Scope and arrangement
The Women's Action Coalition Records trace the rise and fall of a direct-action group often considered part of the "Third Wave" of feminism in the early 1990s. The records are almost entirely those of WAC-New York, although there are files on the activities of WAC Boston and scattered files about other chapters. The bulk of the material dates from 1992 and 1993.
The Coalition's records contain administrative, committee, action, and subject files. Photographs, mostly taken by WAC members, T-shirts and stickers, press clippings documenting WAC's activities, and an extensive collection of banners, posters, placards, and props used in demonstrations capture the feeling and composition of the organization. Video recordings cover WAC actions and include Laura Cottingham's video oral history concerning her participation in the organization.
The Women's Action Coalition records are arranged in nine series:
- 1989-2003, undated
The administrative files consist of a certificate of incorporation, meeting minutes, guidelines for facilitators and treasurers, proposals and correspondence relating to the publication of WAC Stats, contact lists, guidelines for starting a WAC chapter, files on WAC chapters in other cities, copies of the WAC logo and stationery, press lists, and WAC Circle, its bimonthly publication.
- 1992-1997, undated
This series contains brochures and reports on subjects of special interest to women. They include breast cancer, rape, sexual harassment, abortion, police brutality, women in prison, teenage reproductive issues, portrayal of women in the media, and violence against women.
Some files contain information on events to which WAC responded not with direct action, but through formal and informal letter writing campaigns. Some of these campaigns concerned the naming of a pub after Jack the Ripper, a degrading article in the Harvard Law Review about a deceased feminist lawyer, and "pro-life" advertising on TBS (Turner Broadcasting System). There is also information about other women's and feminist organizations.
Several folders contain newspaper clippings and magazine articles drawn from New York City metropolitan area publications, national popular magazines, like Cosmopolitan and Ms.; as well as art journals.
- 1992-1993, undated
This series contains information about some of the many committees that helped WAC plan its activities. They include Action Planning, Coordination, Facilitator, Finance, Media Watch and Outreach. As time went on, two committees became the most volatile: the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, and the Lesbian Caucus. These committees brought "consciousness raising" issues before a large and extremely diverse group of women.
This series contains proposals, planning information and ideas, leaflets, and news clippings about many of WAC's protest actions. The first file contains WAC's chronology of its actions. Included are files on the St. John's University action, Mother's and Father's Day, pink slips for Bush and Quayle, the Glen Ridge high school rape trial, the 1992 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and the March on Washington (March for Women's Lives). In addition, there is information about the Pace Gallery and SoHo Guggenheim actions which protested the absence of women artists and artists of color in art shows.
There is also information about less direct action-oriented projects such as Art In The Anchorage and the Postcards to Bill Clinton campaign. Also included is a file containing many of the Request for Coverage letters concerning these actions.
- 1992-1994, undated
The correspondence contains letters from women all over the United States asking WAC for information. The letters also included words of encouragement, support, and agreement with WAC's ideals. Some women volunteered to start a branch of WAC in their hometowns, though this correspondence does not indicate any follow-through.
The correspondence came from an enormously diverse group of women, representing both urban and rural women, and all ages, from teenagers to senior grandmothers. Frequently the correspondents mentioned discovering WAC through articles published in Harper's Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, New York, Elle, and Sassy. A small number of the letters are very personal, talking about violence and rape, and some of these letters ask directly for help.
- 1991-1995, undated
This series contains photographs taken by members of WAC, including Mary Beth Edelson, Terise Slotkin, and Harriet Zucker. The majority of photographs are black and white, although there are some color snapshots of meetings and actions.
- circa 1992-1993
This series contains chiefly props used in WAC actions, including drums, pink slips, dildos, stickers, and T-shirts.
- circa 1992-1993
This series contains banners, placards and posters. The banners are quite large and unwieldy, but are in good condition. Most of them are black or white fabric. Box 23 contains three banners from the action against Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY). The placards used at the 1992 Republican National Convention are currently stored flat although they were in a triangular prism shape when used.
- 1992, 1995, undated
This series contains video footage by and about WAC. The Rudy Watch series, created and produced by WAC, aired on public access television. Included in the episodes are on-the-street interviews with women about their opinion of Rudolph Giuliani's job performance as mayor of New York and other reports on topics of special interest to WAC members. The Year in WAC 1992 was a documentary produced by Lifetime Television.
Of special interest is the video oral history of Laura Cottingham, a member of WAC-NYC. In her video, which she produced to accompany gift of the WAC Records to the New York Public Library, she describes her part in the organization and her reasons for leaving the coalition. The WAC-Boston video contains clips and reports of actions taken by the Boston chapter during 1995.