All 42 contact sheets of photographs from the First National Women's Conference by its official photographer, Diana Mara Henry, can be on line. You will be able to scroll through the images and enlarge them many times. Perhaps you will recognize yourself or someone you know. Then you can Email us with the sheet number and frame number; identify the person, and you can participate in our resurvey of the women participants of the Houston IWY conference, 1977!

WERE YOU THERE? Please participate by filling out the questionnaire, below!

Please contact us with statements of support from you or your organization, suggestions, and funding for this exciting project. Thank you.

[In this contact sheet - #2 from DMH - can be seen; top and second row: Congresswoman Barbara Jordan signing autographs, giving the keynote address; Congrewwoman Liz Holtzman with Ersa Poston of the US civil Service Commission and Sey Chassler, editor of Redbook magazine; third row: Bella Abzug, Rosalyn Carter and Betty Ford applauding Barbara Jordan;second to last row: Dignitaries on stage including Clara Beyer ; bottom row: Lynda Johnson Robb and other delegates such as Sharon Percy, third from right, Mariko Tse, "24 years old, from California, leader of Chinese Women in Action, world traveler, graduate in anthropology, leader in Upward Bound programs for Blacks, Chicanas, Indians and the American Chinese" and Marianne Brusselhoffe, "who was putting three of her four children through college by raising poultry." (quoted passages from The Spirit of Houston: The First National Women's Conference: An Official Report to the President, the Congress and the People of the United States)]

Women on the Move

Fourth Decade Follow-Up Survey and Oral History of the Legacy

of the First National Women’s Conference

Concept and Photographs by Diana Mara Henry

In the thirty plus years since the First National Women’s Conference brought women to Houston in November 1977, what have these activists continued to do for themselves and others? How do they articulate the aspirations they brought as delegates to the conference, honored speakers, staff or Commissioners of the President’s Commission on International Women’s Year? What were their goals then and have they been able to realize these goals? What did the conference bring to their lives in terms of connections made and lessons learned? Have these women stayed active in the public arena? Have their positions on the issues changed? Where are they now?

The last question is the key to the success of this study: but the search for these ”20,000 women, men and children” who were there (according to the official report, The Spirit of Houston) will in itself create interest, discussion, and reawakening of the commitments and ideals of what may be considered the crowning event of Second Wave Feminism.

Many of the delegates went on to do great things: Ann Richards had just won her first election, to become the first female commissioner of Travis County; 13 years later, she would be elected Governor of Texas. Claire Shulman became the First Borough President of Queens. Mariko Tse pursued a career in film. Three Presidents’ wives were there; Betty Ford went on to become a distinguished advocate for others suffering from alcohol and substance abut and to found treatment centers to minister to their needs.

What of the other hundred of delegates, some as young as 17, such as Colleen Wong, of California? The nuns, the farm women, the welfare rights mothers, the sexual preference advocates? What did they go on to do with their lives? Did the conference serve as an inspiration and in what way? Have they stayed in touch and worked with others who were there?

After more than 30 years, while some of the leaders sadly are gone (Bella Abzug, Barbara Jordan, Patsy Mink) the women of the rank and file have now assumed their role in history, and their contributions to family, community and country can be ascertained. All we need to do is find them- and that, with the help of the Internet, can also be done. State by state, the delegate lists can be researched and contacts established.

Diana Henry has been in touch with some, such as one of the Last mile’s torch bearers, Peggy Kokernot (now Kaplan) who ran marathons as a US Marine and has become an animal rights activist; Chief Pulu Peneueta, of American Samoa, whose family has established a website honoring her memory, the conference coordinator, Lee (now Rabbi Leah) Novick, and Liz Carpenter, who continues to cheer on and support her with wit and wisdom.

We can put the contact sheets of more than 1,200 images made of them by the Conference’s official photographer online, and ask them to identify themselves therein.

We can ask them how they came to be at the Conference, and to tell us what they experienced and accomplished there. We can ask them to send us a photograph representing their role and/or interests and participation in family or community since 1977. We can ask them to describe what they have done since, whether their values have changed or become more focused, and what role their participation in the conference played in their life’s story. What will emerge will be as diverse and inspiring as the conference in its day, and hopefully keep us on the mission Maya Angelou penned – “To Form a More Perfect Union.”

What can result of this search? A book, a funded website, an exhibit, another National Women’s Conference? With the national scope of this project anything is possible, and with your help and interest, it will be done.

Diana Mara Henry February 9, 2007

188 Sumner Avenue

Springfield, MA 01108

Questions for participants at the First National Women’s Conference, Houston, November, 1977       

Copyright © Diana Mara Henry /

Please answer as many as you like, and in as much or little detail as you like. Many thanks!

  1. Name, address, phone, email and URL
  2. What was your name and address at the time of the FNWC?
  3.  What was your occupation, age and schooling at that time?
  4. Were you a delegate or in what other way were you involved in the conference?
  5. Did you attend a State Meeting prior to attending the conference, and if so, which one?
  6. Do you have ephemera (fliers, buttons, schedules, articles) from the meeting or the conference? If you have donated them or otherwise disposed of them, please tell us how.
  7. Did you write about the meeting and/or conference and or photograph/film it and do you still have those writings/photographs/films?
  8. Do you have any intentions of placing those materials in an archive and if so, which one?
  9. Please share with us why you attended the FNWC and state meeting.
  10. Please share what you experienced there.
  11. Please share your use of what you learned/did at the conference in future years:
  12. What was your subsequent schooling/reading/research? Did the FNWC impact that in any ways?
  13. What has been your career path or paths? Did the FNWC impact that in any ways?
  14. What was your family configuration in 1977 and how did that change until now? Did the FNWC impact that in any ways?
  15. What was your work situation in 1977 and how did that change until now? Did the FNWC impact that in any ways?
  16. What were your civic/philanthropic/volunteer paths then and how did they change until now? Did the FNWC impact that in any ways?
  17. Could you share a photograph with us of who you are today, either with family, in work setting, leisure occupation or any other representation of  you?
  18. Would you like to see another Women’s Conference on the scale of Houston, 1977 and do you think State Meetings would be a necessary component?
  19. Who should sponsor/fund such a conference?
  20. What part(s) of the Plan of Action concerned you most in 1977 and what issues would be most important for you to see voted on today?
  21. Has your political, religious, gender affiliation changed since 1977 and in what way? Did the FNWC impact that in any ways?
  22. Are there any other changes in your life path that were or were not attributable to your experience at Houston that you would like to share?
  23. Could you share a perspective on the women’s movement then, now and a recommendation on women’s issues for young women today?
  24. Please share anything else with us not covered in these questions that you think is important to you or others.
  25. May we put some of your answers on this website? With or without attribution?

Please send your answers by email or to Diana Mara Henry