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Records of the Florida National Organization for Women

Identifier: MS 123

Scope and Content

The Records of the Florida National Organization for Women (Florida NOW) include officers' and members' correspondence, meeting minutes and agendas, reports, budgets, newsletters and other publications, reports on activities, documents collected by Florida NOW, and other records which chronicle the development and activities of Florida NOW from its founding in 1973 until 2003. The Florida NOW records were acquired over a period of several years, and new accruals to the collection are expected in the future. The collection is divided into two accessions: Accession I is comprised of records covering the 1970s and 1980s; Accession II covers the 1990s and the 2000s. Each Accession is further subdivided into multiple series of records.

Accession I originally was acquired in two separate batches. The first batch covered the period 1973-1979 and primarily came from the files of the State Coordinators, the principal state officer. An additional batch subsequently was received from the legislative office. The legislative office records largely duplicated the coordinator's records for the years 1973-1976, although individual items may have existed only in the legislative office file. The legislative office records extended the scope of the records to 1982. It also appeared that some of the coordinator's and perhaps other officers deposited their own records with the legislative office, so the records from the legislative office also extended the coordinators' files. Because of this overlap, the coordinators and legislative office file are now integrated.

The bulk of the records in Accession I are from the period 1973-1982, approximately the same period of time as which the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) went before the states for ratification. Local chapters are represented through correspondence, newsletters, and reports of activities. The records reflect all aspects of the organization, its officers, council, committees and taskforces, state conventions, interaction with national NOW, with the local chapters in Florida, and with outside groups and individuals. Other than organizational activities, a wide range of political and social topics are reflected, principally efforts to gain passage of ERA, abortion, and many forms of gender discrimination. Many records reveal NOW's political and lobbying efforts. Accession I is divided into four series: Administrative Records, Legislative Office Files, Equal Rights Amendment Files, and Local Chapters.

The Administrative Records Series in Accession I contains by-laws, directories, correspondence and other records of the coordinators/presidents and other officers, proceedings of the State Council and annual conferences, committees, taskforces, including the Political Action Committee and the Political Research Office, and the newsletter. Also included are semi-official, and non-NOW files, which reflect topics of interest to NOW members, including papers on consciousness raising, Florida NOW history, the International Women's Year (1976), and regional and national groups. This Series is largely composed of the coordinator's and president's papers, although it includes records covering other officers, groups, and activities. The files for the Council meetings, for example, will contain the background material which the coordinator as the presiding officer and chief executive gathered regarding agenda items, as well as the actual minutes, agenda, and reports presented at the meeting. In general, it would be wise to consult the appropriate coordinator's correspondence files when doing research on any topic. The coordinators/presidents represented in this series are Karen Coolman (1973-1974), Margaret Barovitch (1974-1976), Valerie Adams (1976-1977), Rebecca Berg (1977-1978), Genece Minshew (1979-1980), Eileen Cudney (1980-1981), and Pat Kennedy (1981-1982). The largest groups of files are from Barovitch, Berg, and Minshew.

The Legislative Office Series in Accession I contains the correspondence, memoranda and other records of the legislative coordinators, lobbyists, and the Legislative Office, including the Legislative Bulletin. Also included are many legislative and political records created or collected by Florida NOW. Major topics include constitutional revision, Democratic State Party Conventions, and Florida legislative elections and actions. The series contains subject files on abortion, gender discrimination, and many other subjects of legislative concern, and a set of files on individual legislators.

The Equal Rights Amendment Series in Accession I shows the struggle by Florida NOW and other groups to obtain ratification of the amendment by the Florida Legislature. The records reflect many direct activities undertaken by Florida NOW, legislative and political actions, the involvement of National NOW, the networking of Florida NOW with other pro-ERA organizations and with the various coalition groups established to coordinate pro-ERA with the work, including ERA Florida, and general pro- and anti- activity in the State. Records from one such group, ERA '74, apparently were left with the Florida NOW legislative coordinator and are included with the collection here. A set of the records deal with the national convention boycott of Florida, the Florida NOW induced tourist boycott, and with other boycott attempts. The ERA Countdown Campaign records show the many actions to obtain ratification during the year preceding the June 1982 deadline. A set of public opinion polls by Lou Harris is included. The principal business of Florida NOW during the decade covered by these records was the struggle to ratify the amendment. Although this series of records is devoted exclusively to ERA, the topic is pervasive throughout the whole of the records. Much of the coordinators' and legislative officers' correspondence revolve around the ERA, and it was the stimulus for much of the legislative intelligence gathering and other activities.

The files in the Local Chapters Series of Accession I typically contain correspondence between the local chapter and Florida NOW, chapter newsletters, and reports on local activities. In addition to working for ERA, local chapters were typically active in combating local discrimination, consciousness raising, and promoting rape awareness. The local chapter files are largely from the coordinator/president files on the chapter, supplemented by some records from the legislative office. When dealing with chapter questions both the chapter files and the coordinator's files should be checked. Chapter files include both chartered and convening chapters.

