Heading to the AWC National Conference? We want to help!
Would you like to attend the AWC National Conference September 17-19 in Dallas, Texas?
Join fellow AWC Springfield members Donalisa Stinyard, LaDonna Greiner, Terry Baum, Maggie Castrey and Mitzie Zerr to get the group rate and experience the fun and learning at the conference.
Registration continues through September 11, 2017. Regular, Group and Student rates are available. Visit www.womcom.org to learn more.
AWC—A Powerful Force for Equal and First Amendment Rights
By Delia Croessmann
As a lover of history, I have always been fascinated with the significance of of AWC’s 1909 founding as Theta Sigma Pi, an honorary women’s journalism society at the University of Washington in Seattle, and its evolution into a professional organization that today champions the advancement of women across all communications disciplines.
Grounded in the history of American cultural advancement, one of AWC’s current ethical values is its commitment to work nationally and internationally for pay equity for women in the workplace and for freedom of information. This value traces back to the post-World War I era when women journalists went to work in newspaper jobs, filling the roles of male colleagues who had gone into battle. Although women gained the right to vote in 1920, gender pay inequality existed in these jobs, and women were regarded as less serious workers.
As more women entered the workforce, Theta Sigma Pi grew profoundly. In 1950 it had 47 campus chapters and 29 alumnae groups; in 1972 it was re-named to Women In Communications, Inc. (WICI), and men were voted into membership. Also in 1972, The Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. The next year, WICI joined the national ERA coalition to fight the mounting opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment.
WICI opened a public affairs office in Washington to monitor legislation in 1980, and members raised thousands of dollars for the ERA effort at their regional meetings. It’s most strategic endeavor was the “Family of Americans for the ERA,” represented by a 10-foot-high “house” made of colorful planks that identified the states that already had ratified the ERA. The house symbolized a permanent home for the Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. It was showcased by WICI and other women’s groups at the 1980 Republican National Convention (ref: http://womcom.clubexpress.com/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=903060&module_id=193714).
In addition to its involvement with the ERA, in 1979 WICI united with 11 communications organizations to found the First Amendment Congress, which works to preserve First Amendment rights. WICI increasingly defended freedoms of speech and the press and joined the National Committee on Pay Equity. With all this going on, membership peaked in the mid-1980’s at about 13,000 and by 1995 WICI had 8,000 members as well as indebtedness. In 1996 WICI was dissolved, and the organization was renamed the Association for Women in Communications. AWC’s management was handed to an outside firm where the finances were stabilized, and today membership is around 3,000.
Beyond all the professional benefits AWC membership now provides us, we can also appreciate the cultural heritage it holds for the hard-won rights of women and freedom of speech and the press. With our awareness of these rights, we can all help shape the future of women and the world at large.
Status of Equal Rights Amendment
On March 22, 1977, the ERA was passed by the U.S. Senate and sent to the states for ratification. In order to be added to the Constitution, the ERA needed approval by legislatures in three-fourths (38) of the 50 states. 35 states had approved the amendment by 1977. The original ratification deadline was extended to 1982, however, no additional states voted yes before that date, and the ERA fell short of ratification. The ERA has been reintroduced into Congress every year since 1982, and many Americans mistakenly believe it has already passed.
The 15 states that did not ratify prior to that deadline were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. Many complex legal interpretations of the 1982 deadline leave the ratification process subject to change.
In March 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the ERA. At the same time, the bill was re-introduced into the Missouri Senate, but no action has occurred. This year, ERA bills have been introduced in the legislatures of six other states.
The Equal Rights Amendment
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.