Chronology of Highlights in History of Wisconsin Women’s Movement (1984-2000)

January 1984 - The Wisconsin Women’s Council has identified a number of areas of interest including comparable worth. Hannah Rosenthal has been named Executive Director of the Council. Roberta Gassman is the governor’s adviser on women’s issues.

Spring 1984 - On March 13, 1984, after six years of debate and 46 bill drafts, the Assembly passed the bill previously passed by the Senate to change Wisconsin’s property laws for married couples to a community property system. Wisconsin is the first state ever to make that change. It will become effective on January 1, 1986. It is expected to make much business for lawyers, most of whom were early opponents of the bill.

Spring 1984 - The Advisory Council on Women Offenders has submitted to the Department of Corrections 30 pages of recommendations for improvements in the way that women in the criminal justice system are treated.

Spring 1984 - “Time Out: A Conference for Coaches of High School Girls” is being offered by U.W. Madison and University Extension to explore relevant research and experience regarding the differences in coaching girls compared to boys. Speakers and workshops will interest both male and female coaches.

Spring 1984 - The governor has appointed a prestigious task force to make recommendations regarding a pay equity system in the state civil service. This matter is expected to raise great controversy in coming months and years.

Spring 1984 - According to the last census every county in Wisconsin has women farm operators. Dane County is leading with 140 women farming 12,666 acres valued at $145,000.

Spring 1984 - An initial hearing on a bill to license both nurse midwives and lay midwives brought a large group to the Capitol to give testimony on all sides of the issues.

Spring 1984 - A program initiated by Dane County District Attorney James Doyle, Jr. is bringing help to prostitutes for rebuilding their lives. Participants must volunteer for the program of education, work, and/or volunteer work.

Spring 1984 - Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision (Grove City College vs. Bell) that Title IX requires sex equity only in the specific education program that receives federal funds, advocates are pressing the Department of Public Instruction to revise and expand Wisconsin Statute 118.13 that is all inclusive. Senator Barbara Lorman and the Wisconsin Women’s Network are working with DPI.

Spring 1984 - A new organization called “Concerned Women of America,” founded by Beverly Haye of San Diego, is taking credit for defeating the ERA, saying that the group is not replacing Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum but just backing it up.

Summer 1984 - University Extension is offering a series of noncredit classes in the evening to assist married couples to understand the financial changes required under the new marital property law.

Summer 1984 - The State Civil Service Act (1976) supported “alternative work patterns,” and at last rules have been promulgated giving state agencies permission to establish part-time and flexible work hours and job sharing arrangements. Women and workers nearing retirement will be the primary seekers of these benefits. Rep. Midge Miller was their major proponent.

Summer 1984 - Anti-abortion clinics are being opened to give pregnant women information on alternatives to abortion.

Summer 1984 - Under the Reagan administration the U.S. policy of encouraging other countries to adopt family planning programs as an aid to economic well-being is being abandoned and replaced and now will prohibit any grants to governmental agencies to be used for providing abortions as well as prohibiting U.S. grants to private agencies that provide abortion services.

Fall 1984 - On September 21 and 22 University Extension and the Wisconsin Women’s Network sponsored a statewide leadership conference “Wisconsin Women: Educating, Activating, Advocating” at the Memorial Union in Madison. With Kathryn Clarenbach as keynote speaker, Mary Berry of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission was the featured speaker. Forty-five workshops were presented; issues on Friday and skill-building on Saturday. On a panel ” Personal Perspectives on Power and Responsibilities” chaired by Ruth Clusen, former president of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. and former deputy director of the U.S. Dep’t of Energy; were Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson; U.W. Law Prof. Carin Clauss; former State Senator Katie Morrison; Kathleen Nichols, Gov’s Council on Gay and Lesbian Rights; Hannah Rosenthal, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Women’s Council; Laurie Wynn, Governor’s Advisor on Black Affairs; and Gene Boyer, vice president of the NOW-Legal Defense and Education Fund. Saturday evening’s grand finale featured a concert by singer Ronnie Gilbert, formerly with the Weavers.

