Florida National Organization for Women

From Florida NOW Archive
Jump to: navigation, search

The Florida National Organization for Women is the state office of the National Organization for Women.


Historical context

The most notable event during the post-war period of 1955-1965 was the Charley Johns Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, more commonly referred to as the “Johns Committee.” This group was created in 1956 by the Florida Legislature to investigate and harass state employees suspected of being associated with the communist party or homosexuals —both groups whose actions were considered illegal. Many of the testimonies during the investigations were forged or obtained under coercion. The committee also employed private investigators to befriend suspects or serve as decoys, bugged hotel rooms and private residences, and seized medical records and human resource documents to charge individuals and have them fired.[1] In comparison to other areas of the US, this committee was not unusual. Many southern states created similar boards to investigate “subversives” and to remove them from their jobs as public employees[2]

Notable actions


In 1973, the state office had many appointed and elected positions to facilitate events, appoint members to organizational seats, and fulfill other logistical needs. The Chairone was the public face and spokesperson for the organization. The State Council was a group comprised of five officers elected at the annual conference and a representative from each chartered chapter in the state. The chapter Coordinators were appointed by the State Council to work on different areas of organizing (e.g. legislative, membership, finance) and the Council's duties were similar to a "board of directors." State Coordinators were tasked with communicating between each of the women working in the state office and with chapter membership. The Coordinator was also the primary contact between members and the regional director during the process to convene new chapters.[3]

Chapter organization

Local chapters were "convened," or founded by volunteers seeking to start a group in their area. The months-long process involved paperwork and correspondence between the state coordinator (a position later renamed to "president") and the convenor of the local chapter. After discussing a new chapter, the Regional Director would mail convenor's kits to the convenor of the local chapter so that they could be briefed on the basics of chapter organization. The kit usually contained brochures and other information. In addition to the National NOW convenor's kit, the state office had their own kit with information about Florida-specific organizing and politics which they also mailed to the convenor.[4]

After receiving these kits, the chapters would be assigned a provisional charter by the state office. When new chapters were given the charter, they were sometimes assigned "sister chapters" to assist the newly elected officers transition to their positions. This informal assignment was organized by the the state president and was offered to the larger, established chapters as an effort to help other chapters and network with other volunteers.[5]

For approval of the provisional charter application, local chapters were required to have at least ten dues-paying members, officer positions, a dues paying system that was able to sustain the group's expenses for one year, chapter by-laws or operating rules, a monthly newsletter, plans to follow national and state NOW projects, and a plan to hold nine regular meetings per year.[6] Once the Chair of the state By-Laws Committee audits the by-laws and verifies the membership count, the charter is then given to the Chair-One of national NOW for signature, and finally given back to the Regional Director for additional signature and notification to the applicant chapter of approval.[7] The provisional charter process took several months for approval, but the members of the applicant group met regularly and held meetings and events during this time. In fact, groups that were seen as "action oriented" and particularly active would receive an expedited authorization for full charter.[8]

Active chapters

In September 1973, there were 21 active chapters in Florida and 7 in the process of being convened.[9]


  1. Howard, John. Carryin’ on in the Lesbian and Gay South. pp. 133-136. NYU Press, 1997.
  2. "Reports of Investigators on Meetings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Ku Klux Klan." Florida State Library and Archives. Florida Memory. http://web.archive.org/web/20140701222418/http://floridamemory.com/exhibits/floridahighlights/investigation/ Archived 1 Jul 2014.
  3. Box 23 Folder 1 Document 10 p. 3
  4. Box 23 Folder 10 Document 2 p. 1
  5. Box 20 Folder 3 Document 7 p. 1
  6. Box 23 Folder 10 Document 2 p. 1
  7. Box 20 Folder 4 Document 3 p. 1
  8. Box 20 Folder 3 Document 27 p. 1
  9. Box 24 Folder 1 Document 4 p. 1