Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MC 738

Records of the March for Women's Lives, 1988-2004 (inclusive), 2003-2004 (bulk)


Minutes, reports, correspondence, budgets, notes, schedules, and contracts related to the planning, organizing, and executing of the March for Women's Lives, held in Washington, DC, on April 25, 2004.


  • Creation: 1988-2004
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 2003-2004

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. A small amount of material from #1.7 is closed until January 1, 2054. The rest of the collection is open to research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by the March for Women's Lives as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

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


6.67 linear feet ((16 file boxes) plus 2 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder, 1 object)

This collection documents the planning, organizing, and executing of the March for Women's Lives on April 25, 2004. Records include signs, notes, minutes, reports, correspondence, budgets, schedules, schematic maps, call and sign-up sheets, RSVP cards, speaker lists, contracts, permit applications, promotional kits, press releases, invoices, phone message and postage log books, memoranda, and resumes. This material was mostly generated and collected by the March's national office, its co-directors, and the Coordinating Committee and Steering Committee. The March for Women's Lives hoped to bring together a broad and diverse coalition of groups and organizations to demonstrate the widespread support for reproductive freedom, the right to a safe and legal abortion and birth control, and a woman's right to make her own reproductive choices. The March for Women's Lives was the largest gathering in support of reproductive rights that had been held to date. Records show the complex work of organizing and executing a demonstration of this size, as well as the dynamics among various organizations working on the March. Original folder headings were maintained; titles in brackets were created by the archivist.

Series I, ADMINISTRATION, 2001-2004, n.d. (#1.1-5.3), includes meeting agendas, minutes, correspondence, reports, budgets, and notes from the Coordinating Committee, the Steering Committee, the principals committee, and the field forces committees from the national office of the March for Women's Lives. The memorandum of understanding among the seven organizations: National Black Women's Health Imperative, NOW, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, NARAL Pro-Choice America, ACLU, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (#3.1), as well as guidelines on interpersonal relationships and alcohol and drug use by March employees (#2.8) are included. Correspondence among the major sponsors, found throughout the series, includes a debate over sharing member lists after the March, and a report on which organizations had posted a link to the March web site prominently on their homepage. Resumes of staff members, contracts with consultants, staff changes, and salaries are also documented here. Material relating to the formation of New Voices for Reproductive Justice and its mobilization of women of color for the March include Loretta Ross's itineraries (#2.2, 3.6). Fundraising efforts are also documented here, such as grant applications and reports to the Joint Emergency Campaign. There is litigation from Reverend Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, who sued March for Women's Lives and the National Park Service in order to have a counter-demonstration in the same area as the March (#2.7). Also included are memoranda that describe failures in planning the March, as well as phone message logs, and postage logs. Letters that were sent to the March office include requests for transportation to March, support for the March, a request for legal help, complaints of the lack of media coverage, and an anti-choice letter in response to a fundraising mailing. Members of the International Working Group included Catholics for a Free Choice Latin America, International Pregnancy Advisory Services, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Population Action International, and the Center for Health and Gender Equity. This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, LOGISTICS, 1988-2004, n.d. (#5.4-8.5), includes permits, contracts, memoranda, maps, correspondence, reports, budgets, notes, program schedules, and lists of speakers connected to the planning, organizing, and executing of the March for Women's Lives. Logistical planning included permits and contracts with the National Park Service, the City of Washington, DC, hotels, security, public relations firms, speakers, and honored guests. Also included are contacts with the media, transportation plans, communication charts, schematics for the grid planning for the stages and demonstrators, production timetables, and technical support. Also documented are arrangements for water for the marchers, portable toilets, bus parking, and the kickoff fundraising event held the night before the March. This material covers not only the day of the March, but also the year of planning beforehand. Many of the sponsoring organizations sent the March office names of proposed speakers; these often also included the speaker's resume (#8.1). Correspondence regarding the open air trolley for those with physical disabilities can be found here (#7.7). See also Series IV for a large scale schematic map of grid positions on the National Mall. This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, OUTREACH, 1997, 2003-2004, n.d. (#8.6-16.9), includes call sheets, volunteer forms, RSVP cards, correspondence, memoranda, press releases, organizer kits, contact sheets, co-sponsor forms, and sign-up sheets. The March organizers teamed up with the company Meet Up to plan scheduled monthly events for people to join delegations. These delegations had to consist of at least 20 people, and the March office kept track of each group through call sheets that recorded contact made with each delegation. Call sheets are also included from the various sponsors and co-sponsors around the country. Planning and training documents from the "Meet Up. Mobilize. March" events and phone booths are found here, as well as volunteer forms. Also included throughout the series is correspondence from organizations that did not want to co-sponsor, international participants who wanted to march, honored guests, organizations not interested in funding the March, and letters from some of the Congressional invitees. Materials also contain button, poster, and t-shirt orders, as well as flyers in English and Spanish. Also found here are usage statistics from the March's web site. This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, OVERSIZED AND MEMORABILIA, 2004, n.d. (#16.10m, F+D.1m-F+D.2, OD.1, SD.1, Mem.1), includes printed posters, schematic maps, a bumper sticker, a sash, and a hand-held fan. Some posters were created by Students for Planned Parenthood, the Reform Jewish Movement, and Spiritual Youth for Reproduction Freedom. See also Series II for grid positions on the schematic maps. This series is arranged by format, then alphabetically.