Accession II records primarily are from files of past presidents of Florida NOW, particularly Toni Van Pelt, Siobhan McLaughlin and Clarice Pollock who held office in the 1990s and the early 2000s. The bulk of the records consist of presidential correspondence and files documenting almost all of the functions and duties of the president. A lot of the correspondence is in the form of printed e-mail messages.

There are also files about Van Pelt and Pollock's activities for F.R.E.E. (Floridians Representing Equity and Equality), a state registered non profit organization founded in 1997 and formed by supporters to defend equal opportunity in Florida. The chair of this organization was Leon Russell, President of the Florida Conference of Branches of NAACP. Florida NOW was one of the sponsors along with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights the National Bar Association, the National Association of Social Workers (NAWS), and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA).

The records in Accession II are organized in five series. The Administrative Series contains Florida NOW presidential correspondence and related documents, state conference materials, state council minutes, documents about meetings, directories, and financial reports. The Legislative Series: contains subject files about abortion, same-sex marriage, health and human services, lawsuits, petitions and lobbyists. The F.R.E.E. Series: contains files concerning equal opportunity, affirmative action, trial documents, financial reports, and handouts. The Local Chapters Series includes correspondence between local chapters and Florida NOW (especially concerning annual reports about local activities), local newsletters and bulletins. The Audio-Visual Series includes photographs, VHS video tapes, and audio tapes pertaining to Florida NOW activities.


  • Creation: 1971-2003



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

The Florida National Organization for Women, or Florida NOW, is a state chapter of the National Organization for Women, which was founded in 1966 and is the largest organization of female activists in the United States. Created as an organization that promoted equality for all women, it has supported the elimination of all discrimination in society. The Florida NOW chapter was established by NOW in 1973 in order to coordinate the activities of local NOW chapters in the state, to promote the foundation of new chapters, and to increase membership. Florida NOW commits itself to the affirmation of equal rights for women, the elimination of all forms of racism and sex discrimination, the recognition of gay and lesbian rights, the respect of abortion and reproductive rights, and the fulfillment of economic equality for women.

At least as early as 1972 there was a legislative coordinator in Florida, perhaps reporting to and funded by National NOW. In the latter part of 1972, Andrea Westmoreland of Deland stated that she had been appointed by NOW Regional Director Judy Lightfoot as coordinator for Florida, apparently with the assignment of organizing a statewide group. (Cf. Legislative Coordinator Correspondence, Kwea, 1971-1973). Details of the organizing process are vague, but within a year, an organized group with bylaws, elected officers, council meetings and an annual conference was in place. Karen Coolman was the first coordinator, and Gwen Cherry, the chairone.

Florida NOW was initially headed by an elected chairone. In 1974 this position was replaced by a State Coordinator and by a president in 1979. The elected state officers constitute an executive committee consisting of President, Vice-President, Legislative Director, Treasurer, Administrative Secretary, and Membership Director. The Florida NOW president presides at the state conference and at meetings of the state council and is responsible for all the official oral and written communication of Florida NOW. The president is also the official contact person between local chapters and regional and national officers of NOW. The president is also in charge of maintaining records of the status of chapters and members in the state. State officers, at-large delegates to the council, and at-large delegates to the national conference are elected at annual state conferences. State council meetings are held between conferences. State officers and one delegate from each local chapter attend these meetings to discuss planning for the state conference and other administrative issues.

The legislative coordinator was a principal officer in the organization as the director of the legislative office. The legislative office hired volunteer and paid staff and lobbyists and maintained a physical office in Tallahassee. This office appears to have been one of the most visible aspects of Florida NOW, possibly even more so than the State Coordinator or President. Although the coordinator was elected by the membership and was an officer of Florida NOW, the position itself and the Legislative Office appear to have been largely independent, releasing statements and taking actions on it own, and working directly with the local chapters and with National NOW.

Local chapters are chartered by National NOW, not by Florida NOW, and so are not directly subordinate to the state organization. Some of the local chapters are older than Florida NOW. Chapters in the process of organizing are called convening chapters until they are fully chartered. Many convening chapters were never chartered, and chartered chapters sometimes became inactive, or reorganized.

For further information, refer to the Florida NOW ( and NOW ( websites.


15 Linear feet (33 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Records of the Florida NOW include officers' and members' correspondence, meeting minutes and agendas, reports, budgets, newsletters, and other records which chronicle the development and activities of Florida NOW from its founding in 1973 until 2003.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

Acquired in several accruals over a period of years from the Florida National Organization for Women.

Alternate Form of Material

Digital reproductions of items in this collection are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

Related Material

Related materials can be found in the Records of the League of Women Voters of Florida at the University of Florida Smathers Libraries.

Processing Notes

Accession I was processed by Special Collections staff; Accession II was processed by Paola Pizzichini in 2009. A large amount of correspondence in Accession II consists of e-mail messages printed out using sheets often already printed on the verso side. Some Fax messages are partially or totally unreadable because of the deterioration of thermal paper. During processing, many of the original documents were reproduced and photocopies were substituted or added.

A Guide to the Records of the Florida National Organization for Women
Finding aid created by Paola Pizzichini and Dept. Staff
May 2010
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America