Twenty-first Century and Beyond
In 2000, CWI President Joy Simonson was elected to the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) steering committee, a testament to the importance of the Clearinghouse. The Council had become a coalition of some 150 women's organizations representing millions of women nationwide. Also that year, the Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues was a co-sponsor of the historic Feminist Expo 2000 in Baltimore, organized by the Feminist Majority Foundation.
This conference attracted thousands of feminists from around the globe and featured more than 100 symposia, roundtable discussions, and training seminars. Simonson, who attended the event, said: “The presence of women from many countries reinforced the spirit of sisterhood throughout the gathering….An enormous number of young women were there from colleges (and some from high schools) in all parts of the country.…Their active participation in workshops and long plenary sessions was heartwarming evidence that feminism is far from dead, as some have said. One could virtually see the torch being passed from the veterans of the early battles through the ‘mature’ fighters for the Equal Right Amendment to their daughters who will be fighting for their vision of women’s rights.”
The Clearinghouse was very active in 2000, having co-sponsored Equal Pay Day and signed on to letters opposing changes to pension nondiscrimination rules, supporting the Women’s Health Office Act of 2000, and endorsing the October World March of Women 2000. CWI also signed on to a Supreme Court amicus brief in Brentwood Christian Academy v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association arguing that high school athletic associations are state actors and thus covered by the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.
The Clearinghouse was a co-sponsor of the National Council of Women’s Organizations’ September 2001 conference, the Women’s Equality Summit. This major event brought activists from around the country to Washington to lobby Congress on important women’s issues. Also in 2001, after the tragic events of September 11th, CWI sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to remember the long-standing needs of women and children and not put those issues on the “political back burner” while addressing issues of terrorism.
In September 2001, Mary O’Connor, who served as CWI’s treasurer for more than a decade, died in her sleep, after a long and impressive career fighting for women’s rights. She worked for the Women’s Campaign Fund and later for WEAL. She served on the board of several women’s organization including Girls’ Club of America, Centennial Branch, and DC State AAUW, the Women’s Institute, and US Committee for UNIFEM. As recalled in the CWI newsletter: “Mary was a witty, loyal friend and devoted to feminist causes…She will be missed by all who knew her.” Contributions in her memory facilitated this report.
In June 2002, CWI sent a letter to the US Department of Education regarding proposed amendments to Title IX. It explained that CWI members were convinced that Title IX, along with other Constitutional protections, has been responsible for much of the progress toward gender equity in education made in the last few years and that it was premature and unnecessary to amend Title IX. Clearinghouse members rejoiced at the Education Department’s decision the next year not to alter its interpretation of Title IX.
CWI also wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell urging him to support hearings and ratification of the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao regarding funding for training and technical assistance services provided by Women Work!, to members of Congress urging them to co-sponsor the Chance to Succeed Act, a bill that would provide much needed assistance to poor women and their families, and to the Office of Management and Budget in support of a letter to federal contractors ensuring compliance with non-discrimination requirements.
The National Council of Women’s Organizations organized a Women’s Equality Summit and Congressional Action Day in 2002 to develop a “scorecard” on congressional voting records and sponsorship of NCWO’s key issues. As part of the conference, the NCWO developed a Women’s Agenda which included protecting Social Security and ending its disadvantages for women, securing affordable, quality child care, improving access to health care, including family planning and abortion services, ratification of CEDAW, fair pay legislation, and ending violence against women. The event was a huge success and many CWI members participated in the activities and celebrations.