Late 1980’s and 1990’s
1988 brought a change of venue for CWI meetings. From the early 1970’s, the Clearinghouse had held its monthly lunch discussions at the American Association of University Women’s board room at 2401 Virginia Avenue NW, but in February 1988, AAUW instituted a new policy that banned any food in their board room. For the remainder of the year, most of the CWI meetings were held at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ board room at 1625 L Street NW. From October 1993 onward the American Council on Education at One Dupont Circle was host to the CWI meetings.
The Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues joined with more than 50 national organizations in September 1998 to reactivate the Coalition for Women’s Appointments. The coalition, similar to the one first developed in 1976 to encourage the incoming Carter Administration to include more female appointments, worked to identify qualified women to fill key policy-making positions within the next administration. Fields served as the CWI representative on the Civil Rights, EEOC, Labor, Office of Personnel Management, and Merit Systems Protection Board Task Force.
On April 9, 1989, many members of the Clearinghouse participated in the National Organization for Women’s National March for Women’s Equality and Women’s Lives, called by some: “The most important mass demonstration for women’s rights in the decade.” The march was a rally to save legal abortion and birth control rights and to gather more support for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Later in 1989, many members also attended the 10th Anniversary Conference of the National Committee on Pay Equity.
CWI members experienced a sad loss when Marguerite Rawalt, a longtime advocate for women’s rights and member of CWI, died in 1989, at the age of 94. She retired from the federal government after a 33-year career as an attorney for the Internal Revenue Service. She was also a member of President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women and a founding member of the National Organization for Women and its Legal Defense Fund. The CWI newsletter said: “She was an inspiration to those of us who were privileged to know her and work with her. We will long remember her commitment to equality for women, her sense of humor, and her warmth, caring, and concern for others.”
CWI suffered two more losses in 1990. On April 5, Dr. Caroline Ware, a past board member of the Clearinghouse and a staunch supporter of women’s rights, passed away at the age of 91. Though frail and legally blind, she rarely missed a CWI meeting and remained active on women’s issues right up until her death. Several months later in October 1990, Olya Margolin, a longtime board member of CWI, also died. The Clearinghouse members missed the inspirational and spirited presence of both women at their monthly discussions.
In 1991, faced with increased postage and printing costs, CWI board members made the difficult decision to raise membership dues for the first time in more than 10 years. An individual membership went to $18.00 from a modest $15.00 per year and organization dues rose to $35.00 from $30.00 per year.
CWI members received well-deserved commendations in 1992: Joy Simonson, a former CWI board member and future CWI president, was inducted into the DC Women’s Hall of Fame for her long and varied professional career and volunteer work, and Carmen Delgado Votaw, later a board member, was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame for her role as a national and international leader on civil rights, particularly for Hispanics and women.
Many CWI members participated in the 1993 Health for Women in the 21st Century Conference, the 40th annual forum of the National Health Council, to examine the impact of changing demographics, forecasts of advancements in medical research, and other major health trends affecting women. Members also attended a conference sponsored by the National Council of Negro Women entitled “Challenges in an Aging Society: A National Conference on Older Women” held in September 1993 in Washington, DC.
In 1993, the Clearinghouse became a member of the Council of Presidents (later called the National Council of Women’s Organizations), a group composed of heads of national women’s organizations who collectively take positions on current women’s issues. As a member of the Council, CWI signed on to amicus briefs submitted on behalf of women in various cases, some of which involved breaking the glass ceiling and supporting the Family and Medical Leave Act.
In November 1993, CWI received word that Dr. Caroline Ware had bequeathed $1,000 to CWI for such purposes as the board of directors deemed appropriate. Accordingly, the board established the Ware Grant to provide for the award of that money to an individual or organization member of CWI for new or ongoing research on an issue of concern to women. An application form for the grant appeared in the January 1994 newsletter and, in May 1994, the Ware Grant Committee, composed of board members Mary O’Connor, Colleen Challenger, Jean Linehan, and Felice Sorrett, awarded the money to CWI member Mary Haney for her project of developing an instructive history of U.S. preparation for and participation in International Women’s Year, the UN International Women’s Year Conference in Mexico City (1975), and the First National Women’s Conference in Houston (1977). Haney interviewed women who were instrumental in the organization and outcome of these meetings.
CWI members took part in a new initiative of the Women’s Bureau in the spring of 1994 called “Working Women Count,” an effort to find out how America’s 58 million working women felt about their jobs and what they would change if they could. CWI President Ruth Nadel said of the initiative: “In keeping with CWI’s ongoing commitment to our women members and to working women across the country, we are proud to join this landmark effort to give voice to women’s views through the ‘Working Women Count’ questionnaire.” The Clearinghouse distributed the Women’s Bureau questionnaire, which asked women questions about issues ranging from pay and benefits to job training and opportunities for promotion, in the April newsletter and responses ultimately were reported to President Clinton, Congress, and the public. Women’s Bureau Director Karen Nussbaum said: “We are delighted that CWI has joined this unprecedented effort to help define the critical issues women face in today’s workplace.”
