports a variety of cultural activities. The center has held brown bag lunch series which provide a forum for discussing a wide range of feminist issues. It has also promoted plays, concerts, films, sports events and art exhibits. WRAC provides office space for organizations serving the needs of women. In the past, the Lesbian Alliance (LA), Women Against Racism (WAR), the Johnson County-Iowa City National Organization of Women and the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP), among others, were housed at WRAC.
The Women's Resource and Action Center's records date from 1960 to 2006 and measure 10 linear feet. The records are arranged in ten series: Administration, Programming and services, Publicity, Subsidiary organizations, Resources, At the Center research files, WRAC Oral History Project, Photographs, Newsletters, and Artifacts. The WRAC records document the growth and development of a local feminist organization.
The Administration series (1971-1997) includes WRAC's constitution and mission statements as well as advisory board records, financial information, reports, correspondence, evidence of WRAC's political action, logs and minutes, and other documents related to the organization's administrative and bureaucratic functions. Materials document activities and changes on multiple levels. For instance, desk logs provide a micro-level view of daily activities while the correspondence between the WRAC coordinator and Philip Jones, of the Office of the Vice President of Student Services and Dean of Academic Affairs, includes slightly broader, weekly updates; annual reports summarize the events of an entire year.
The Programming and services series (1960-1997) documents WRAC's outreach to the local community. It contains information on workshops, events, and on-going services provided by WRAC. These activities touch on issues such as divorce, career planning, racism, health, class, pornography, sexuality, and equal rights. Eight videos from WRAC's anniversaries document celebrations that include speeches, musical performances, and discussion sessions from the 20th anniversary conference.
The Publicity series (1976-2000) consists of three parts. The General folder contains WRAC brochures and flyers. The three Programs folders include flyers, calendars, and other materials promoting specific events. Much of this material refers to WRAC's brown bag lunches, a series of noon hour talks sponsored by WRAC. Larger posters of events conclude the series.
The Subsidiary organizations series (1975-1993) includes the records of organizations directly connected to WRAC. The largest portion of these records relate to the Women's Coffeehouse (also known as the Studio Project) and the Association of Student Women (ASW). The Women's Coffeehouse opened in 1979 as a local women-only space available "for almost any kind of event." Its location was kept confidential and advertising was posted only at women-oriented spaces such as WRAC and the Plains Woman Bookstore. This series includes organizational and financial records of the Coffeehouse.
The Association of Student Women (ASW) operated as a collective organization interested in changing "subtle and not so subtle oppressive, restrictive, and sexist attitudes regarding women." The WRAC coordinator acted as an advisor to the group. ASW sponsored speakers and activities, and was also involved in the Street Lighting and Safety Project. Photographs documenting Iowa City's lighting problem are included in this series. The series includes records of six other local groups sponsored by WRAC that addressed issues such as lesbian and gay identity, sexual assault, domestic violence, and the history of women's oppression.
The Resources series (1972-1989) begins with information about groups not formally related to WRAC but nevertheless of interest to its constituency. In some instances, WRAC networked with these groups. For example, WRAC and the Johnson County/Iowa City chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW) cosponsored a Women's Equality Day event. The series contains files with information for women on local services in Iowa, some especially for women new to the area. Thirty-five topical files contain pamphlets and publications from national organizations on women's issues; a cross-reference guide is included at the beginning of the topical files. The series concludes with newspaper clippings, bibliographies on women's studies topics, theses, dissertations, and self-published books.
The At the Center research files series (2002) contains information related to the creation of a history of WRAC, At the Center: Thirty Years of Activism and Communities published in 2002 for WRAC's thirtieth anniversary. The series includes correspondence, history, publication details, and a copy of the book itself. Oral history interviews were conducted in conjunction with the publication of At the Center and the thirtieth anniversary. The WRAC Oral History Project series (2001-2003) contains transcriptions and audiocassettes of the interviews. A few women sent memoirs, also included in the series.
The Photographs series (undated) consists of one folder containing a few unlabeled photographs--one of the WRAC building and others of unidentified people. The Newsletters series (1975- ) contains scattered issues of WRAC's newsletter, including current issues as well as clip art and cartoons related to feminism and women's issues used for mock-ups.
The Artifacts series (1996-2002) consists of ten t-shirts of Iowa events sponsored by or related to WRAC. The series includes shirts from Iowa City lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) events, Iowa women's music festivals, and Take Back the Night marches.
Alternate Extent Statement: Artifacts in Box 27
18 audiocassettes [AC270, 904-920]
9 videocassettes [V362-370]
Photographs in boxes 7, 11, 22-23
Access: The records are open for research.
Use: Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to The University of Iowa.
Acquisition: The records (donor no. 222) were donated by the Women's Resource and Action Center.
Preferred Citation: Women's Resource and Action Center records, Iowa Womens Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.