Special Collections at the Intercollegiate Feminist Center
Houston Women’s Conference
The International Women’s Year Conference, Houston Collection 1973-1982, includes reports, and newsletters regarding events in honor of International Women’s Year in multiple states, with more detailed information regarding the Los Angeles, CA conference. There is material on the process of delegate selection and the process of planning for the International Women’s Year Conference in Houston, 1977. In addition there are reports, schedules, and information from the Houston Conference. All material was gathered by California delegate Linda Myers and specifically contains content about her experience. The Houston Women’s Conference Collection is housed in the IFC Library, Vita Nova 106, Scripps College.
The National Women’s Conference, held in Houston, TX, from 18-21 November 1977, was sponsored by the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year, a group appointed by President Carter. The commission was formed in response to the United Nations’ call for an International Women’s Year in 1975. The Houston conference was preceded by meetings held in every state and territory at which delegates were elected and platform issues were discussed. At the conference the two thousand delegates adopted a twenty-six point National Plan of Action which included resolutions on three issues causing extensive debate: reproductive freedom, sexual preference, and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. A proposal to create a Cabinet-level department of women’s affairs was rejected, and the conference was united in its support of a more strongly-worded substitute resolution on minority women. Proceedings of the conference were recorded in the official report, The Spirit of Houston. Caroline Bird, who served as historian and chief consultant and compiler for the official report of The National Women’s Conference, published her version of the Houston report asWhat Women Want (Simon and Schuster, 1979).
A collection of Jean Walton’s documents covering the founding and development of Intercollegiate Women’s Studies at The Claremont Colleges was donated to the IWS (now IFC) Library in 2003. The Jean Walton Papers are housed at the Honnold Mudd Library of The Claremont Colleges.
About Jean Walton: 1914 – 2006
IWS cofounder Jean Walton, was instrumental in building Women’s Studies at the Claremont Colleges. She earned a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania and taught at Wellesley before coming to Pomona to serve as Dean of Women in 1949. Her interest in developing Women’s Studies blossomed in the late 60s and early 70s, as programs were being developed around the country and courses began appearing at The Claremont Colleges.
On sabbatical in 1971, Jean took a consciousness-raising trip across the U.S., visiting Women’s Studies programs and faculty and reading everything she could. On her return, she beganplanting the seeds to develop Women’s Studies at Pomona. Under the auspices of the newly founded Commission on the Education of Women, and with funding from the Lebus Charitable Trust, Jean brought feminist historian Gerda Lerner to campus for a two-week visit in 1978; that visit brought together women from around the colleges who were interested in Women’s Studies and was a transformative experience.
Jean then began organizing regular meetings of interested faculty, which evolved into the IWS field group. In December 1978, the newly recognized “Field Committee” asked the Presidents for a coordinator position, with the expectation that Jean would fill the role. She became the first coordinator in July 1979, upon her retirement from Pomona, serving until 1983. She remained involved in Women’s Studies for many years. Her essay on the founding of IWS was published in the Feminist Press anthology, The Politics of Women’s Studies: Testimones of Thirty Founding Mothers, available in the IWS library. (Another history of IWS, written by Sue Mansfield, who also helped found IWS, is available at our website.) In the words of Jean Lipman-Blumen, another of the wonderful women who helped start Women’s Studies here, “Jean Walton was truly a founding mother for the Claremont Women’s Studies Program. She was the epitome of a feminist role model: intelligent, strong, compassionate, savvy, and dedicated.”