spirit_of_houston001-ccCourtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library.

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the National Women’s Conference held November 18-21, 1977.  At this momentous event, 2000 elected delegates and around 20,000 observers descended upon Houston, Texas, to participate in the first and only federally funded National Women’s Conference in U.S. history.  Hosted in a Sunbelt city on the rise, this conference was the domestic answer to the United Nations’ International Women’s Year official conference and NGO tribune held in Mexico City in 1975. The Houston Conference reflected the tensions of a nation at a crossroad with some seeing it as a promising expression of a more representative, rights-centered democracy and others viewing it as a liberal cooptation of taxpayers’ dollars.

We invite you to take stock of this historic gathering and its continued relevance at an academic symposium and participant reunion held at University of Houston and the surrounding area on November 5-7, 2017. The conference remains one of the most imaginative and wide-ranging exercises in civic engagement realized in the twentieth century, and we seek to draw attention to the diversity, ingenuity, and determination of participants who dared to dream up concrete policy goals of “what women want.” We expect to carry on the conversation in Houston once again this fall, looking forward to the challenges women face in the early twenty-first century as we reflect on past successes and failures.