The March for Women's Lives was held on April 25, 2004, in Washington, DC. One of the largest demonstrations of its time, the March was held in support of reproductive freedom and justice for women. In early 2003 NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, along with other pro-choice organizations, formed the Joint Emergency Campaign in order to strengthen national support for pro-choice Supreme Court nominees. The groups decided that they needed to organize an event, not only to bring the limits being placed on access to abortions and family planning around the country to the attention of the American public, but also to demonstrate to Congress the public's support of a woman's right to make her own reproductive choices. Consequently, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and the National Organization for Women (NOW) began to organize the March for Freedom of Choice; the four groups envisioned the largest rally to date gathering on the National Mall. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Black Women's Health Imperative, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health joined the group as major sponsors and organizers in November of 2003. In order to mobilize women of color to support the March, organizers realized that a discussion of reproductive freedom must also include the right to have children, access to pre- and post-natal care, and sex education options not always available to women of color. New Voices for Reproductive Justice, created in January of 2004, hoped to expand the message of "pro-choice" to include this broader definition of reproductive freedom by reaching a larger section of the American public. As a result of these efforts, the name of March for Freedom of Choice was changed to the March for Women's Lives.

Alice Cohan, from the Feminist Majority Foundation, and Loretta Ross, from the National Center for Human Rights Education and former program director of the Black Women's Health Imperative, served as the March's co-directors, and were responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations in the March office: managing the budget and internal communications, overseeing the databases and web site, responding to the media, and reporting to the core organizers. Ross also ran New Voices for Reproductive Justice, often traveling around the country to mobilize women of color. The national March office had a small staff of people, including an administrative director, an administrative assistant, outreach liaisons, delegations coordinators, and field organizers. There were also a handful of people working around the country, building grassroots support for the March outside of the Washington, DC, area. In the beginning stages of planning the March, there was a Principals Committee, which consisted of the leaders of the original four organizations: Kim Gandy (NOW), Gloria Feldt (Planned Parenthood Federation of America), Kate Michelman (NARAL Pro-Choice America), and Eleanor Smeal (Feminist Majority Foundation). The Principals Committee functioned as voting members within the March's organization. There was also a Steering Committee, which handled major policy and operational decisions. While some members may have changed during the planning of the March, at one point the Steering Committee included Alice Cohan, Connie Watts, Dennis Poplin, Eleanor Smeal, Elizabeth Toledo, Gloria Feldt, Jama Adams, Jennifer Stark, Kate Michelman, Kathy Spillar, Kim Gandy, Mary Jane Gallegher, Norma Gattsek, Olga Vives, Shelli Craver, Susanne Martinez, Terry O'Neill, Silvia Henriquez, Loretta Ross, and Linda Bowker. During the initial planning phase of the March, there were also several smaller subcommittees such as the Field Forces Committee, the Communications Committee, the Web Committee, and the Security Committee. In September of 2003, however, these subcommittees were folded into the Coordinating Committee, which oversaw the implementation and management of planning the March.

