Events Leading Up to the Formation of Cincinnati Women’s Political Caucus
The early 1970s was a very active period for women as they sought to have the Equal Rights Amendment added to the Constitution. It was during this time that both the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) was formed. Locally job discrimination against women was rampant both in the private and public sectors. Job Ads were blatantly discriminatory. The City of Cincinnati had over 150 job categories that were sexually biased. One black woman was even denied the job application form for building inspector, a job for which she was clearly qualified. A minister was refused admittance to the Cincinnati Workhouse to counsel two male prisoners because when the minister showed up at the workhouse, she was female. There were no girl pages in Ohio’s legislature because “It’d Break Tradition”, as all pages were males and besides there were no separate restrooms for the females and pages were required “to work past midnight up until the earlier morning hours when the legislature gets down to the nitty-gritty of the session. “
Legislation to repeal Ohio’s “female protective labor laws which regulated hours, conditions, and types of jobs available to female employees was being considered for repeal by the 108th General Assembly since it probably violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These labor laws, which were “to protect women”, were often used repressively, not beneficially. Women’s groups in Cincinnati, particularly Cincinnati’s Chapter of NOW and the Business and Professional Women united together advocating for the elimination of Ohio’s “protective” labor laws, working to change job discrimination against women, and working for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. However, instead of just lobbying males for these needed changes, they decided to work to elect women to office. A political arm of the women’s movement was needed to do this, and so the Cincinnati Women’s Political Caucus (CWPC) was formed.
The beginning of Cincinnati Women’s Political Caucus
The first steering committee meeting was held in 1972 at the home of Marcia Maclin in Gulf Manor. The steering group thought that an organization like Caucus could attract women who were sensitive to women’s issues but not comfortable with NOW (mainly due to some of the national press NOW received). At the time there was no woman on City Council and while there were some women active in the political parties, they had no leadership positions or power. CWPC was formed to change these situations by getting women elected or appointed to political office. Three chairs were elected: Pat Collins (Republican), Gloria Swenty (Independent), and Joan Kallman (Democrat).
During these early years, Caucus was mainly active during elections with many CWPC’s members running political campaigns for candidates. When CWPC began endorsing candidates for office, only a few candidates even bothered to return Caucus’s questionnaire. As time passed, more and more candidates sought out endorsement by CWPC.
Caucus continued to meet at the homes of it’s members until March 15, 1978 when it began holding monthly meetings at the First Unitarian Church on Reading Road at Linton Street.
On May 13, 1978 the first of six annual “Political Champagne Fests” was held to meet the candidates and current office holders. This event helped establish CWPC in the political community and raised $400. A July 12, 1979 article from the Cincinnati Enquirer with the headline “Women Progressing in Political Arena, But Slowly” stated that the progress of women in local politics is symbolized by their most visible officeholder, Bobbie Sterne, Cincinnati’s Mayor but … the amount — from $25 to $300 that CWPC offers its favorite candidates has hardly been enough to swing a campaign.
In 1979, the National Women’s Political Caucus Convention , “We Have A Lot To Win” was held in Cincinnati from July 12-15.
CWPC since 1982
CWPC formed its PAC in 1982 . In 1983 it expanded its endorsement process to include women running in races throughout Hamilton County. That same year it held a Gala Event with the Women’s Campaign Fund instead of its usual fund raiser, the Champagne Fest. CWPC held its first Campaign education program in 1985.
In 1986 the First Outstanding Achievement Award Ceremonies was held.
A 1/29/87 Cincinnati Post article stated that CWPC was leading the drive to return women to council. While there had been 3 women serving on City Council, all three lost their positions on Election Day 1985. A poll conducted at that time by CWPC found that more than half the Cincinnati voters did not know how many men (all 9 council members were men) were on City Council.
Not only did CWPC work to elect women to office, but it also lobbied for political appointments . An Enquirer article from 8/21/88 stated that members of local women’s groups stood outside of Hamilton County Courthouse to protest a symbolic barrier that exists inside…the male dominance of the local political parties that prevents women from being seriously considered for choice county political offices. CWPC was protesting the choice of a male for clerk race.
CWPC continues to work to see that women are elected and appointed to political office. It held its second Campaign School in 1994 and its third Campaign School in 1996. Since 1986 it has continued to annually honor women active in politics at the Outstanding Women of Achievement Event.
An article in the February 1, 1997 edition of the Enquirer listed CWPC as the 17th largest contributor to the 1995 City Council Elections contributing $14,125. This is a significant increase from the $25 – $300 that CWPC offered its favorite candidates back in May 1978.
-Special thanks to Libbie Bragg