The Delaware Women's Conference, Inc., began in 1984 as a community placement of the Junior League of Wilmington to organize an annual statewide conference with the purpose of disseminating information of interest to women, was unique Delaware tradition created by all volunteers.
The Junior League developed the concept, provided the organization and volunteers, subsidized the costs, and was the corporate entity for the initial conference, and for three subsequent conferences. The Women's Center and the Delaware Commission for Women were also sponsors for the first conference. The League's direct financial contribution ended after the 1987 conference. In the early years of the conference, the YWCA of New Castle County was also a sponsor and over the years there were a number of corporate contributors, such as the DuPont Company and the United Way of Delaware, which provided scholarship money.
The Delaware Women's Conference, which was officially incorporated on February 14, 1989, was governed by a Board of Directors, comprising between seven and eleven members, who provided policy, trained chairs for the annual conference, conducted fundraising, and maintained links among the coalitions supporting the conference. A steering committee, composed of the annual conference chair, a treasurer, and persons designated by the conference chair, were responsible for planning, appointing subcommittees, executing, and evaluating each year's conference.
From 1984 to 2011, the Conference was a premier event for women in Delaware, featuring renown speakers, such as Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, White House correspondent Andrea Mitchell, U. S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Vice-Presidential candidate Geraldine A. Ferraro, actress Rita Moreno, as well as writers Judith Viorst, Ntozake Shange, and Erica Jong. Workshops held during the conference were diverse, with offerings on family issues; career planning, workplace issues and skills; political discussions related to women's issues; personal development (spiritual practices, bereavement, journaling); and financial planning. Some years the conference included an art show, featuring local artists, or an international photography exhibition.
The Delaware Women's Conference was an unique annual Delaware tradition of women gathering with friends for workshops to explore wide ranging topics, to explore exhibitor's booths and the art show, to gather information and broaden horizons, to seek volunteer opportunities, and to network with other women.
In 2010, and again in 2012, the Delaware Women's Conference's annual event was cancelled, and the organization's official website has been discontinued.
Organizational and historical information derived from the collection.
The Delaware Women's Conference records, comprises 11.5 linear feet of publications, financial records, administrative records, photographs, media, artifacts, and correspondence of the only all-volunteer women's conference in the United States. The material which dates between 1984 and 2010, provide a record of an organization which sought to empower women of all ages, economic backgrounds and lifestyles, for their self development and to improve the status of all women.
The Delaware Women's Conference records provide a record of women's issues and interests over a twenty-eight year period, noted in the shifting themes reflected in the keynote speakers and the workshops that were offered. Researchers interested in women and gender studies, as well as feminist history and social policies, will be rewarded by exploring this collection.
The heart of this collection is a series (Series I) of notebooks maintained by Conference chairs and committee chairs, which document the process of planning, executing, and evaluating each year's conference. These notebooks contain all the information pertinent to each conference, and served as working manual for how to organize each year's event. In addition to notebooks kept by the President, there are notebooks by some committee chairs, such as chair of the art show, as well as notebooks labeled “Master notebook.”
These notebooks contain a wealth of information about the implementation of each annual conference. The notebooks include minutes of all meetings, conference programs, financial information, contracts, correspondence, agendas, publicity, program planning, information on special events and the art show, budgets, historical information on previous conferences (including evaluations and demographics), lists of Board members, bylaws, and final reports. There are also additional files which compliment (and occasionally duplicate) the information available in the notebooks. These files and the notebooks were collected and maintained by Delaware Women's Conference Historian Peggy Sacher.
As a supplement to the notebooks the collection offers substantial administrative files (Series II.) which include historical information, including bylaws and certificate of incorporation; files of minutes to Board of Directors meetings; files of evaluations and demographic information for each year's conference attendees; some financial records; as well as samples of the publications generated by the Delaware Women's Conference, such as the annual program, publicity pieces, and occasional posters.
Series III contains significant photographic documentation of the annual conference event. Photograph albums were created for many of the years and loose photographs were collected from various organizers of the annual event. The records also include two oversized photographic collages, and two videocassette recordings. The collection concludes with samples of the conference ephemera and artifacts (Series IV), such as mugs, jewelry, t-shirts, and tote bags; all of which were available for purchase during the events.