August 1995 marked the 75th anniversary of women’s suffrage. There was a huge women’s rights march in Washington, DC, to celebrate the milestone. Many Clearinghouse members participated in the march and other activities planned around the anniversary and helped in the efforts to relocate the woman suffrage statue from the depths of the Capitol Crypt to a permanent place of honor in the Capitol Rotunda.
1995 was the first year that the Clearinghouse made several organizational “sign ons,” when the board agreed to add CWI’s name to a letter or cause that furthered the goals and mission of CWI. In 1995, along with 58 other women’s organizations as part of the Council of Presidents, the Clearinghouse signed on to a letter urging President Clinton to continue his support of affirmative action. CWI also wrote to President Clinton and Senators Edward Kennedy, Nancy Kassebaum, and Robert Dole in support of the nomination of Dr. Henry Foster for Surgeon General of the United States, as well as other letters in support of Title IX and a fair minimum wage.
Sadly, in August 1996, Catherine East, a leader in the women’s movement who was instrumental in the formation of the National Organization for Women and a recurring speaker at CWI meetings, died of congestive heart failure. That loss was felt not only among Clearinghouse members, but by all people fighting for women’s rights.
Throughout the year, the Clearinghouse remained active in national issues by supporting various initiatives concerning women’s rights. CWI wrote letters urging the Senate to pass minimum wage legislation, signed on to testimony presented by the President of the Women’s Legal Defense Fund (along with 65 other organizations) in support of the Family and Medical Leave Act, urged President Clinton to continue the Interagency Council on Women which was set to expire at the end of 1996, wrote to numerous Senators regarding the Istook Amendment, a proposed bill which would put additional restrictions and record-keeping burdens on non-profit organizations, and urged members of Congress to maintain funding for the Women’s Educational Equity Act. Many CWI members also took part in the UN Women’s Conference One Year Later, held in Washington, DC, in September 1996 to address the progress since the Fourth World Conference on Women.
In 1997, the Clearinghouse received a $1,000 grant from The Women’s Institute at American University, a non-profit education organization established in 1975 by Dr. Dorothy Ferebee and Meg Connor. CWI board members Daisy Fields, Florence Perman, and Mary O’Connor had been very active with the Institute. During its 22 years, the Women’s Institute established the Myra Barrer Library Collection on Women at American University’s Bender Library and also sponsored several scholarships for female students as well as a variety of conferences and seminars on women’s issues. However, recognizing that its mission to address the International Women’s Year objectives had been accomplished, the board of directors of the Women’s Institute dissolved the group and distributed its assets to worthy organizations, one of which was the Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues. In the award letter, Rita Johnston, President of the Women’s Institute, wrote: “The Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues has been designated to receive a grant from us to continue your work in providing a channel for dissemination of information on a variety of issues of mutual concern to diverse women’s organizations.”
The Clearinghouse continued to be very active on national women’s rights issues, writing to Senators regarding the re-authorization of the Perkins Vocational Education Act and encouraging funding for international family planning programs. CWI was also an official supporter of the 150th anniversary of the women’s rights movement.
CWI experienced another sad loss in 1997 with the passing of Mary Dublin Keyserling, a past president and board member of the Clearinghouse and former director of the Women’s Bureau. Keyserling’s book, Windows on Day Care, launched a national debate over publicly funded day care facilities. She was a lifelong fighter for women’s rights.
Long-time editor of the CWI newsletter Daisy Fields retired in November 1998. In her last issue, she wrote: “As a founding member of CWI, I worked for and watched it grow from a dozen women to the nationwide membership we enjoy today. I have served the organization as program chair, president for two terms, and newsletter editor for the past 16 years. It has been a significant part of my life and I have enjoyed every minute.” Although Fields’ hard work, skill, and sense of humor would be greatly missed on the pages of the CWI newsletter, Roslyn Kaiser volunteered to fill her position as newsletter editor. Kaiser, a recent retiree from the US Department of Transportation with a strong background in writing and public affairs, was a natural replacement for Fields.
In 1998, the Clearinghouse signed on to numerous letters and causes to advance women’s rights, among them a letter to Senators urging support of the Patients’ Bill of Rights, a National Women’s Equality Act, and a fair minimum wage. CWI also signed on to two amicus briefs. The first was a brief filed by the National Partnership for Women & Families in support of the appellant in Thomson v. Ohio State University Hospital, a case involving important issues for state employees who need protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act, filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In the second case, Smith v. NCAA, the Clearinghouse, along with the National Women’s Law Center, argued to the Supreme Court that the NCAA is subject to Title IX and is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sex in its governance of intercollegiate athletics.
During 1999, the Clearinghouse sent letters to national and international leaders on topics of gender apartheid in Afghanistan and the Equal Rights Amendment, and signed on to an amicus brief in Neal v. The Board of Trustees of the California State University, another Title IX case defending the legality and constitutionality of the "three-part test" and, in particular, the proportionality test.