Fall 1984 - A new U.S. Office of Management and Budget ruling will prohibit all non-profit organizations that receive any federal funds from lobbying or even gathering or providing information about voting records of members of Congress. On the other hand, commercial firms receiving federal funds and contracts can deduct lobbying expenses from their federal income taxes.

Fall 1984 - The Wisconsin Women’s Council has passed a resolution which reads in part: “Therefore the Wisconsin Women’s Council joins with the Equal Rights Council of the State of Wisconsin in urging local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities to vigorously enforce all laws to protect women’s health clinics and their patients and immediately commence an investigation of the physical intrusions into and bombings of such clinics and prosecute those found to have conspired to commit or committed such acts.

December 1984 - Several projects are working to increase educational equity in schools. The Legislature has strengthened 118.13 by increasing its coverage; the Women’s Council has initiated a “Choices” program to provide small funds for community organizations to use in serving at-risk teen-age girls; the Wisconsin Coalition for Sex Equity in education is working with teachers; the AAUW is monitoring schools in Eau Claire and Green Bay; and the League of Women Voters-Dane County is encouraging local schools to improve programs for girls in science, math, and also in athletics.

March 1985 - The Wisconsin Difference coalition and the Child Care Task Force of the Wisconsin Women’s Network are working on several bills to improve child care. Especially important are increased subsidies for low-income families, licensing of day-care facilities, funding of private day-care facilities near workplaces, and pilot educational programs for teen parents.

September 1985 - A record number of unplanned pregnancies, particularly among teenagers, and the profound public disagreement about abortion prompted the Legislature to establish the Special Committee on Pregnancy Options almost a year ago. The Reproductive Rights Task Force of the Wisconsin Women’s Network is following the committee’s work. Its recommendations have been made to the Legislature.

October 1985 - The Pregnancy Options bill (see September 1985) passed unanimously. It establishes: an Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Services Board with a $500,000 annual appropriation to discourage adolescent sexual activity; an adoption service; $150,000 to the Cooperative Educational Service Agencies in the school districts to implement a Human Growth and Development curriculum. Among other provisions, it also makes trespassing on a medical facility a Class B misdemeanor, requires abortion providers to have a written policy encouraging a minor to inform her parents of her intention to seek an abortion, and most controversial of all, it retains the outdated criminal abortion law.

December 1985 - The Legislature passed the “Family Responsibility and Abortion Prevention Act” requiring all school districts to establish citizen advisory committees to develop a human growth and development curriculum. Funds are to be available to either school boards or Cooperative Education Service Agencies for providing technical assistance to the schools in preparing plans and materials. A recent poll confirms that parents want help from the schools in communicating effectively with their children.

March 1986 - Pregnancy counseling centers are offering free pregnancy testing but are in reality intend only to discourage clients from seeking abortions. They frighten women with medical misinformation, make them feel guilty, and offer financial and moral support for carrying the pregnancy to term.

July 1986 - The Department of Public Instruction has issued its proposed administrative regulations to implement Wisconsin’s revised section 118.13 of the statutes that prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, national origin, ancestry, creed, pregnancy, marital or parental status, sexual orientation or physical, mental, emotional or learning disability. No opponents testified at the hearing but the Wisconsin Association of School Boards has made several written objections such as the inclusion of “bias and stereotyping” in the definition of discrimination and the requirement that school districts evaluate the current status of discrimination before implementing a non-discrimination policy.

August 1987 - Governor Tommy Thompson has vetoed several provisions of the budget bill that affect women. They involve a wide range of issues: pay equity, welfare, taxes, the Women’s Council, the Choices Initiative, Human Growth and Development, school-linked health clinics, pregnancy prevention, child support, child care, and children-at-risk, education equity, displaced homemaker programs, domestic abuse programs, and health insurance.

December 1987 - A “Family and Medical Leave” bill has been introduced that would allow employees of a company of unspecified size to take up to 25 weeks of unpaid leave over a two-year period for care of a newborn baby or adopted or foster child; to care for a sick child, spouse or parent; or to recover from a disabling health condition. The same or an equivalent job must be provided upon the employee’s return to work.

January 1988 - Several Wisconsin women attended a “Women’s Agenda” conference in Iowa, in Des Moines, where five Democratic presidential candidates gave their positions on women’s issues. No Republicans accepted the invitation to participate.

