BY MARY ANNE SAUCIER OWI BOARD MEMBER 1977-1988, OWI HISTORIAN 1988-1991In the year of our nation’s Bi-Centennial, Nineteen hundred and Seventy-six (1976), Mary Egerton Miller and Helen Warner Mulholland wrote the first proposal for a new state organization -Ohio Women, Incorporated (OWI). This momentous event transpired by candle light under the portrait of Abraham Lincoln at the Buxton Inn inGranville,Ohio.
Thereafter, came many meetings of a Joint Committee of representatives from the Ohio Commission on the Status of Women (OCSW) and the Ohio Coalition for the Implementation of the Equal Rights (OCIERA). The final joining of these two organizations into one statewide organization occurred on October 1, 1977, at theOhioStateUniversityCenterfor Vocational Education. Helen Mulholland’s keynote speech has been a guiding force over the years.
But this did not happen in time to spareOhio’s pro-Equal Rights Amendment women from learning a very hard and bitter lesson on June 11 and 12, 1977, at the Ohio State Fairground’sLauscheBuilding. It came about at the Ohio International Women’s Year (IWY) meeting that Far Right groups out maneuvered the majority ofOhio’s women and ended up with 45 ofOhio’s 56 delegates to the National IWY Conference inHouston,Texasin November of 1977.
Without a strong statewide network of our own for fast communication and action,Ohio’s majority pro-Equal Rights Amendment women were and can still be quite helpless against certain Far Right tactics. Those who were there in June 1977 will never forget the feeling that this must never be allowed to happen again.
Ohio Women, Inc. was formed to be the rallying point of Ohio’s women. It is not to threaten any already existing pro-Equal Rights Amendment organizations but to strengthen and help them work together toward collective concerns voiced and outlined at the Houston IWY Conference. So as not to threaten we decided against membership in OWI and only ask for financial and working support. The OWI banner led the Ohio Delegations’ March onWashingtonin the 95 degree heat of the summer of 1978 and OWI has rallied organizations at the Ohio State House on several occasions.
We envisioned a Central Office with an executive director, a regular newsletter, a calendar of events, quarterly presidents’ council meetings, caucuses working on the Houston IWY agenda, regular Board meetings and conferences that would speak to and for the needs and concerns of all our pro-Equal Rights Amendment women.
The purpose was written “TO ENCOURAGE, AFFIRM, SUPPORT, AND SAFEGUARD THE WOMEN OF OHIO AS THEY MOVE TO ACHIEVE THEIR FULL POTENTIAL IN EVERY ASPECT OF THEIR LIVES.”
In explaining how this was to be done, such words as the following were used-
To provide services
To serve as a clearing house
To create linkages
To provide resources
To improve opportunities
To conduct research
To distribute information
To develop an Ohio women’s lobby
In other words, TO NETWORK!
OWI had many Presidents and one Executive Director in our history from 1977-2014. A summary of accomplishments over this period of time will show that our work has been guided by the above description.
As in King Arthur’s Court, we have had our Lancelots and our Mortimers, but always we have kept in mind the dream of the state-wide network, the Presidents’ Council (now called Leadership Council) – organizations working together in coalition toward common needs and goals – to be aware of those whose goals are to subvert and defeat what we are all about – at the same time offering leadership by developing strategies for solutions based on research and solidly based information.