The Women's Action Coalition of Prince George's County is an organization that works to prevent discrimination against women. Subjects documented in the files include the International Women's Year, equality, Title IX, multicultural issues, education, and domestic violence. The Coalition's records contain minutes, bylaws, newsletters, and the history of the organization.
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The Women's Action Coalition of Prince George's County records consist of minutes, newsletters, fliers, committee notes, correspondence, and research on women's issues that were important to the Coalition, including day care, spousal abuse, and equity for women in athletics (Title IX). The collection dates from 1974 to 2004, with the bulk of material dating between 1976 and 1986, the most active years for the organization. Also included is documentation on various programs and events sponsored by the Coalition, including the Women's Fairs and the Legislative Briefing series.
The impetus for creating the Women's Action Coalition of Prince George's County emanated from a 1974 task force of women leaders in Prince George's County, Maryland, chaired by Mary E. (Betty) Turnbull of the Prince George's Federation of Women's Clubs, whose purpose was "to plan and implement a program to bring us a long stride closer to full women's rights in life and on the lawbooks." The task force planned a series of events, including a seminar on getting women into positions of leadership on county boards and commissions, in honor of the United Nations' International Women's Year (IWY) in 1975.
On June 21, 1975, the IWY Task Force hosted a breakfast at the Watkins Nature Center in Largo, Maryland, designed both to celebrate International Women's Year and to honor county women in the fields of education and public and community relations. Over 150 county leaders were present at this event. The IWY Task Force devised the notion as a mechanism for continuing the collaboration of diverse women's groups, the primary outgrowth of the year's projects that had brought them closer together. The entire gathering, by formal motion, made a commitment to establishing a coalition of women within the county.
The embryonic group soon chose the name Women's Action Coalition of Prince George's County. Seven members of the original IWY Task Force formed the nucleus for the new organization: Betty Turnbull, Prince George's Federation of Women's Clubs; Mary Ahalt, Business and Professional Women's Clubs of College Park; Jill Moss Greenberg, Prince George's County Women's Political Caucus; Millicent Hutt, Prince George's County Commission for Women; Dolly Packard, Southern Prince George's chapter of the National Organization for Women; Mary Jo Strauss, Oxon Hill Branch of the American Association of University Women; and Alice Wiley, Prince George's County Department of Social Services. This group began to plan and outline the needs of the Coalition. Among issues that they hoped to address were: women as victims; improved health care for women and children; day care availability; establishment of a rape crisis center; voter registration; alcohol and drug problems; and enforcement of Title IX and sex equity in education.
In late 1975, the Women's Action Coalition began holding regular monthly meetings, drafting bylaws, and actively seeking new membership. By March 1976, many prominent local organizations had joined the Coalition, including the Council of Catholic Women, Northern and Southern Prince George's chapters of the National Organization for Women, several local chapters of the American Association for University Women, the Prince George's County Extension Homemakers, and the Federation of Republican Women.
Spousal abuse and day care for children were major priorities during the first months of the Coalition. Members also began to discuss holding an annual Women's Fair, a tradition that began in 1980 and continued through the mid-1980s. In the late 1970s, Title IX became an issue of primary concern, and the Coalition held special training sessions for both members and local area women on the subject. Delta Sigma Theta, an organization of African American women, had been a member of the Coalition from the beginning, but overall, minority membership was limited. In September 1980, the National Hook-up of Black Women responded to the Coalition's initiative intended to increase the number of minority women's organizations included. As a result, several programs geared to minority women, including employment workshops, took place in 1981. The Coalition also worked closely with the University of Maryland, located in Prince George's County, to plan several programs involving the Women's Studies Program at the university; one resulted in an invitation to participate in a panel on "Minority Women" at a regional conference of the National Women's Studies Association.
In January 1981, the Women's Action Coalition, in collaboration with the Commission for Women and the Prince George's County unit of the National Women's Political Caucus, sponsored a daylong legislative briefing for county women. Participants included state legislators: Delegates Pauline Menes and Joan Pitkin and Ann Hull from the office of the governor. These annual legislative briefings at the county level continued through the mid-1980s. The Coalition also began to participate in activities at a broader, statewide level. In 1982, the Coalition initiated the practice of holding annual legislative briefings with Montgomery County groups. It also began to gain national recognition in 1983 when Mary Jo Strauss received an award from the Mid-Atlantic Center for Sex Equity at American University for co-authoring Everywoman's Guide to Colleges and Universities. That same year, the Mid-Atlantic Center recognized Jill Moss Greenberg for her work as a minority equity specialist with the Maryland State Department of Education.
The Women's Action Coalition remains active in Prince George's County. According to its mission statement in 2004: "The Women's Action Coalition (WAC) is a network organization in Prince George's County whose goal is to improve the quality of life for women and girls through continual advocacy efforts."
The collection is organized as two series:
Virginia Beauchamp donated the archives of the Women's Action Coalition of Prince George's County to the University of Maryland Libraries in 1987 and 2004.
The collection was placed into acid-free folders and placed into acid-free boxes.