In 1966, a group of women, frustrated at the failure of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to recognize sex discrimination in the workplace and the failure of the conference they were attending to demand the EEOC do so, started what became the National Organization for Women (NOW). In 1971, Tallahassee gained its own NOW chapter, chartered through the national organization. Two years later in 1973, the Florida NOW state chapter was chartered to help coordinate the local chapters’ activities as well as to organize new chapters into formation. The state chapter’s records reside at the University of Florida.
As March is Women’s History Month, this week the Pepper Library is highlighting the National Organization for Women, Tallahassee Chapter records. The Tallahassee NOW papers contain official NOW correspondence, meeting minutes and agendas, reports, budgets, newsletters, and other records which chronicle the development and activities of Tallahassee NOW from its founding in 1971 until 1997. An excellent resource for studying the history of the Equal Rights Amendment in the state of Florida, the NOW material offers a firsthand glimpse into the organization’s efforts to empower and inform. This is particularly on point right now as last Wednesday, the Nevada State Legislature ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, which guarantees that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” NPR stated in an article on the ratification that the ERA “was first passed by Congress in 1972 and last approved by a state (Indiana) in 1977.” Florida has yet to ratify the ERA. The NOW records provide a look at the fight to do so in the 1970s.
Last fall,the staff of the FSU Digital Library digitized and made available online for researchers the Florida NOW Times (1974-1997). Within this statewide NOW publication, the history of the ERA and the activities of NOW chapters throughout the state can be followed over a twenty year period. Providing digital access to the newsletters was a challenge. Each newsletter needed to be reviewed to provide useful description for users to be able to browse and search these objects successfully. The DLC enlisted help from our Cataloging & Description colleagues to catalog the 211 newsletters that range from 1974 to 1997. These items cover the state chapter’s ERA fight, its yearly conferences, legislative and lobbying actions, and the many events sponsored to fight for the rights of women in Florida. You can see all the newsletters in the FSU Digital Library.