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COLLECTION Identifier: 77-M13--96-M48; T-187

Records of Boston N.O.W., 1967-1990

Correspondence, minutes, reports, audiotapes, etc., of Boston National Organization for Women, an organization working for legal, economic, and social equality for women.

Dates

  • 1967-1990

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

TERMS OF USE

Access. The records are open to research except for file unit #53 (closed until 2035), #54 (closed until 2039), #55 (closed until 2042), #56 (closed until 2050), #136 (closed until 2043), and #539 (closed until 2041). An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

As of November 2015, written permission of the National Organization for Women (NOW) is no longer required for access to folders #636-641, and 644-647 in Series V.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. The President and Fellows of Harvard College holds the copyright for the Schlesinger Library in records written by officers of the board, members of task forces, committees, and other units of Boston N.O.W.. Copyright in the records of the National Organization for Women is held by that organization. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Unrestricted papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Extent

21.13 linear feet ((19 cartons, 1 file box, 1 oversize box) plus 1 folio folder, 2 folio+ folders, 3 oversize folders, 5 supersize folders, 4 photograph and color slide folders, 4 folders of memorabilia, 216 audiotapes, electronic records)

Series I, History and founding (#1-13f+), includes charter, correspondence about the founding, statement of purpose, bylaws, and report on structure of Boston NOW. It also contains a 1971 survey of NOW chapters, which gives a useful summary of the state of the organization nationwide. Boston NOW's web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection (WAX).

Series II, Board and officers (#14-128), consists mainly of minutes of board and quarterly business meetings, correspondence about retreats, and summary statements about projects. Correspondence documents relations with National NOW, the Socialist Workers Party, and other organizations. For other NOW chapters and National NOW, see Series V. Correspondence of Jane Pollock, Roberta Benjamin, and other presidents documents projects, interactions with legislators and other public officials, and relations among members. There are also grievance files (#53-56), which are closed for 60 years from the date of the documents.

Series III, Standing committees (#129-253), contains minutes, memos, lists, reports, correspondence relating to the internal work and services carried out by the chapter's committees. The Newsletter Committee is represented by drafts (1974-1975), clippings, and correspondence, which illustrate the process of putting the newsletter together; for actual newsletters, see master file in Manuscript Department. The Public Relations Committee's fliers, press releases, and clippings (#205, #219-233) provide a useful summary of the chapter's activities. Feminist consciousness-raising workshop material, Speakers' Bureau records, lists of feminist lawyers participating in legal referral, and the telephone counseling log document some of the services Boston NOW provided.

Series IV, Task forces and other activities (#254-634). Minutes, correspondence, articles, bills, testimony, bibliographies, and clippings document Boston NOW's work for social, political, economic, and legal change. The Abortion and Reproductive Rights task forces (#256-288, and #592-620) include records of other pro-choice organizations in Massachusetts that were allies in lobbying for legal and safe abortion. The status of complaints against Harvard (#300-303, #344-345) and other universities and businesses, and the affirmative action plans that resulted from Boston NOW's efforts, are under the Academic and Compliance task forces (#289-313, #317-368). The outline of a book on liberated housekeeping (#449) and information on a TV program (#457) designed to change the image of women in the media are in the records of the Image task force. Draft bills, testimony, correspondence, and extensive subject files among the records of the Legislative Task Force (#463-531) illustrate how members learned to lobby, draft bills, and work with women lawmakers and other allies in the Massachusetts legislature. The Public Schools Task Force (#562-590) includes bibliographies, reading lists, workshop material, and lesson plans designed to eliminate sex stereotyping in the classroom. There are also documents from celebrations and other activities (see e.g., #313-316) not tied to any particular group.

Series IV, Task forces and other activities (#254-634). Minutes, correspondence, articles, bills, testimony, bibliographies, and clippings document Boston NOW's work for social, political, economic, and legal change. The Abortion and Reproductive Rights task forces (#256-288, and #592-620) include records of other pro-choice organizations in Massachusetts that were allies in lobbying for legal and safe abortion. The status of complaints against Harvard (#300-303, #344-345) and other universities and businesses, and the affirmative action plans that resulted from Boston NOW's efforts, are under the Academic and Compliance task forces (#289-313, #317-368). The outline of a book on liberated housekeeping (#449) and information on a TV program (#457) designed to change the image of women in the media are in the records of the Image task force. Draft bills, testimony, correspondence, and extensive subject files among the records of the Legislative Task Force (#463-531) illustrate how members learned to lobby, draft bills, and work with women lawmakers and other allies in the Massachusetts legislature. The Public Schools Task Force (#562-590) includes bibliographies, reading lists, workshop material, and lesson plans designed to eliminate sex stereotyping in the classroom. There are also documents from celebrations and other activities (see e.g., #313-316) not tied to any particular group.

