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   Women's Environment and Development Organization Records, 1980-2006, 2013-2018 [Bulk Dates: 1994-1998].

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Women's Environment and Development Organization; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information


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).

At a Glance

Bib ID:5685941 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Women's Environment & Development Organization.
Title:Women's Environment and Development Organization Records, 1980-2006, 2013-2018 [Bulk Dates: 1994-1998].
Physical description:16.5 linear feet (39 document boxes and 1 oversized folder).
Language(s):In English
Access: This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library Reading Room. Please consult the Rare Book and Manuscript Library for further information. This collection has no restrictions except for one folder. This folder is located in Box 12, Folder 5 and is restricted until 2035.  More information »



This collection is arranged into six series. The files are arranged in alphabetical order.

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Scope and Content

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).

Series I: Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), undated, 1980-2006 [Bulk Dates: 1994-1998]

Series I primarily contains WEDO organizational records and is divided into five subseries. The series holds administrative files of WEDO and its predecessor, the Women USA Fund, Inc., Board of Directors minutes and correspondence, subject files, and numerous materials including correspondence, reports, and brochures gathered from conferences attended by WEDO, campaigns organized by others in which WEDO contributed, and other organizations with which WEDO collaborated in some fashion.

Subseries I.1: Administrative Files 1983-2000

The administrative files of WEDO are arranged in alphabetical order. Though primarily administrative files, the subseries also contains several of Mim Kelbers' notebooks and articles written by her on behalf of WEDO. Outlines, notes, and interviews on WEDO history may also be in this series (two microcassettes of these interviews may be found in Subseries V.1) as well as correspondence with and on behalf of Wangari Maathai's 1998 run for the presidency of Kenya. The correspondence is primarily from her daughter, Wanjira, but does contain letters from Wangari Maathai herself.

Subseries I.2: Board of Directors, 1994-2000

This subseries includes Board of Directors, Executive Committee and Steering Committee minutes, agendas, correspondence and memos pertaining to the governance and activities of WEDO.

Subseries I.3: Women USA Fund, Inc., 1984-1994

Women USA Fund, Inc., as a subseries, overlaps slightly with the records of WEDO. Primarily the materials pertain to the early years of WEDO in regards to funding proposals, financial statements, the Fund's work with the Democratic National Committee in 1984, and the development of an environmental-themed t-shirt design that incorporated the autographs of famous female personalities. In 1990, Women USA Fund, Inc., began planning for their World Women's Congress for a Healthy Planet symposium. The Fund established WEDO as the project arm of the Women's Congress. As such, files regarding the Women's Congress are located in this subseries. Official incorporation change to WEDO did not occur until 1995, though the greater majority of WEDO records prior to 1995 are located in Subseries I.1.

Subseries I.4: Subjects, 1980-1994

This subseries contains material that was collected on specific subjects of interest to both Mim Kelber and/or the WEDO organization. Subjects include women in national politics; economic and environmental issues; the Balkans/Kosovo conflict of 1999; Africa; abortion and reproductive rights; gender balance, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Subseries I.5: Conferences, Campaigns and Organizations, 1990-2000

WEDO attended numerous conferences, helped coordinate multiple campaigns, and interacted with many non-United Nations and non-governmental organizations to achieve their goals of engendering issues on International and National platforms. The records contained in this subseries document their work with or attendance at, a wide variety of events and work with these organizations. The materials do not regard WEDO's work with United Nations-sponsored meetings such as the Earth Summit and Agenda 21, the Beijing Conference and its Platform for Action, nor Rio +5 or Beijing+5, though some materials contain references to these United Nations forums. For materials on these conferences, please see Subseries III.1: United Nations Conferences, Campaigns, and Organizations.

Series II: Women's Foreign Policy Council, 1985-1990

The Women's Foreign Policy Council series includes a copy of the original Council proposal, some correspondence, materials on two conferences attended by the Council, an environmental fact sheet developed by the Council, and a copy of the 1987 Women's Foreign Policy Council Directory.

Series III: United Nations, 1972-2000 [Bulk Dates: 1994-1996]

Series III: United Nations is divided into three subseries. The series focuses largely on WEDO's (and to a smaller extent, Women USA Fund and the Foreign Policy Council's) work with and at the United Nations in developing policy, WEDO attendance at major conferences sponsored by UN offices, and tracking subjects of interest regarding the UN including its reform and operation. In addition, there is extensive documentation on the United Nation's monumental World Women's Conference held in Beijing, China, attended by Abzug, Kelber, and several WEDO members, in 1994.

Subseries III.1: Conferences, Campaigns and Organizations, 1979-2000 [Bulk Dates: 1994-1996]

This subseries documents WEDO's work with various United Nations offices including the Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), the Development Programme (UNDP), General Assembly Special Assemblies (UNGASS), and the Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) including conference materials, correspondence, reports, and memos generated by the UN, WEDO, and various NGOs. Of note are materials regarding the Earth Summit Agenda 21 held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and its follow-up session, Rio +5, as well as follow-up to the International Conference on Population and Development (UNICPD) conference held in Cairo in 1994, and the Beijing Women's Conference (Beijing +5). Some materials and correspondence on the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women, held in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985 are also included.

