Looking Back on the Formation of a Council
Part 1 in a continuing series about the founding of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc.
The significant challenges facing our families and communities today demand that we find ways to optimize our resources to work more effectively. Historically, positive change has come about when coordinated, focused efforts are put into action both on local and national levels simultaneously. This is why the vision of Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) is even more relevant today than it was in 1935 when she called together 28 national women leaders to form "an organization of organizations," a council.
Why is an organization like NCNW so necessary? In 1935, Mary McLeod Bethune, from her vantage point as Advisor of Minority Affairs to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that she could not rest to see the unharnessed womanpower among our women. When the 28 national women leaders responded to her call she pointed out that what was needed was not another organization, but one that would bring organizations together. Mary Church Terrell proposed forming a "council." Thus, Mrs. Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women as such - "a national organization of national organizations."
Hers was a visionary call for working together with a "Unity of Purpose and a Unity of Action." Much like the United Nations, which is a kind of council of sovereign nations coming together to promote development and peace, NCNW is a council of autonomous national organizations coming together to improve the quality of life for women.
Mrs. Bethune envisioned NCNW functioning as a clearinghouse, facilitating networking and coalition-building, and advocating the use of collective power on issues affecting women, their families and communities.
Through the years there has been growing appreciation and recognition of the value of a unified voice in the corridors of power. This has been expressed in different ways. What happens on Capitol Hill has direct bearing on the quality-of-life issues core to our community's survival and well-being, and our voices must continue to be heard loudly.
Next: In 1966, NCNW was granted 501(c)(3) non profit status which changed the way the council would operate and provided the permanent underpinning for the council and section structure.