Women Unlimited, Inc. 11/16/77
Rosalee Miller, Business Manager
Representing CETA employees
I was one of the founders of Women Unlimited 2 years ago, and
was a nearly full-time volunteer with the organization until I was
hired as Business Manager of WomanStore (one of the CETA positions)
in July. I grew up near a small town in middle American dairy country
in a working class family. My father is a skilled laborer, and my
mother an enlightened homemaker and mother, who worked part-time off
and on when family finances required. In that family of five, I
learned early the value of our American heritage and the promise of
democracy. My father a republican, and my mother a democrat, their
lively discussions over dinner instilled in me an abiding respect for
the rights of free speech, the right to disagree, to freely choose
one's destin and the responsibility which those rights carry.
As an AmericAn citizen and a caring person, that responsibility
means working actively to make our nation's dream a reality for all
Since I felt I could most effectively and honestly work for
progress in the area where I have the most experience and understanding,
I chose three years ago to devote my energies to helping myself and
other women to define and overcome our areas of oppression and to
gain for ourselves our full measure of rights as Americans.
It was with that purpose that I helped found Women Unlimited.
Women in Gainesville had been expressing a desire and a need for such
a center for several years prior to that. We wanted and created an
organization which concerns itself with the needs women have which
neither the government nor any other agency was meeting--such as
referral services; counseling for women in transition; a meeting place
where women could gather to give mutual support and to learn from one
another; a resource center where women could have access to infor-
mation about our history as women, our rights, our bodies, our heritage
in literature and art and music which provides the role models of women
whose experiences and historical contributions have been denied us
in public education; availability of non-sexist children's books to
show young people that respect for other individual's rights and needs
is the basis for decisions, not the confined dictates of stereotypes;
and a clearing house for personal &printed resources to learn new
skills such as car maintenance and carpentry. WomanStore provides a
place where women can purchase literature about these issues, many
not available anywhere else in the Southeastern United States. And
WomaNews, with its distribution of 6,000, provides women with helpful
and educational information not available through other channels.
It is plain from our history that WU's primary purpose has
always been public service, both in intent and reality. The defini-
tion of public service does not imply that everyone has to take
advantage of what is offered. There are people whowill take issue
with what public services are being provided at any given time. WU
has always sought the participation of all women in the Gainesville
community, regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, economic
status, national origin, or ethnic background. We have not discriminated.
There are extremist individuals in this community who do not like that
fact. There are people who obviously do not want women to have the
educational resources of WomanStore, the informative reporting of
WomaNews, and the opportunities and resources of the Center. The fact
that these individuals are complaining because we are providing women
access to more information with which to make the choices which are their
right to make in this democracy does not make our offerings all of a
sudden not public service.
It's the same old game which by now is familiar to other oppressed
groups. As long as the Department of Labor felt that providing us these
CETA jobs would make their statistics look like they were concerned
about women everything was fine. But when certain anti-women forces
began complaining that we might really be doing something with those
jobs to truly help women,(ourselves and others), the government decided
they had to take a closer look. Our Alachua County officials investi-
gated and found we were doing nothing to violate any CETA regulations.
As Janette has already stated, for some reason unknown to us, Billy
Brown's office in Atlanta, responding to right-wing pressure, decided to
send their own investigator down to do a "follow-up." Again, we cooperated
fully in that investigation, even though we were subjected to interrogation
and questioned at length about things which did not have to do with our
continuing eligibility, and not questioned at all about our public service.
We would like to know why this decision was reached by the Labor
department. We are a non-profit organization which must put a great
deal of energy into scraping together enough money to pay the rent each
month, so there is no question of anymisuse of non-existent profits.
And we are providing needed services to women, helping women to become
fulfilled and contributing members of society in whatever ways they
define that fulfillment.
So my question to you, the concerned media, is "Who is pressuring
the Labor department to contradict itself and the intent of Congress
in order to withdraw funding from these positions, and'why is the
Labor department responding to that pressure?"