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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Women's Equity Action League (Iowa Division) records

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1972-1977
Creator: Women Equity Action League (Iowa Division)
Extent: 5.00 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0696
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Organization that promoted economic equity for women by focusing on educational, legal, and tax issues affecting women.

Access: The records are open for research.

Use: Copyright has been transferred in part to The University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The records (donor no. 236) were donated by N. Peggy Burke in 1988.

Preferred Citation: Women's Equity Action League (Iowa division) 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

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.

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 ac opy 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.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: IOWA
Series 2: LAW
Series 3: NATIONAL

  • Series 1: IOWA
  • Box 1:
  • Annual meeting minutes - 1973
  • Correspondence from state presidents office - 1973, 1975
  • Correspondence to state presidents 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 treasurers papers - 1973-1976
  • Title VII, Iowa Civil Rights Commission notes - 1975
  • "The WEAL Scoop" - 1974
  • Waterloo chapter activities - 1975
  • Series 2: LAW
  • Box 1:
  • 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 - 1975
  • Jacky Adams lawsuit - 1975-1976
  • Principles of employment discrimination law - 1975
  • Sex discrimination in vocational education - 1977
  • Series 3: NATIONAL
  • Box 1:
  • 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 - 1970
  • Testimony of Arvonne Skelton Fraser (on farming women and estate taxation), House Ways and Means Committee, Mar. 18 - 1976
  • Title IX action alert and information sheet - 1975
  • WEAL education and legal defense fund - 1976
  • Box 1:
  • Rally for ERA/WEAL dinner (North Carolina), November - 1976
  • "Pennsylvania Report" (Pennsylvania), February - 1975
  • Series 5: WOMEN'S MEDIA
  • Box 1:
  • McGraw-Hill guidelines for non-sexist writing - 1974
  • Sex-role attitudes survey, "Impact" - 1972
  • "The Spokeswoman" (Chicago) - 1974
  • Womens programming on IEBN/KRIN (Iowa) - 1974
  • "Women Today" (Washington, D.C.) - 1973-1975