Foundation and Structure

CWI was formed as a non-profit organization within the limitations of section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code so that its purpose and activities would be solely educational, scientific, literary, or charitable in nature. 

The initial articles of incorporation dated March 27, 1974, list the incorporators of the Clearinghouse as: Bobbie Deister, Kerry A. Thalhim, and Alison A. Bell.  The first board of directors were: Alison Bell, Bernice Frieder, Ellen McCartney, Helen Tibbitts, Marjorie Blaufarb, Jan Liebman, Pearle Eisenberg, Abigail McCarthy, Gloria Johnson, Mary Lou Hennessy, and Marge Gates.  The original bylaws established that CWI, “would not take any action or position in the name of the group” (this was changed in 1992).  The bylaws stated that CWI, “would merely provide the machinery by which member organizations and individual members interested in a given measure can pool their efforts” and they outlined that CWI would focus on the following issues, particularly as they affect women:

-  Relief of the poor, the distressed or the underprivileged;

-  Advancement of education;

-  Elimination of prejudice and discrimination;

-  Defense of human and civil rights secured by law;

-  Lessening the burdens of government, by disseminating non-partisan educational materials related to government policies affecting women and assisting in locating groups researching the impact of government policies;

-  Aiding in the scientific education of college or university students, as pertains to public and private policies;

-  Conducting public discussion groups, forums, panels, lectures, or other similar programs on public and private policies;

-  Printing, publication or distribution of Clearinghouse material or the distribution of materials printed or published by others relating to public or private policies as enumerated above exclusively.

Regrettably, other than the original bylaws and articles of incorporation, there is virtually no existing written material dating from the early days of the Clearinghouse. 

In August 1982, the board revised certain sections of CWI’s bylaws.  These changes included simplification of the lengthy list of pertinent issues, allowing for a more focused organizational purpose.  The re-worded mission called for the dissemination of non-partisan educational materials and information on issues affecting women, specifically:

-  Advancement of educational opportunities;

-  Elimination of prejudice and discrimination;

-  Conducting public discussion groups, forums, panels, lectures, or other similar programs on public and private policies;

-  Printing, publication or distribution of Clearinghouse material or the distribution of materials printed or published by others relating to public or private policies.

Other changes to the bylaws were a new section under membership which stipulated that the board of directors could establish dues, elimination of the assistant treasurer position, an additional meeting during the month of June, elimination of the personnel committee, and a change in the beginning of the fiscal year from January 1 to July 1.  The new bylaws were approved and passed on September 10, 1982.

More changes were made to the bylaws in 1986.  As explained in the May 1986 newsletter, “the original bylaws for CWI…were lengthy, formal, legalistic and highly structured.  After years of experience they were found to be too cumbersome and impractical, given the nature of the organization.”  A new version was adopted on May 1, 1986.  The primary changes were to:

-  Eliminate the Corresponding Secretary position (subsequently restored).

-  Change titles of officers from Chair, First Vice Chair and Second Vice Chair to President, Vice President for Programs and Vice President for Membership. 

-  Change date of annual meeting to June instead of May so that new officers can have the summer months for transition of duties.

-  Change the term of office of members of the board of directors from three years to two years.

-  Assure that at least one member of the board of directors is an organization representative.

-  Eliminate the requirement that membership applications be approved by the board of directors.

-  Increase the number of members of the board of directors from four to six (in addition to the officers).  Three will be elected in even-numbered years and three in odd-numbered years.

-  Require that to be eligible for office, an individual must have been a member in good standing for at least one year.

One of the most significant changes for the Clearinghouse resulted from the board of directors’ decision in 1992 to allow CWI to take an organizational position on certain issues as long as those positions align with CWI’s stated goal – combating discrimination against women. The amendment to the bylaws, adopted in July 1992, stated: “The CWI, by a two-thirds vote of the members of the board of directors, may support positions central to the well-being of women.” 

The first instance of CWI using this power was in October 1992 when Elaine Newman, as president of the Clearinghouse, sent a letter to Governor William Donald Schaefer of Maryland urging him to retain the Maryland Commission for Women which had been set to lose two and a half positions due to budgetary constraints.  The board of directors exercised this power extensively over the next 10 years, adopting numerous positions on an array of women’s issues, both foreign and domestic. 

The board of directors made another update to the CWI bylaws in April 1997.  Of the minor changes, the most significant was dividing the role of “secretary” into two positions – corresponding secretary, the person who would conduct the general correspondence of the organization, and recording secretary, the individual who would be responsible for recording the minutes of board meetings.

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