"Women of conscience" or "women of conviction"? : the National Women's Committee on Civil Rights
This paper explores the history of the National Women's Committee on Civil Rights (NWCCR). Called into being at the behest of President Kennedy, the NWCCR was an attempt to enlist the support of the organized women of America in the advancement of civil rights. The NWCCR had two main goals: first, to offer support for the passage of Kennedy's civil rights legislation, and second, to encourage their branch membership to work in support of integration. However, whilst the majority of the NWCCR's affiliated organizations had passed resolutions in favour of integration both throughout the United States and within their own organization, in practice they were reluctant to threaten the internal stability of their associations by insisting on either integrated membership or active support of civil rights in the local community. This article will argue that whilst the NWCCR were successful in organizing lobbying for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, they were unwilling to throw their weight behind efforts to encourage activism in local communities. Whilst key members of the NWCCR saw an important role for women in the implementation of civil rights at the community level, they were forced to conclude that the organizational structure and ethical inertia of the NWCCR did not make it a suitable medium for furthering racial justice.