Series V, National NOW and other NOW chapters (#635-686), includes statements about the founding of NOW by Betty Friedan, scattered minutes of the board, correspondence between Boston NOW and the National Board, position papers, and regional and national conference material. Folders 636-641 and 644-647 are restricted in accordance with the agreement with National NOW. In addition, there are records of other conferences on women's issues, and fliers and correspondence of other units and local chapters, particularly records of Massachusetts NOW.

Series VI, Other organizations (#687-703), contains fliers, newsletters, correspondence, articles, and reports of other women's and activist organizations. These are preserved to document the social milieu of the 1970s and 1980s, and to highlight the issues of interest to members of Boston NOW.

Series VII, Memorabilia (#704-716+), consists of Boston NOW's T-shirts, sweatshirts, parade banners, pompons, bumper stickers, posters, badges, arm bands, and shopping bag.

Series VIII, Audiovisual material (#717-721, T-187, reels #1-216), includes a few undated photographs, color slides and audio materials. The audio collection is comprised mostly of reel to reel audio recordings of Boston N.O.W.’s radio program NOW We’re Talking. This program featured interviews, music by women, and discussions relating to feminist issues, featuring talks by Adrienne Rich, Marilyn French, et al. NOW We’re Talking ran weekly on WCAS, WMBR and WTBS in Boston between 1974 and 1982. The collection is arranged largely in chronological order, where dates are identified. The length of each tape is provided, in minutes, where evident, and is estimated. In addition to reel to reel tapes the collection includes several cassettes, radio production carts, raw interviews and radio work tapes; where possible these materials have been arranged chronologically with related programs. Tapes (T-187, reels #195-216) were not labeled, not dated or were not clearly related to NOW We’re Talking and are listed at the end of the collection.

HISTORY

The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States, and works to bring about equality for all women. Boston NOW is one of hundreds of chapters throughout the U.S. Although during its earliest period of formation in late 1969 the chapter was called "Boston NOW," it soon became the Eastern Massachusetts Chapter; it held its first full membership meeting on March 16, 1970. It was incorporated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in December 1970, holding its first board of directors meeting on December 28. The Eastern Massachusetts Chapter at first included five other units--Concord, Framingham, Marlboro, North Shore, and South Shore--which split off in 1974, with only Boston NOW remaining. From 1974 to 1993, the Chapter was known as "Boston NOW," but in 1993 it began to use the name "Greater Boston NOW" to more accurately reflect their membership and activities in the wider metropolitan area. Although members use the two names interchangeably, the official name remains "Boston NOW."

During the period (1967-1990) covered by these records, in addition to a board and officers (president, treasurer, vice-presidents, secretary), there were standing and ad-hoc committees that organized fundraising; published the newsletter (from 1970); ran the Speakers' Bureau; produced a weekly radio show, "Now We're Talking" (1974-1982); held feminist consciousness-raising sessions; and offered telephone counseling and legal referral services. Task forces, created when specific needs arose, organized programs of social action. Six task forces were formed in December 1969: Abortion, Academic, Day Care, Image, Legal, and Religion. (See folder #254, Series IV, for a more complete list.)

A major focus of Boston NOW has been education. One of the chapter's first acts was to file a sex discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare against Harvard University for failure to comply with Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This was the first of many actions against local universities for non-compliance. Another project was to implement Mass Chapter 622 (1971), prohibiting sex discrimination in public schools, and Title XI (1972), prohibiting sex discrimination in elementary and secondary schools. The chapter compiled lists of non-sexist reading material, text books, and films, and developed courses on feminism in an effort to eliminate sex stereotyping in public schools. It advocated day care as a universal benefit, sponsored a model day care center in Brookline, and raised consciousness about the need for professional child care.

In the area of legal and political rights, the chapter published Women and the Law in Massachusetts (1970), and drafted and lobbied for state and federal bills to improve women's legal status. With many other organizations, it worked for the passage of the federal Equal Rights Amendment (1972), for its ratification in Massachusetts (1973), and for passage of the state ERA (1977) and its implementing legislation. The failure to ratify the federal ERA despite lobbying, fundraising, extension, and boycott campaigns (to all of which Boston NOW contributed), was a major setback. Other legal gains were achieved in Massachusetts, however: the maternity leave bill (1973), credit reform, expansion of jury duty (1973), revision of the public accommodation laws, and many more.

The Boston chapter published Contraception and Abortion in Massachusetts (1971) and, after Roe v. Wade (1973) established the right to abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, worked with many other groups to keep abortion safe and legal. In the 1980s a new goal was to defeat the Human Life Amendment by lobbying at the state and federal level and by educating the public.

The chapter sponsored conferences on employment, published Sex Discrimination in Employment (1972), and initiated complaints for discriminatory employment practices against New England businesses, colleges, and universities. It gave counsel and support to individual complainants and pressured the Boston Globe to change its sexist help-wanted ads. In 1972 it filed a complaint with the EEOC against the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination for sexism within the agency.

