About the Herstory Project

The CWLU Herstory Website Project was organized to archive and share the history of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. Using the Internet to tell the history of women's liberation from the ground up, the Chicago Womens Liberation Union (CWLU) Herstory Project documents the role of the CWLU in the movement for women's liberation and social justice of the late 1960s and 1970s.

As original members and new friends of the CWLU, we believe that women continue daily to make history and that we need to support each other. We find our lives constantly shaped by our experiences in the CWLU in our friendships and family, at work, on the streets of the city, in our travels and our quest for justice.

By sharing our history we hope others are inspired to act today. "Don't mourn, organize," said Mother Jones. We say that a small group of three to five women can make mountains move. That was a lesson of CWLU workgroups in health, education, employment, and gay rights, to name a few. There we created the ideas and actions that helped women liberate each other from oppressive beliefs and old social habits.

Our goal is to connect with women today who are becoming conscious feminists. We want to work together to develop women's leadership and improve the safety and quality of womens lives in the larger struggle for social justice.


Our Purpose

The purpose of our organization is to document the role of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union (1969-1977) in the movement for women's liberation and social justice of the late 1960's and 1970's. This project is history from the ground up. With the help of other women interested in feminist issues, former CWLU activists are developing a website. Though the CWLU was active just a generation ago, an understanding of its impact on women in Chicago, as well as the national feminist movement of the times, is largely unknown.

Many of the gains that women have made (in work, education, child care, health and reproductive rights, and as active participants in all aspects of public life) are often taken for granted today. As with so many other movements for social justice in American history, the history of the women's movement is often hidden, not taught in schools, and distorted by the mass media. As former members of the CWLU, we want to share this history. 

Visitors to the site will learn how the organization worked its structure, goals and projects,multiple strategies and tactics, successes and failures. This website will make a historical archive available and accessible to activists, researchers, and anyone who is interested in the history of women's liberation in the United States during the 1960's and 1970's. The archival record will include organizational documents, position papers, newsletters and newspapers, letters, notes, photographs, art work and a variety of other resources not available before. CWLU archives exist in the Chicago Historical Society and other academic libraries

This site will enable a broader variety of interested people to access CWLU documents and history. The internet is important as a communications and research medium. The site can be continually expanded and updated as new material and funding become available. The web site will be a source of inspiration to documentarians researchers, students, filmmakers, playwrights, novelists, artists who will have both primary and secondary source material available for their own projects. The site will serve as an example of "living history." 

Former activists will tell their stories and share their memories and reflections through audio, video, and written text. Further, through the technology of the web, girls and women who are interested in feminist issues can talk with former members, encouraging inter-generational dialogue. Members of the CWLU can rediscover each other and share their current projects and passions.

Our activities include:

  1. Soliciting and developing an archive of historical materials through personal collections and material archived at academic and research institutions. Preparing these materials for internet display.
  2. Getting contributions from former members. This will include personal narratives, memoirs, and interviews. These reflections will be in audio, video or text format. Helping former members edit and develop narratives about the CWLU activities.
  3. Developing a photo gallery, using photographers from the 1969-1976 period, as well as today.
  4. Updating a former-member data base to use for communication.
  5. Organizing a online bulletin board for communication between former members and visitors to the site.
  6. Building a online feminist store that sells Womens Graphics Collective posters, CWLU Rock Bank CD, CDs of archival material, books and videos on feminism.
  7. Developing web links to other feminist and social justice organizations, as well as historical sites with similar issues.
  8. Ongoing maintenance and updating of the web site.
  9. Developing working relationships with women's studies students and teachers, and others who are interesting in helping with the web site. Online publishing of student projects about CWLU history.
  10. Publicity/public relations work to enable a large audience to know about the site.
  11. Preparing and lending a traveling art show of Women's Graphics Collective posters.
  12. Developing a section of the site for girls and teenagers interested in exploring feminist ideas.
  13. Finding sources of funding from individuals and foundations to support the work of the CWLU Herstory Project.

Our Mission

A CWLU Statement of Purpose

from Womankind, December 1972 (Womankind was the CWLU newspaper from 1971-1973)

The Chicago Women's Liberation Union is a radical women's liberation organization that is over three years old. We have over 300 members, and many different programs aimed at changing the lives of all women and building a new society in which all people will have the opportunity to develop their full potential.

