History & Impact
Incorporated on August 17, 1973, CWEALF is one of the oldest women's rights organizations in the country.
Launched in the wake of a successful lobbying effort that resulted in the passage of Connecticut's Equal Credit Act, it was originally a women's rights law firm staffed by attorneys who saw a need for feminist lobbying and lawyering.
During its first decade, CWEALF focused on litigation, participating in cases involving equal pay, equal credit, and sex discrimination. CWEALF's first case challenged the denial of Medicaid funding for abortions. Other early litigation included Title IX cases, equal pay cases for women athletic coaches, cases challenging the restrictive membership policies of the Eagle Scouts and a private men's club in Stamford, Connecticut. CWEALF was involved in cases seeking compensation based on the monetary value of housework for a housewife injured in a grocery store; challenging a utility company's refusal to extend credit to women separated from their husbands; opposing minimum-height requirements for police officers; and questioning the denial of employment to a woman who applied to be a park ranger.
As time went by, however, the number of requests for assistance far exceeded CWEALF's capacity to respond. By 1980, CWEALF had received thousands of requests from women in need of legal assistance. CWEALF's early staff realized there was no way they could litigate all those individual cases, but they still wanted to educate individual women about their legal rights.
CWEALF began a gradual restructuring by expanding our information, referral, and educational outreach services. In 1978, the first educational booklets, Maternity Leave, Rape and the Law were published. The following year Employment Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, were published; which remain two of the most requested publications. CWEALF also published pamphlets such as Title IX and Women and Credit and distributed them at speaking engagements, women's centers, schools, banks, and police stations.
CWEALF developed an information and referral service that remains one of the most important in Connecticut. Even though CWEALF could not provide legal representation to every woman who called, the agency could provide counseling and information on their rights. CWEALF wanted women to know they have been heard, that they are not alone in suffering discrimination or brutality, and that there is help. CWEALF also began to maintain a list of referral attorneys who were committed to helping CWEALF's clients get their legal needs met at a cost they can afford.
The early activities of CWEALF and those which are conducted today are remarkably similar in nature. While particular circumstances have varied, our programs have remained consistent because our mission has never wavered. The problems are more subtle and often more insidious than in 1973, but they require the same dedication and commitment to making Connecticut a more equitable place for women, girls and low-income families. Today CWEALF educates women about the laws that our founders helped to establish. CWEALF is here to ensure that Connecticut maintains the spirit and meets the requirements of the laws that protect, and provide for, women's equality.
Timeline of Achievements