March 1988 - The Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault has invited the public to use its resource center in Madison at 1051 Williamson Street.

March 1988 - The Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Services Board, evenly divided between pro-choice and anti-choice advocates, is divided on whether to provide funds to a Catholic-funded organization in Milwaukee, Rosalie Manor. The rules specify that no pervasively sectarian organization may receive the funding, so the Board must make very difficult decisions.

June 1988 - The Wisconsin Women’s Network has listed three themes as part of a “year of recommitment.” They are Women and Family, Women and the Workplace, and Women and Legal Rights.

October 1988 - Betty Friedan was the featured speaker at a retirement dinner honoring Kathryn Clarenbach for her many contributions to the women’s movement in Wisconsin and the nation.

Best known as the first and long-time chair of the Wisconsin Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, as the Executive Director of the 1977 National Women’s Conference, and as a founder of the Wisconsin Women’s Network, Clarenbach’s many eloquent speeches and writings have played a major role in defining and implementing the goals of the women’s movement.

February 1989 - The death of Catherine Conroy, long-time leader in the labor and women’s movements was honored at a service at Alverno College.

February 1989 - The Wisconsin Women’s Network held Legislative Breakfasts in both Madison and Milwaukee at which presentations were made to legislators regarding priority issues for the coming sessions.

April 1989 - Members of the National Organization for Women-Wisconsin joined their national “March for Women’s Equality/Women’s Lives” in Washington. Their demand for reproductive rights and the ERA were aimed at newly-elected President George Bush.

July 1989 - The U.S. Supreme Court in Webster vs Missouri did not overturn Roe vs. Wade, but did undercut “choice” in reproductive matters by allowing states to prohibit public funds being used for abortion or abortion counseling. Wisconsin had already done so.

April 1990 - Gov. Thompson signs into law a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allowing adults to appoint another adult as their health care agent to make any and all decisions if the appointing individual becomes mentally or physically unable to make such decisions. Wisconsin Women’s Network encloses a copy in The Stateswoman newsletter.

August 1990 - National Women’s Health Network warns that estrogen replacement drugs may have a negative effect on heart health.

December 1990 - Congress passes Child Care Block Grant bill targeting families that earn up to 75% of the state median income. Wisconsin will receive $11.8 million for 1991.

March 1991 - Wisconsin establishes a Legislative Hotline to which people may telephone for information on the status of bills, hearing dates, and other information on legislative matters.

June 1991 - The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Title X “Gag Rule” prohibiting family planning agencies that receive federal funds from informing clients of abortion as an option in an unwanted pregnancy.

September 1991 - Governor Thompson’s Budget vetoes are cutting many services for low- income women including $100,000 to family planning clinic for treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

September 1991 - A research team at Carnegie Mellon University shows that workers in union plants were 35% more productive than those in non-union plants.

March 1992 - Budget shortfall blamed on Wisconsin’s high welfare payments that attract AFDC recipients from other states, an accusation that arouses much controversy.

April 1992 - Wisconsin passes Quality Child Care bill to improve programs that receive funds from the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant.

June 1992 - The U.S. Supreme Court upholds restrictions on reproductive rights in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey. States may now pass restrictions on abortion rights as long as they do not place an “undue burden” on the client.

September 1992 - Education Equity Task Force of the Wisconsin Women’s Network begins investigating the All-State Scholars program in an effort to find out why more girls are nominated by their high schools but more boys receive the college scholarships.

January 1993 - A Women’s Candidate Development Coalition has formed to help recruit and train women to run for political offices.

July-September 1993 - At the request of the Wisconsin Equal Justice Task Force the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ordered the creation of a Gender Equity Committee to study and make recommendation on efforts to eliminate gender-related problems in the delivery of legal services.

October-December 1993 - The Legislature is considering a bill to require human growth and development curricula to be “factual, medically accurate and free of bias and stereotypes.”

March 1994 - Long-time national and Wisconsin feminist leader, Kathryn Frederick Clarenbach dies. Executive Director of 1977 National Women’s Conference and long-time Chair of Wisconsin Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, she is widely mourned.