WHAT WE BELIEVE

Changing women's position in society is going to require changes in expectations, jobs, childcare, and education. It also means changing the distribution of power from the few having power over the rest of us to all people sharing power and sharing in the decisions that affect our lives. These are major, radical changes. We consider our struggle revolutionary because it will require a total restructuring of society, not merely making room for more women within this structure.

Our primary purpose is to attack sexism- -that's the systematic oppression of women for the benefit of the people in power. Sexism exists everywhere in this society -- for example, on the job, in family roles, and in the laws. We are fighting for changes in ourselves and other individuals, and in the institutions and policies that set up our lives in sexist patterns.

We do not think that women are the only people in this society who are oppressed, We think that it is easier for the people in power to keep women, blacks, Latins, and the poor and working people of this country down when we're fighting against each other instead of learning to work together against the unequal distribution of wealth and opportunity that comes with this arrangement of society - an arrangement where decisions are based on making profits, not on human needs.

We believe in democracy. By that we do not mean just voting in elections, but responsible participation of the people affected by a decision. We are trying to act on our ideas to test and improve them. Ours is not an organization that one just joins - - it is a working organization, trying to involve more people in change, and trying to create a society where our principles are at work.

OUR PROGRAMS

  • LIBERATION SCHOOL FOR WOMEN The Liberation School for Women holds three sessions each year to help us learn, develop skills, and work together. For information, call the CWLU office 348-2011 or Sarah 935-9138 or Barbara 935-9628.
  • WOMANKIND The CWLU puts out a monthly newspaper, WOMANKIND, that spreads the ideas of women's liberation, talks about CWLU activities, and has a variety of other articles. Subscriptions are $4 a year.
  • HEALTH CARE The CWLU health project tries to meet some of the problems women face in health care. Part of this project includes pregnancy testing, and an abortion counseling service. The phone number for the counseling service is 643-3844; leave your name and phone number and you will be called back within two to four days. Call the CWLU office 348-2011l for the locations and times of pregnancy testing. 
  • LEGAL PROGRAM Because of our second class status, women face many special legal problems. To combat these problems, the CWLU has a free Women's Legal Clinic, open every Wednesday night from 7 to 9 p.m. at the CWLU office. 
  • RAPE PROJECT The Rape Project at the Sister Center, 1545 W. Morse in Rogers Park, has a crisis line where women who have been raped can call for someone to talk to, someone to go to the hospital with them, and if they want, someone to go to the police with them. The crisis line phone number is 728-1920. It is open from (6 pm to midnight, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday). .
  • JOB DISCRIMINATION We believe women must demand equal pay AND equal work (and we won't let them get away with lowering men's wages), the right to jobs in all classifications, the right to maternity and retraining if a woman decides to raise a family. Toward this end, the CWLU formed Women DARE (Direct Action for Rights in Employment). For information, call Jenny or Allyne 728-2089.
  • COMMUNITY CENTERS At present three community centers provide pregnancy testing, tot lots, and other activities in local areas. The centers are in Hyde Park at 5500 5. Woodlawn in the Augustana Lutheran Church 947-8b20; in Rogers Park (The Sister Center) at 1545 W, Morse 262-2720; and in Evanston at 2214 Ridge 475-4480.
  • WOMEN'S ART AND MUSIC The Women's Graphics Collective is a group of women who design art work dealing with women's lives. The Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band is a group of women musicians who perform music by and about women, and who have made an album, Mountain Moving Day. Call the CWLU office for information. 
  • SPREADING THE WORD To tell people more about our organization, about women's liberation, abortion, children, and many other subjects, we have a speaker's bureau. We will come to schools, workplaces, and homes to talk with people who are interested. Call the CWLU office for information. 
  • CHAPTERS Some women in the CWLU are also in chapters - groups of women who come together to talk or study and to give each other help and support.

The CWLU office is located at 852 W, Belmont. Our phone number is 348-2011. All women are encouraged to come by our office where there are posters and literature to buy, and someone to talk with about what we are doing and why - and how you can get involved, Phone calls are welcome too. We do not think it will be easy to change our society. But we do believe that if we work together, we will win. The Chicago Women's Liberation Union is a way for us to work together and experience, perhaps for the first time, the excitement and sense of purpose that comes when you are working with other women for a better life for everyone.