National Organization for Women. Des Moines Chapter
Early in 1971 Virginia Watkins convened the Des Moines Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), having sought out the required ten founding members. Membership was built primarily through word-of-mouth in the early days. Louise Noun, future president of the chapter; her sister-in-law Dannie Rosenfield; and Sally Hacker, future NOW national board member, were among the founding members. By June the chapter had elected Watkins as president along with a full slate of officers. In the fall of 1971 Watkins moved to Minnesota, where she later served as president of the Twin Cities and then Minnesota chapters of NOW and as a member of the NOW national board.
The Des Moines chapter of NOW grew in its first two years from ten to ninety members and by 1973 had almost three hundred people on its mailing list. Early issues and activities of the chapter included a petition drive to support the Federal Child Care Bill, efforts to legalize abortion, and action against Northwestern Bell and General Mills for unfair labor practices. In 1971 the Des Moines chapter raised money to help establish a lobby office for NOW in Washington, DC. The chapter supported Drake University students in establishing the Drake Women's Center and helped local high school students establish a women's liberation group. The chapter also established and ran a series of workshops and consciousness-raising groups exploring issues such as reproductive rights, sexuality, fair employment, and legal rights in marriage.
Researchers should consult Louise R.Noun's, Journey to Autonomy (1990) and More Strong Minded Women (1992) for further information about the early history of the Des Moines chapter of NOW.
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Feminist activist organization records.