Women Equity Action League. Iowa Division
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.
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Organization that promoted economic equity for women by focusing on educational, legal, and tax issues affecting women.