March 1994 - A sexual harassment bill has passed that requires written policies and procedures in the workplace in Wisconsin.

Spring 1994 - The National Organization for Women (NOW) starts a new group lobbying for Lesbian, gay, and bi-sexual rights: “Action Wisconsin: A Congress for Human Rights.”

May 1994 - President Clinton signs the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) bill.

June 1994 - Wisconsin Women’s Network’s Health Care Task Force sends a representative to national conference in Washington seeking, among other issues, a single-payer health insurance system and home-care for long-term needs.

Fall 1994 - Feminist groups question “joint custody” regarding children in divorce cases. In such cases, financial support is usually absent. Furthermore if either parent objects to joint custody, problems for the children are likely to follow.

April 1995 - Pro-Choice groups conduct “Rally for Life” demonstration in Washington, D.C. Several Wisconsin women attend.

April-June 1995 - Wisconsin Senate again considers “gag rule” prohibiting family planning clinics from providing information about abortion as an option for an unwanted pregnancy. It did not pass.

April-June 1995 - Gov. Thompson’s proposed budget eliminates one-and-a-half positions from the Wisconsin Women’s Council, leaving only one full-time staff to fulfill the Council’s statutory mandate to “identify and eliminate all barriers that prevent women in this state from participating equally in all aspects of life.”

October-December 1995 - The State’s welfare reform program threatens inadequate income and family services for single mothers and their children.

January-March 1996 - The Wisconsin Supreme Court approves right of same-sex partner to see her former partner’s child if she has participated in the child’s upbringing.

March 1996 - Women’s groups participate in the 4th annual “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.”

August 1996 - Statue often called “Miss Forward, moved from Pinckney-Mifflin Street entrance to the Capitol in Madison, has been recast and is rededicated at the Carroll-Mifflin Street entrance.

September 1996 - The Wisconsin Women’s Network holds the “Wisconsin Women’s Summit” in Oshkosh with 125 participants. Workshops include “Women as Economic Players; Violence and Conflict; Economic Equity; Feminization of Power; Health; Education; Human & Legal Rights; and Poverty.”

January 1997 - Founders, former officers, and long-time participants with the Wisconsin Women’s Network meet to consider disbanding but, instead, decide to rebuild the organization and its programs. All present believed they had benefited personally both from participation as well as from the social and economic changes the Network has advocated and advanced.

January 1998 - Wisconsin Works (W2) has replaced AFDC and now requires recipients to work, but some are unaware of the following exception in the law as administered in Wisconsin. The bottom line: “If safe and affordable child care cannot be found, the mother is not required to work and her benefits continue.”

January 1998 - Sexual orientation is added to the list of “protected classes” listed in the federal Employment Non-discrimination Act of 1997.

April 1998 - The Wisconsin law requiring a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can receive an abortion is upheld in the U.S. District Court. Further appeals are unlikely to be successful.

June 1998 - The National Organization for Women (NOW) is presenting a mixed-media program to school students called “Redefining Liberation” which makes them aware of discrimination and stereotyping in the media.

July 27,1998 - Dr. Elizabeth Karlin dies of a brain tumor. Liz Karlin was an activist feminist who established a women’s health clinic and became a major target of anti-choice forces. Her courage and commitment are remembered everywhere.

August 26, 1998 - The 150th anniversary of the passage of the Woman’s Suffrage Law is celebrated with a reception in the temporary Senate Chambers with a one-person presentation of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s speeches.

August 1998 - Wisconsin Women’s Network establishes a website.

August 1999 - The Education Fund of the Wisconsin Women’s Network commissions Wider Opportunities for Women to conduct a county-by-county study to determine the true cost of living without government support in Wisconsin, the Self-Sufficiency Standard. The study will begin in January 2000.

June 2000 - The United Nations is preparing for 5-year review of the Platform for Action passed at Beijing in 1995. It lists 12 areas of critical acclaim: Poverty; Education and Training; Health; Violence; Armed Conflict; Economy; Decision-making; Institutional Mechanisms; Human Rights; Media; Environment; and The Girl-Child.

Also see: Introduction to the 60’s & 70’s | 1960’s | 1970’s | Introduction to the late 70’s-2000 | 1977-1983 | 1984-2000