International Women’s Day
The National Women’s Conference, held in Houston from November 18 – 21, 1977, was the largest political conference of women in the United States since the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. Approximately 2,000 voting delegates from fifty states and six territories formulated and passed a National Plan of Action, which would detail recommendations to improve the lives of women.
The Conference proposed nonbinding recommendations to help remove sex barriers and better utilize women’s contributions. Participants discussed and debated twenty-six major topics including the ERA, abortion, lesbian rights, child care, minority women, homemakers, battered women, education, rape, health, and a cabinet-level women’s department. There are many collections in the Archives of Women of the Southwest that document the National Women’s Conference and female political activism during the 1970s and beyond.
The Sylvia Benenson National Women’s Conference collection is comprised of programs, delegate lists, brochures, articles, and printed materials related to the Women’s Convention held in Houston, Texas in November of 1977.
From a secretary at Texas Instruments to Senior Vice President and one of the seven co-founders of Scientific Communications, Kay Cole Walker enjoyed a successful career and created opportunities for many women and minorities. She was a dedicated volunteer who focused her energies on women’s issues. She served a past president of the Women’s Southwest Federal Credit Union, Women’s Issues Network, and served on the boards of the Women’s Center of Dallas, the Texas Abortion Rights Action League, the North Dallas National Organization for Women, and The Dallas Heritage Foundation.
The Kay Cole Walker papers consist of clippings, magazines, photographs, correspondence, and promotional material details Ms. Cole’s active involvement in feminist issues and the women’s rights movement. Included here are papers from the Women’s Southwest Federal Credit Union, Women’s Issue Network, Our Friend’s Place, NARAL, TARAL, NOW, and Dallas Women’s Foundation, as well as clippings detailing the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston. Ms. Cole also collected material on issues of abortion and the ERA. A portion of the collection contains correspondence with Ann Richards and other local elected officials.
Claire Cunningham was a resident of Dallas, Texas who was an advocate for the rights and education of women and children. Her papers include publications, reports, pamphlets, clippings, meeting and seminar notes, text of speeches and sermons, and other documents related to her involvement as a leader (including roles as chairman and president) and member in the following organizations: Dallas Alliance Education Task Force (1975-1978), which includes materials concerning the desegregation of Dallas schools; Dallas Commission on the Status of Women (1975-1985); Dallas Independent School District Task Force for Educational Excellence (1975); Goals for Dallas Elementary and Secondary Education Achievement Committee (1977-1983); National Women’s Conference/International Women’s Year (1975-1978); Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at the national, state, and local levels (1975-1979); and the United Methodist Church North Texas Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women (1972-1991).
Phyllis Tucker, the 2010 honoree of the Veteran Feminists of America’s The Gender Agenda: Beyond Borders program, entered the Women’s Movement in 1976. She served as president of the Texas chapter of the National Organization for Women in 1980 and 1990. Ms. Tucker worked as the first female chemist in the Houston petroleum industry, and she quickly became an advocate for women in the Houston area. She was instrumental in the development of the Houston Area Women’s Center, a women’s shelter, and WIRES, a call center for abused women. She also served on Houston’s Women’s Rights Coordinating Council.
Contact Samantha Dodd, curator of the Archives of Women of the Southwest for additional information or assistance with accessing these materials. The DeGolyer Library awards the Ruth P. Morgan grants to encourage work in women’s history or political history.
The DeGolyer continues to expand our digitization efforts, adding new content weekly. We have thousands of items digitized and searchable in our digital collections. Be sure to browse our holdings to find more letters, photographs, manuscripts, imprints, art, and audio/video.