The 1977 National Women’s Conference, held in Houston November 18-21, was the first conference of its kind since the Seneca Falls Convention of New York in 1848. Dubbed Seneca Falls South, over 2,000 delegates representing 50 states and 6 territories as well as over 20,000 other participants gathered in Houston during this historic event in November. The conference was supported by $5 million in federal funding and charged under federal law to assess the status of women across the U.S. and identify barriers that prevented women from full participation in national life.
Leading up to the National Conference, a team of relay runners carried a torch to Houston from Seneca Falls, New York. This was a symbolic gesture of honoring the site of the first U.S. women’s rights convention in 1848 and the passing of the torch to Houston to carry on the work.
During that historic weekend, the Conference’s goal was to create a national plan of action for gender equality. As a result of discussions during the pre-conferences, 26 issues or planks were created for consideration at the Conference, including abortion, lesbian rights, minority rights, education, healthcare, rape, and the Equal Rights Amendment.
At the conclusion of the conference, the assembly of delegates submitted their recommendations and a report to the President and Congress on means by which barriers to women’s equality could be removed. Although, the Equal Rights Amendment ultimately failed to pass in 1982, the conference’s legacy resulted in increased political activism and membership by women across the spectrum, and expanded the dialogue of women regarding reproductive rights and sexual identity that persists to this day.
This digital collection contains approximately 150 items documenting the planning and activities leading up to, during, and after the 1977 National Women’s Conference and includes brochures, flyers, newsletters, invitations, correspondence, and publications. Materials in the collection date from 1974-1982, with the bulk of the collection dated 1977.
The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Marjorie Randal National Women’s Conference Collection.