A Proposal for Community Work

by Vivian Rothstein and Mary M. (circa 1971-1972) A proposal to focus on neighborhood organizing to bring the CWLU closer to Chicagoland's working class women. by Mary M. and Vivian Rothstein (circa 1971-1972)

(Editors Note:This document advocated a community based approach to the CWLU's work to help make the organization more relevant to Chicagoland's workingclass women.)

“This movement might best preserve its revolutionary promise by broadening its base and truly serving women wherever their oppression is most acute."- Edith Hoshino Altabach, From Feminist to Liberation

There is growing concern within CWLU with the need for us to bring to development womens liberation programs and actions which deal with the day-to-day oppression that ordinary women feel (i.e. on their jobs, in needs for childcare, in medical care, in relationship to the husbands and families, etc.). Our organization is together enough and we have had enough collective experience to realize that if we do not begin to deal with the real needs of all women, our movement will be at best a bohemian subculture and at worst irrelevant to all but a handful of women.
Despite the growing concern of us all for outreach, we have found it difficult to concretely propose and experiment with new ideas for program. This proposal is an attempt to begin an experiment with community based program which we feel will begin to accomplish many of the political objectives that are all hoping for -- reaching out around the city, initiating struggles on a community level around the basic needs of women, involving a growing number of women in day-to-day moment work.

Why Community Work?

The lives of most women are centered primarily around the community they live in. That’s where they do their shopping, take their children for recreation, go to church, send their children to school, get their medical care, and often make their money if they have jobs, If we are interested in reaching less privileged women (and by that we mean not only less privileged economically, but also less mobile, less literate, less independent of their husbands, more tied down to their children, less confident of themselves, we must offer service and programs within the communities that women relate to. 

Proposal for Community Work

We propose that the CWLU initiate the formation of four community “outposts”, or centers, of the Union in communities around the city. (Two are already at some stage of development -- the Rogers Park Center and the beginnings of an Edgewater project. Also the Hyde Park Center has opened again recently.) We propose that with the immediate purpose of building up a base and contacts in the neighborhood (using Liberation School and Womankind contacts), and aim towards the opening of outposts which would be financed 50% by the Union and 50% through community support. The centers would be outposts for ongoing and developing program and would as well initiate their own community-oriented program.
We conceive of the outposts having both service and struggle programs. Example of possible program could include:


  • Legal counseling (on divorce, defense of illegal day care centers, discrimination against gay women,welfare cases, etc.)
  • liberation school classes
  • children's clothing exchange
  • pregnancy testing
  • birth control information
  • breakfast program for children
  • educational forums
  • medical referral, abortion counseling
  • food pantry
  • offering meeting space for womens groups in the community ( e.g. general rap groups)

Direct Action

  • defense of illegal day care
  • creation of “tot-lots”
  • action against discrimination in housing, jobs,welfare cases
  • against sexism in local public schools (e.g. sending observers to classes, review textbooks)
  • “women’s brigades”- a group of women to come to defense of women in the community against landlords, husbands, local merchants, hospitals, etc.

The outposts could fit into Union structure by being initiated and run by a union work group of CWLU members. But the outposts would offer program to community women who would not necessarily join the organization. The outposts could help develop local bases for Union program such as ACDC and the new health program, as well as anything which would develop in the future (e.g. work around gay women’s oppression, welfare program, educational work, etc.)

We feel that only through the initiation of local community program can we really involve the several hundred women who have contacted us and who are interested in becoming active in the womens movement, but for who we have very little concrete program to get involved in,
We would hope that communication between the developing outposts would be a regular thing, not only through the steering committee, but also directly to give each other ideas and support.