Subseries III.2: World Women's Conference--Beijing, China, 1989-2000 [Bulk Dates: 1994-1996]

While Subseries III.1 contains some materials on the Beijing Conference and its follow-up, Beijing +5, Subseries III.2 holds the greater majority of correspondence, planning documents, memos, reports, and follow-up materials regarding the UN’s 4th conference on women. This series contains items regarding preparation for the conference, WEDO committee work, Platform for Action formulation and proposed re-writes, addresses and statements, and WEDO's work after the conference in order to promote the implementation of the Platform for Action.

Subseries III.3: Subjects, 1972, 1994-2000

This subseries holds material on specific United Nations-related subjects such as reform and restructuring; the 1994 sexual harassment appeal of Catherine Claxton, a junior UN member who accused asst. Secretary General Luis Maria Gomez of harassment in 1991; UN relations with NGOs and the United States; UN women's history and data; staffing issues; and the election of a woman as Secretary General.

Series IV: Abzug, Bella, 1984-2000 [Bulk Dates: 1992-1998]

The WEDO records contained files pertaining directly to Bella Abzug throughout the collection. These materials were pulled together in order to form a comprehensive series of documentation related to Abzug, particularly her death in 1998 including condolence correspondence and Abzug anecdotes (sent to WEDO and Kelber), memorial service arrangements and the establishment of a memorial fund and leadership award in her name. Articles and speeches written by Abzug herself or by Kelber for Abzug, were placed in this series. Also included is a transcript of the 1999 Lifetime Television documentary on Abzug entitled, Intimate Portraits--Bella Abzug and the unpublished manuscript and research of a children's book (1984) on Abzug written by Beatrice Siegel.

Series V: Publications and Printed Matter, 1974-2000 [Bulk Dates: 1994-1998]

The collection contained a variety of pamphlets and brochures, newsletters, journals, magazines and newspaper clippings produced both by WEDO and other organizations. The great majority of these materials have been pulled together in Series V, which is divided into three subseries: V.1: WEDO, Women USA Fund, Inc. and the Women's Foreign Policy Council; V.2: Other organizations by subject and V.3: Oversized Printed Matter. Some printed materials were kept in their original locations. The materials contained here were either filed on their own accord or sprinkled throughout the collection. They are filed together for easier retrieval and organization.

Subseries V.1: Women's Environment and Development Organization, Women's USA Fund, Women's Foreign Policy Council and Mim Kelber, 1987-2002 [Bulk Dates: 1996-1994]

This subseries contains many of the materials produced by WEDO, Women's USA Fund, Inc., or the Foreign Policy Council. The subseries includes WEDO reports on the Beijing Conference, breast cancer, the WEDO News and Views newsletter (1998-2002, incomplete) and Primer publication, a guide to early online activism, pamphlets and brochures from WEDO and the World Women's Conference for a Healthy Planet. The Women's Foreign Policy Council Declaration of Independence and Pledge of Allegiance to the Family of Earth are located in this subseries, while the Council's Women's Foreign Policy Council Directory is located in Series II. Also included in this subseries is a copy of the only novel published by Mim Kelber, entitled A Pride of Women.

Subseries V.2: Other Organizations, 1974-2000

Subseries V.2 contain magazines, journals, newsletters, reports, articles, clippings and papers produced by other organizations and arranged by subject of publication in alphabetical order. Subjects center on women's issues involving the environment, poverty, reproduction and population, the United Nations, the United States and women refugees, violence against women, human rights, and politics.

Subseries V.3: Oversized Printed Matter, 1977-1997.

Four oversized posters have been removed from the general records and placed in oversized storage. The posters include a copy of the Contract with Women of the USA New York Times advertisement, a 1977 copy of the National Women's Conference poster, a 75th Anniversary of Women's Suffrage poster produced by the Center for Policy Alternatives, and a poster from a women's conference held in Modena, Italy in 1997.

Series VI: Audio Visual Material, 1991-2005

Audio visual materials include VHS tapes and DVDs of WEDO public relations reels, Bella Abzug memorials, and interviews conducted by Lee Grant of Mim Kelber for Intimate Portraits-- Bella Abzug. Audio materials include two microcassettes of interviews conducted by Libby Bassett in 2000 for a history of WEDO. Rounding out this series are speeches by Harry Kelber, the husband of Mim Kelber and noted AFL-CIO leader, produced by the AFL-CIO in honor of his union leadership and service.

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Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

 This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library Reading Room. Please consult the Rare Book and Manuscript Library for further information.

This collection has no restrictions except for one folder. This folder is located in Box 12, Folder 5 and is restricted until 2035.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts/University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Women's Environment and Development Organization; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Finding aid in repository; folder level control.

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers processed 5/2/1999 mmb

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.

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion November 7, 2008 Finding aid written in English.
    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

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Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Abzug, Bella S., 1920-1998.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Agenda 21.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Earth Summit Watch (Organization)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Kelber, Mim.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Maathai, Wangari.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Siegel, Beatrice.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Sustainable development.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992 :--Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Women USA Fund, Inc.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Women in sustainable development.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Women's Environment & Development Organization.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Women's Foreign Policy Council (U.S.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
World Conference on Women (1995 :--Beijing, China)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women (1985 :--Nairobi, Kenya)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
World Women's Congress for a Healthy Planet.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Historical Note

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.

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