Many outreach events were held throughout the year before the March, including "Meet Up. Mobilize. March" gatherings. These events were organized through the internet; people signed up through the March's web site and formed local groups, called delegations, whose members would then meet in person to discuss promoting and attending the March. In order to coordinate these events around the country March organizers utilized a company called Meet Up, which provided a virtual platform to support on-line mobilization for the March. The company provided a registration database, email blasts, and the framework for March organizers to offer monthly events in other parts of the country. Other women's rights organizations were solicited to be co-sponsors, and were asked to encourage their members to join the March, or to organize delegations through "Meet Up. Mobilize. March." Student groups from colleges across the country were also urged to become co-sponsors and form delegations from their members, as well as to reach out to other students.

Funding for the March came from several sources. The seven host organizations were expected to donate both money and in-kind contributions, totaling at least $750,000 each, as well as to mobilize their state affiliates and chapters so as to expand participation in the March to other parts of the country. Organizations wishing to co-sponsor the March were required to donate $50,000, and to consequently prioritize promoting the March to their affiliates; in the end there were over 1000 co-sponsors. All organizations, both hosts and co-sponsors, were expected to provide a link to the March's web site on their own web sites so members could join delegations or volunteer. Several fundraising events were held as well, including one the night before the March. Grants were also obtained from the Joint Emergency Campaign and other funding sources; in addition, supplementary funds from NARAL Pro-Choice America were also acquired.

The March for Women's Lives featured many politicians and celebrity speakers including Gloria Steinem, Nancy Pelosi, Carol King, Holly Near, the Indigo Girls, Whoopi Goldberg, Ashley Judd, Madeleine Albright, Janeane Garofalo, Howard Dean, Margaret Cho, Tyne Daly, and Barbara Boxer. Although the actual count is not known, the organizers planned for 750,000 supporters, and some have estimated that 1.15 million people participated.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Administration, 2001-2004, n.d. (#1.1-5.3)
  2. Series II. Logistics, 1988-2004, n.d. (#5.4-8.5)
  3. Series III. Outreach, 1997, 2003-2004, n.d. (#8.6-16.9)
  4. Series IV. Oversized and memorabilia, 2004, n.d. (#16.10m, F+D.1m-F+D.2, OD.1, SD.1, Mem.1)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2004-M53, 2012-M89

The records of the March for Women's Lives were given to the Schlesinger Library by Alice Cohan in May 2004 and by Bonnie Howard in June 2012.


Donor: Alice Cohen

Accession number: 2004-M53

Processed by: Cat Lea Holbrook

The following items have been removed from the collection:

  1. White banner with purple text: "Save Women's Lives. March For Freedom of Choice. Sunday April 25, 2004. Washington, DC. Meet up. Mobilize. March." 11' x 3'.
  2. Purple and gold banner with white text: "Choice. Justice. Access. Health. Abortion. Global. Family Planning. March for Women's Lives. Washington, DC. April 25, 2004. Press Check In." 11' x 3'.
  3. Purple and gold banner with white text: "Choice. Justice. Access. Health. Abortion. Global. Family Planning. March for Women's Lives. Washington, DC. April 25, 2004. American Civil Liberties Union, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health." 33 3/4' x 9 3/4'.

Processing Information

Processed: October 2014

By: Cat Lea Holbrook with assistance from Dan Bullman.

Genre / Form



March for Women's Lives (Association). Records of the March for Women's Lives, 1988-2004 (inclusive), 2003-2004 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Radcliffe College Class of 1956, the Radcliffe College Class of 1968, the Robert and Maurine Rothschild Fund, the Jane Rainie Opel Fund, and the Zetlin Sisters Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA