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National Women's Political Caucus


NATIONAL WOMEN'S POLITICAL CAUCUS. Frustrated with legislative opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, in 1971 Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, and Betty Friedan held an organizing conference in Washington, D.C., attended by more than 320 women from twenty-six states. That conference resulted in the formation of the National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC), a national, bipartisan, grassroots membership organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in all levels of political life. At that time, there were 362 women in state legislatures, compared with 1,656 in 2001, and 15 women in the 92nd Congress, compared with 72 in the 107th Congress. In 1975, the NWPC formed the Candidate Support Committee to give campaign funds to women candidates; it was the first political action committee for that purpose. A year later the NWPC organized the Coalition for Women's Appointments (CWA) specifically to increase the number of prochoice women in policymaking positions. By 1979, the number of women in such posts had grown by 10 percent since CAW's formation.

The NWPC was instrumental in getting Geraldine Ferraro named as the Democratic vice presidential nominee (1984), in defeating the Robert Bork nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court (1987), pressuring Congress to allow Anita Hill to be heard at Clarence Thomas's U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the Senate (1991), in getting Janet Reno (attorney general), Donna Shalala (secretary of health and human services), and Madeleine Albright (secretary of state) appointed to cabinet-level positions (1993), as well as Ann Veneman (secretary of agriculture), Elaine Chao (secretary of labor), and Gale Norton (secretary of the Interior) appointed to the Bush cabinet (2001).

The NWPC identifies, recruits, trains, and supports pro-choice women for electoral races and for appointive political positions. Meanwhile, it works to ensure equality for all women in all spheres of life.


Freeman, Jo. A Room at a Time: How Women Entered Party Politics. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000.

Thomas, Sue, and Clyde Wilcox, eds. Women and Elective Office: Past, Present, and Future. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Christine E.Hoffman

See alsoWomen in Public Life, Business, and the Professions ; Women's Rights Movement: The Twentieth Century .

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