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Celebrating 45 Years of CWEALF History





This summer, we broke out the scrapbooks for a trip down memory lane, and we want to take you along with us as we remember milestones and events in CWEALF's history. This August 17th, CWEALF celebrates our 45th birthday!

Here are some of our favorite throwback posts from the 1970’s:

In the early 1970s, women across the U.S. started feminist credit unions in response to discriminatory financial laws and lending practices. At the time, a woman could not establish her own credit or get loans in her name – instead, everything was in the name of her husband (or her parents, if she was unmarried).

By 1976, there were 18 feminist credit unions across the country, including one in Connecticut. These credit unions provided personal and business loans for women, which helped them to rebuild their lives after financial difficulties or divorce.

The Connecticut Feminist Federal Credit Union opened its doors on August 26, 1974. In this picture, its president, Dawn Ladd (right) holds one end of a broken chain, symbolizing breaking the "economic chains that tie us down." At its height, it had $200,000 in assets (the founders started with $135) and 1,100 members.

CWEALF began providing consulting and legal services to the CT Feminist Federal Credit Union on the day it opened, and proceeded to fight for equal credit opportunity for women.

CWEALF history


In the early 1970s, Lea Dickson and Barbara Hall were basketball and softball coaches working at Bunnell High School in Stratford, CT. The school was not properly enforcing Title IX regulations. They had failed to provide equitable programs, facilities, uniforms, and equipment for female athletes and coaches -- including paying their female coaches less than their male counterparts. Dickson and Hall approached the athletic director with concerns about unequal resources and unequal pay, but to no avail – the school was not willing to enforce the equality of girls' and boys' sports.

When an attorney from CWEALF was a guest speaker at the school, and Dickson happened to be in the audience, the women were inspired to file suit against the Stratford school system. With CWEALF's help, four years later, Dickson and Hall won their case -- In 1978, a US District Court mandated that Title IX must be implemented and enforced across the country. 


CWEALF history
Pictured: Plaintiffs Lea Dickson and Barbara Hall alongside CWEALF staff attorney Phyllis Gelman and former CWEALF Executive Director Susan Meredith. 


Meryl Hershkowitz, a law student, and Mary-Kathleen O'Connell, an undergraduate student and volunteer, in the CWEALF offices back in the mid-70s, when CWEALF was only a few years old. Meryl's wearing a shirt with an old version of the CWEALF logo!

CWEALF was founded in New Haven, CT in 1973. Originally a women's rights law firm staffed by attorneys, during the first decade, CWEALF focused on litigation. Some of the issues CWEALF dealt with early on include job security for pregnant women, family law, reproductive rights and workplace gender discrimination, including the wage gap and opening "nontraditional" careers to women – many of them issues that CWEALF still works on today! 

Soon, CWEALF began to receive more requests for help than it could respond to, and began providing information, referrals and educational outreach in response to women who called needing assistance. 

CWEALF history


Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was the first African American woman in Congress, and in 1972, she became the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from a major political party. She was co-founder of the National Women's Political Caucus, and became the first Black woman (and only the second woman ever) to serve on the House Rules Committee. 

To say the least, Shirley Chisholm was a political trailblazer – and a champion for women and girls, especially those in marginalized communities. She said, “I want to be remembered as a woman … who dared to be a catalyst of change.” 

In 1983, she spoke about women in the workplace at CWEALF's tenth anniversary lecture -- this picture of Shirley Chisholm is from that event! In an age where women are entering politics at higher and higher rates, we remember Chisholms's impact as an inspiration for women from all backgrounds – not only those who run for political office, but those who follow any dream. 

CWEALF history

Shirley Chisholm at CWEALF's 10th anniversary event 


Shirley Bysiewicz, first tenured female professor and longtime law librarian at the UConn School of Law, was one of CWEALF’s founders and its first President. Bysiewicz was one of UConn School of Law's first female graduates – she got her degree in 1950. In addition to her work at CWEALF, she coauthored legislation that established the CT Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. 

CWEALF history

Shirley Bysiewicz, a CWEALF founder and its first President 

Stay tuned for more of CWEALF's throwback posts from our 45-year history. Like and share our throwback posts on Facebook and Instagram


Julia Hammond is CWEALF's Communications Intern and a rising junior at Fordham University. Read her blog "On the 46th Anniversary of Title IX, there's still more work to be done" for more CWEALF history! 

By Julia Hammond, Communications Intern at 25 Jul 2018, 17:14 PM



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