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Using the Collection
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Series I: Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), 1980-2006, undated, bulk 1994-1998
Series III: United Nations, 1972-2000, bulk 1994-1996
Series V: Publications and Printed Matter, 1974-2000, bulk 1994-1998
At a Glance
This collection is arranged into 7 series. The files are arranged in alphabetical order.
The records of the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) document its political advocacy for women's equality in formulating global policy, and highlights founders New York State Representative, Bella Abzug (1920-1988) and feminist activist, Miriam "Mim" Kelber (1922-2004).
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
This collection has no restrictions except for one folder. This folder is located in Box 12, Folder 5 and is restricted until 2035.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Women's Environment and Development Organization records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Other Finding Aids: Bella S. Abzug, 1920- Papers, 1970-1976
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers processed mmb 5/2/1999.
This collection was processed by Tanya Elder and Lea Osborne.
Finding aid written by Tanya Elder in December 2007.
Finding aid updated by Lea Osborne in February 2008.
Collection is processed to folder level.
2008-11-07 File created.
2009-01-13 xml document instange created by Patrick Lawlor
2009-06-10 xml document instange created by Catherine N. Carson
2017-03-30 Archived Website series added by Jane Gorjevsky
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
The Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), is a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded by former New York State Representative Bella Abzug (1920-1988) and Miriam "Mim" Kelber (1922-2004), among others. Its goal is to advocate for women's equality in global policy.
Abzug and Kelber were high school friends and classmates at Hunter College in New York City. Both were feminists and activists from their early years. Kelber was the New York news editor for the labor-syndicated Federated Press from 1943-1955 while Abzug, after graduating from Columbia University Law School in 1947, became one of a few privately practicing female lawyers. Abzug and Kelber (among others), co-founded the "Women Strike for Peace" campaign, one of the first groups of the 1960s to protest the Vietnam War.
When Bella Abzug was elected to the New York State House of Representatives in 1971, Kelber became her executive assistant and speech writer until Abzug left office in 1978. Kelber also chaired the National Women's Political Caucus media committee. President Jimmy Carter appointed Abzug to the chair of his National Advisory Committee for Women, and Kelber served as its policy consultant and writer. When Carter fired Abzug as head of the advisory committee in 1979 after it actively criticized Carter for budget cuts, both women left the administration. Together they went on to establish the organization that would eventually become WEDO: the Women USA Fund., Inc.
Women USA Fund was incorporated in 1980 as an action and information network for the "woman who wants to help win equality and justice for all women." The Fund established a 24-hour hotline for action alerts, lobbied for women's representation in Washington, DC government, and sponsored and organized educational forums, symposiums, and conferences. In 1985, the Women USA Fund developed a proposal (written by Kelber) to establish the non-partisan Women's Foreign Policy Council. According to the original proposal, the Council aimed to enhance the visibility of women in public debate formulation and the conduct of American foreign policy on a variety of issues; encourage the opening of national and international political roles for women as foreign policy leaders; and to serve as a "Women's 'Shadow' State Department" in order to propose alternative, peace-oriented policies and analyses of constructive solutions to world problems. A major goal of this fledgling organization was to develop and write the first-ever comprehensive directory of women foreign policy specialists and organizations working in the realm of International Affairs. Abzug served as the policy chair of the directory and the group, while Kelber served as its Editorial Director (a position that she would later assume at WEDO as well). "The Women's Foreign Policy Council Directory" was published in 1987 and included a picture, areas of expertise, recent professional experience, professional appointments and memberships, and contact information. Additional listings included contacts for female members of the U.S. Congress, foreign heads of state, organizations working on war and peace issues, United Nations and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) leaders and other contacts. The Council also established an aggressive public relations campaign and aimed to sponsor public debates on major issues with both male and female participants.
The Women's USA Fund began planning a major conference in 1990 under the title, the "World Women's Congress on a Healthy Planet." The project was launched under the name of the "Women's Environment and Development Organization" or "WE-DO." The Congress was held in Miami, Fl. in 1991 and prepared the way for women's involvement at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED Earth Summit, 1992, Rio de Janeiro) by producing a Women's Action Agenda 21 to help shape the dialogue of the UNCED from a woman's perspective. While closely related to the United Nations' own "21st century agenda" known as Agenda 21 (a sprawling, 900-page all-encompassing action document) produced at the Rio summit, WEDO's Women's Action Agenda 21 provided a uniquely woman-centric perspective regarding the environment, poverty, war, and disease. The Miami Congress itself became known as a major event in women's international organizing history and established a strong network of women working on environmental and development issues.
In 1994, the Fund published "Women and Government: New Ways to Political Power" edited by Kelber. This work, sponsored by the Stanley Foundation, was a survey of six European countries analyzing the success of their women's movements and the advancement of women in their governments, and how these successes could be applied to American politics. On January 27, 1995, Women USA Fund, Inc., officially changed its name to the Women's Environment and Development Organization.
WEDO's mission was similar to the Women USA Fund, Inc., in that WEDO would serve as an organ to disseminate general information to the public, though WEDO established a broader mission to encourage academics and other communities to research and write on women's policy issues, provide technical assistant and training to empower women and develop leadership skills, and like the Women USA Fund, to sponsor conferences and symposiums. Beginning in 1991, WEDO organizers served on the United Nation's Commission on the Status of Women, in preparation for the UN's Fourth Woman's Conference (1995), held in Beijing, China. WEDO worked after the conference to disseminate conference information, track government and UN commitments, hone the language of the Conference's "Platform for Action" lobby politicians, and attend follow-up sessions (Beijing +5, 2000). In 1996, WEDO developed the "Contract with Women of the USA" campaign as a counter to Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America." The WEDO Contract adopted key elements of the Beijing Platform for Action and applied them to American women as a feminist response to the Republican Contract.
After Abzug's death in 1998, WEDO helped to establish a memorial fund in her name, the Abzug Leadership Award. Kelber left her position as editorial director at WEDO the same year and continued to work with WEDO as a non-staff member. Mim Kelber died in 2004 and was survived by her husband, AFL-CIO leader, Harry Kelber, and daughters Karli and Laura.
The organization has consistently been involved with world politicians, activists, feminists, and other notable and "ordinary" women who have helped with WEDO projects or served on the Board of Directors. Prime among these women is Wangari Maathai, a WEDO board member and co-founder, who was the first president of the African Union (2005) and Nobel Prize (2004) recipient "for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace." WEDO continues its work on behalf of women in the memories of Bella Abzug and Mim Kelber.