CWLU was formed October 31, 1969 at a conference in Palatine, IL. Among the bodies set up at the initial conference was a steering committee that was to be made up of representatives of work groups and chapters of the CWLU. Membership on the steering committee rotated very frequently with some groups having a representative that changed for each meeting of the Steering Committee. The committee met on a more or less regular basis every two weeks or a month. It was responsible for coordinating work among the subgroups of the CWLU, for overseeing the office and staff of the CWLU and for discussing CWLU-wide activities such as city-wide meetings.
In 1972 a planning committee was added as a sort of executive committee to the steering committee. The planning committee consisted of two co-chairs elected at-large and three other at-large members. The planning committee had greater authority to make decisions for the organization as a whole.
Both the steering committee and planning committee were unique in the women's movement of time. Much of the women's movement, particularly the left and radical wings, abandoned any kind of structure. For these organizations decisions were made by consensus and generally no one in a group had any authority to speak or act for the group as a whole. CWLU rejected this model.
As voiced by Jo Freeman in her article, "The Tyranny of Structurelessness," the lack of structure found in many women's organizations did not result in everyone playing an equal role, rather it often meant that leaders were hidden, responsibility could not be assigned and no one was accountable for the actions of the group. By rejecting this model, CWLU became an organization that actually encouraged its members to be leaders, taught them leadership skills and they could not only change their own lives but the world around them.
Chris Riddiough is a former co-chair of the CWLU. She is currently an Information Technology professional working in the Washington D.C. area. She is active in the women's movement, the gay and lesbian movement and progressive politics. She invites you to visit her website at www.riddiough. org.