Gainesville NOW held its first meeting on October 11, 1972 at the Center for United Ministries as a local chapter of the National Organization for Women. Originally started by Edna Saffy, this chapter was the largest women's organization in Gainesville.
Members were nominated and appointed to officer positions by the chapter's Nominating Committee composed of one member from each consciousness raising group. Not only were members elected to the positions defined in the by-laws, the Nominating Committee had the ability to temporarily change the leadership structure itself. In 1976, the Committee changed the leadership from a single coordinator to a three interim co-coordinator structure to better able address the upcoming events and actions. They noted that for these positions to become permanent, they would need to bring the issue to a vote in a general meeting. As in most documents during this time, the newsletters do not indicate dissent or ill-will from members who opposed the change.
The chapter's membership numbers changed throughout the years. In 1973, the chapter had 150 members on the mailing list, 48 paid total members, and 25 "intensely active" members. By 1978, there was only one paid member and the newsletter had not been mailed for over a year.
The chapter organized many subcommittees with which to discuss specific issues which came up in the community. Task Forces set the chapter's agenda and were responsible with bringing issues up for discussion in the general body. In a way, Task Forces were the driving force for setting the chapter's actions and directed the issues in which the organization would pursue. Task Force issues were set by Florida NOW during the annual State Council meetings, but each chapter organized the Task Force groups according to which issues they decided to focus on. Gainesville NOW Task Forces included women in sports, anti-rape and rape defense, job discrimination, abortion and reproductive rights, child abuse, and other event-specific groups (e.g. ERA).
In each of the newsletters contained in this archive, editors include detailed updates and events from each Task Force in an attempt to get other members to become active in these groups. The success of each chapter depended on the ability of the Task Force to direct volunteers and successfully organize events relating to specific issues. Membership was a continued issue for the chapter. Not only were Task Forces used to reach out to new members who may be only interested in single issues, it also helped increase the ability for the group to focus on specific issues without becoming overburdened. These groups were used to increase general membership by targeting potential members who were either on the fence about becoming involved or more active.
Task Force chairs were either voted by members of the chapter or were appointed by the Nominating Committee. After being elected, the chairs also served on the chapter's Nominating Committee and held the power to appoint other members to office positions.
University of Florida Campus NOW
University of Florida Campus NOW, also referred to as Campus NOW, UF/SFCC Campus NOW, or simply UF NOW, was a chapter of Florida NOW at the University of Florida and Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida. Until 1973, it was the only Florida NOW chapter based out of a college campus. Members from the Campus chapter helped the convenor of the then newly formed Panama City NOW chapter.
In the early 1970s, UF Campus NOW was a "joint chapter" with Gainesville NOW. It operated under the direction from Gainesville NOW leadership. Events and meetings were often cosponsored and officers held duties with both chapters. The distinction between chapters was on paper only and done "to please the University." During the mid-1970s, members often crossed over and participated in actions and events without stating whether these meetings were specific to Gainesville or to Campus NOW. Campus chapter members were considered members of the Gainesville chapter and were able go to either chapter's meetings. Gainesville NOW newsletters included sections about UF Campus NOW events and information and often encouraged attendance to these events. Membership dues for UF Campus NOW were paid first to Florida NOW and to the University of Florida student organization. If Campus members wanted to become members of Gainesville, they were able to pay reduced dues to the Gainesville chapter.
In February 1976, UF Campus NOW split from Gainesville NOW and became an independent chapter. Citing differences in which political issues to focus on, both groups felt it would be more effective to target the issues which concerned them. Gainesville NOW was focused on City Commission races and employment discrimination. UF Campus NOW focused on Student Government elections and rape prevention. After the split, communication between officers in both organizations was "a little shaky at first," but eventually each chapter sent representatives to each other's business meetings and worked in parallel actions.
Although the organizations were distinct on paper after the split, there was a visible chapter hierarchy with many of Gainesville NOW's issues leading Campus NOW's platform.
Relationship with Judy Levy NOW
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- Box 21 Folder 5 Document 26 p. 4