A similar combination of education and action characterized the chapter's efforts to improve the image of women in the media. It monitored TV commercials, promoted programming and news of interest to women, pressured the media to employ more women, and challenged sexist images and ideas.

Eliminating discrimination against lesbians was always an aim of the chapter, but in the late 1970s and 1980s this focus was reemphasized. A Lesbian Consciousness Raising Kit (1977, revised 1979) aimed to raise public consciousness about lesbianism and to secure a woman's right to define her own sexuality. Lesbian rights and reproductive rights remained the leading areas of concern for Boston NOW through 1990 (the period covered by these records). From time to time Boston NOW sponsored conferences and other programs and topics: women in the priesthood, new feminist theology, the rights of older women, and violence against women. Although active nationally in its work around issues such as the Human Life Amendment (HLA) and ERA, and regionally in interactions with other chapters in New England, Boston NOW is most important for its work in raising feminist consciousness and promoting the civil rights of women in Massachusetts.

ARRANGEMENT

The collection is arranged in eight series:
  1. I. History and founding
  2. II. Board and officers
  3. III. Standing committees
  4. IV. Task forces
  5. V. National and other NOW chapters
  6. VI. Other organizations
  7. VII. Memorabilia
  8. VIII. Audiovisual material

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 77-M13, 79-M206, 81-M250, 82-M133, 83-M90, 85-M188, 86-M136, 86-M145, 91-M8, 91-M45, 91-M56, 96-M48, 2009-M135

These records of Boston N.O.W. were given to the Schlesinger Library by Boston N.O.W. between February 1977 and April 1996. Fifteen additional audiotapes were given to the Schlesinger Library by Linda La Pierre in 2009.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Additional records of Boston N.O.W., 1970-2002 (MC 632) and Massachusetts NOW Records (MC 580).

CONTAINER LIST

  1. Carton 1: Folders 1-43
  2. Carton 2: Folders 44-52, 57-90
  3. Carton 3: Folders 91-128
  4. Carton 4: Folders 129-135, 137-164
  5. Carton 5: Folders 165-190
  6. Carton 6: Folders 191-235
  7. Carton 7: Folders 236-262
  8. Carton 8: Folders 263-304
  9. Carton 9: Folders 305-337
  10. Carton 10: Folders 338-381
  11. Carton 11: Folders 382-420
  12. Carton 12: Folders 421-445
  13. Carton 13: Folders 446-474
  14. Carton 14: Folders 475-524
  15. Carton 15: Folders 525-538, 540-560
  16. Carton 16: Folders 561-588
  17. Carton 17: Folders 589-623
  18. Carton 18: Folders 624-635, 642-643, 648-674
  19. Carton 19: Folders 675-703
  20. Carton 20: T-187.1-T-187.34
  21. Carton 21: T-187.35-T-187.70
  22. Carton 22: T-187.71-T-187.100
  23. Carton 23: T-187.101-T-187.134
  24. Carton 24: T-187.135-T-187.166
  25. Carton 25: T-187.167-T-187.201
  26. Box 26: T-187.202-T-187.216
  27. Oversize Box 27: T-shirts
  28. Box 28: Folders 636-641, 644-647
INDEX OF SELECTED CORRESPONDENTS
  1. Barth, Ramona 58
  2. Benjamin, Roberta 57-73 passim
  3. Boyer, Gene 60
  4. Brooke, Edward William 61, 494
  5. Burgess, Barbara 62
  6. Chicago Women's Liberation Union 687
  7. Frank, Barney 98, 102
  8. Heide, Wilma Scott 64
  9. Hogan, Elizabeth 65
  10. Hosken, Fran P. 302
  11. Kennedy, Edward Moore 66, 99
  12. Luscomb, Florence 94
  13. Murray, Pauli 67, 635
  14. O'Neill, Tip 494, 717
  15. Pines, Lois 68
  16. Pollock, Mordeca Jane 57-73 passim, 69
  17. Pusey, Nathan Marsh 300
  18. Renfrew, Jo Ann 53, 84, 87, 318
  19. Rossi, Alice S. 292
  20. Salzman, Freda 310-311
  21. Sandler, Bernice Resnick 292
  22. Sargent, Francis W. 70
  23. Schlafly, Phyllis 415, 546
  24. Smeal, Eleanor 415
  25. Socialist Workers Party 19
  26. Sturgis, Somers Hayes 71
  27. Vaillant, Nancy 72

Processing Information

Preliminary finding aid: March 1997

By: Jane S. Knowles

Audiovisual processed: July 2010

By: John Quirk
Link to catalog
Title
Boston N.O.W. Records of Boston N.O.W., 1967-1990: A Finding Aid
Author
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
EAD ID
sch00277

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

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