A Brief History 1971-2013

Seeking more power for women in the political life of the country was the aim of a National Organization for Women taskforce meeting during the early months of 1971. On July 11, 1971 a group of 320 nonpartisan women from 26 states brought together by Gloria Steineim, Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm and Betty Friedan officially launched the National Women's Political Caucus as the political arm of the women's movement.

Women's Political Caucuses formed in Tucson and in the Phoenix area during the fall of 1971, and an ad hoc committee chaired by Tucsonan Marilynn Kalbach led to the first AWPC state meeting on May 20, 1972 at Pima College, with over 200 women attending. During 1972 these caucuses sponsored appearances by Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Flo Kennedy; lobbied the Arizona legislature on bills regarding child care, equality for women employees at Pima College, state funding for dissemination of family planning information, and the status of women in Arizona (Sen. Sandra Day O'Connor's bill); received national attention when members (such as Tucsonan Jo Cauthorn) led a challenge for fair representation of women delegates from Arizona to the 1972 Democratic National Convention; recruited 13 members to run for office; and published legislative candidates' responses to AWPC issues questionnaire. It was a busy beginning.

Members of Arizona Women's Political Caucus have been doing many of these same things for the past 39 years in their quest to increase the number of pro-choice women elected and appointed to office. Getting women involved in the political process while targeting, recruiting, training and supporting women candidates at the local, state and national level has been and remains the primary activity of the Caucus. In 1971 when the group first convened, 14 women served in the Arizona Legislature. In 2012 30 of the 90 members are women.

Along the way AWPC worked for the passage of the ERA in Arizona (failed); supported the creation of the Arizona Women's Commission and Tucson Women's Commission; and lobbied legislators regarding bills related to the health and welfare of women and children, domestic violence and sexual assault, women's civil rights, and reproductive rights. Caucus continues to work in coalition with sister organizations to increase the number of women on local and state boards and commissions and to defend and strengthen women's right to choose abortion while fighting government-imposed restrictions and barriers to reproductive health services.

In 2013 AWPC continues its work to achieve equal representation for all women at all levels of government. Its members truly understand the words of Jill Ruckelshaus spoken in 1977, "We are in for a very, very long haul...I am asking for everything you have to give. We will never give up..."

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A Few Facts

AWPC started in 1971.

In 1971 there were 14 women in the Arizona legislature. Today there are 30.

AWPC is a nonpartisan group supporting equal rights for women.

Isabella Greenway was the first Arizona Congresswomen, who served from 1933-1937.

Frances Munds and Rachel Berry were both leaders of the Arizona suffrage movement. Munds was the first women elected to the Arizona Senate and Berry was elected to the House in 1914. This was the first year women were eligible to run.

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