In 1967 Executive Order (E.O.) 11375 was established with the purpose of adding “sex” to the other forms of discrimination prohibited within the federal government and by federal contractors outlined in E.O. 11246. A few months after the issuance of E.O. 11375, a group of federal women from throughout the United States met in Washington, D.C., at a three-day “Seminar for Executive Women” sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Mention of the Federal Women’s Program by the few participants who were familiar with it brought forth a suggestion that they meet at a later date to explore the possibility of organizing a group to deal with questions raised at the seminar.
Although these women believed that a significant step had been taken in the issuance of E.O. 11375, they all knew what would happen if the Civil Service Commission (Office of Personnel Management) and the individual agencies did not put forth vigorous efforts during the implementation stages of the executive order. Consequently, in April 1968 a group of these women met, a committee was formed with Allie Weeden elected as Chair, and organizational plans were drafted. This nucleus group met again during the summer of 1968 in the National City Christian Church. Ultimately, the name selected for the organization was Federally Employed Women (FEW). The first President of FEW was Allie Weeden (Latimer) (1968-1969), who was installed by Steve Harrison, FEW’s first male member. Allie Weeden was succeeded by:
Daisy Fields (1969-1971)
Esther Lawton (1972-1972)
Priscella Ransohoff (1972-1974)
Janice Mendenhall (1974-1976)
Mae Walterhouse (1976-1978)
Dorothy Nelms (1978-1980)
Marylouise Uhlig (1980-1982)
De Burton (1982-1984)
Marie Argana (1984-1986)
Freda Kurtz (1986-1988)
Dorothy Spinks (1988-1990)
Jean Christiansen (1990-1992)
Carolyn Kroon (1992-1994)
Janie Taylor (1994-1996)
Dorothy Nelms (1996-1998)
Jeanette Miller (1998-2000)
Jeni Bungert (2000-2002)
Patricia Wolfe (2002-2004)-(2004-2006)
Rhonda Trent (2006 – 2008)
Sue Webster (2008-2010)-(2010-2012)
Michelle Crockett (2012-2016)
Wanda Killingsworth (2016-2018)
From the beginning FEW was envisioned as a three-tier structure—the organization itself, individual chapters, and finally regions. The first year’s efforts were devoted to the establishment and strengthening of the organization. Of major importance was that FEW not become an organization just for professional women, but that it should be a “grassroots” organization concerned with all women.
The first FEW Chapter, Central Cincinnati (Ohio), was chartered in January 1970, followed closely by Fort Monmouth (NJ), North Alabama, and Chicago (IL). FEW held its first National Training Program (NTP) in 1970, and since that time, NTPs have been held every year in cities throughout the country. Based on the rapid growth of FEW and the anticipated future growth, the National Board of Directors (during fiscal year [FY] 1973) voted to divide the organization into regions and have regional coordinators be responsible for coordination of chapters within their specified regions. The regions corresponding with those of the U. S. Civil Service Commission with the exception that an 11th region, D.C. Metropolitan, were to be established. Regional coordinators were initially appointed by the National FEW President, with approval of the Executive Committee, and regional coordinators were not members of the National Board or the Executive Committee and did not have voting rights.
Through a Bylaws amendment (effective in FY 1977), the composition of the National Board of Directors was changed primarily because the Board was becoming too large for effective discussion of and decisions on policy matters. It was agreed that chapter presidents would no longer be members of the National Board, but instead would be represented on the National Board by their respective regional coordinator and regional representatives who would become voting members. Further, it was agreed that their constituencies would elect their respective regional coordinators.
In May 1978 the Director of the Federal Women’s Program (in the Office of Personnel Management) announced a change in the name title from federal women’s program coordinators to federal women’s program managers. In line with this change FEW renamed the regional coordinators to regional managers. In 1977 FEW established the Federally Employed Woman’s Legal and Education Fund (FEW LEF), functioning under the management of an elected Board of Directors consisting of volunteers. FEW LEF was envisioned as a non-membership organization, with a three-tier structure—National, Regional, and State, concerned with civil rights at all levels.
By 1979 FEW LEF became a highly viable, professionally managed organization providing legal assistance, educating government employees, and assisting other organizations with compatible goals. FEW’s leaders have long recognized that change is vital to grow and flourish in the future. With that in mind, President Janie Taylor established a “Think Tank” Committee in 1996. The committee provided an in-depth review of the organization’s Mission and Purpose, Structure, and Finances and brought forth several significant changes for approval by FEW’s National Board of Directors. One of the major steps taken by FEW was to automate national office functions, which resulted in FEW making its first appearance on the worldwide web. The Think Tank activities continued under the leadership of Presidents Dorothy Nelms and Jeanette Miller. During that time the FEW website was redesigned to meet FEW’s changing image and continues to communicate FEW’s purpose and mission to its members. FEW also established the prestigious President’s Award, and the first recipient was Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala. The actions taken by the Think Tank started FEW on the path to progress into the 21st Century.
In July 2002 FEW approved plans for a special Strategic Planning Committee with the idea originating under the leadership of President Jeni Bungert and implemented under the leadership of President Patricia Wolfe. Participants were selected from across the U. S., including FEW members, former members, Past National Presidents, and non-members. A facilitator was hired, and the three-day Strategic Planning retreat was held January 2003 in Mt. Washington, Maryland. The following year, committee members focused on their selected objectives: Membership; Membership Services; Legislative and Compliance; Training, Mentoring and NTP; Marketing and Visibility; and Best Practices and Other Revenue Sources. FEW’s National Board of Directors approved recommendations of this special committee in February 2004 and has been working since that time to implement recommendations.
FEW marked its 35th Anniversary in 2003. The two-day celebration began with a Gala Reception on April 10th at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington, D.C., with a Legislative Breakfast being held on April 11th in the Caucus Room, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. During the celebration, FEW leaders reiterated that FEW had worked for 35 years to keep pace with the changing world, the changing workplace, and the changing workforce. The theme for the special celebration says it all: “Federally Employed Women—35 Years of Dedicated Service Advancing the Role of Women in the Government—a Future Full of Possibilities.” The year 2003 brought many positive and significant changes. FEW’s internationally recognized NTP was hosted by a National Training Program Planning Team, in conjunction with industry partners, rather than the past practice of its being hosted by one of FEW’s regions. In addition, FEW entered into agreements with an association management company for administrative and legislative support services. And, in October 2003,
FEW was invited to testify before a Congressional Sub-Committee on Government Reform on the topic of Diversity in the Senior Executive Service. FEW held its first Chapter President Leadership Forum and organized a Congressional Visit Day October 7- 9, 2004, under the leadership of President Patricia Wolfe. Quality training was provided to chapter presidents that would benefit them in carrying out their presidential duties. They were also given an opportunity to experience FEW’s involvement in the legislative process by arranging visits with their respective congressional representatives. As initially recommended by the Think Tank and subsequently recommended by the Strategic Planning Committee, a 501 (c) (3) Research Committee was established, and in May 2005 the FEW Foundation for Education and Training was formed. The new foundation received approval as an IRS 501(c) (3) on February 28, 2005, and is available to support donations directed to the NTP for workshop sponsorship, scholarships, etc.
FEW is now a worldwide organization, with 10 Regions and over 100 Chapters. FEW was invited to testify before a Congressional Sub-Committee on Social Security Reform on its top legislative priorities—Repeal of the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision. FEW updated its website offering the opportunity to join FEW on-line as well as update information in its membership profile. FEW continued to take positions on issues affecting all Federal employees and is often quoted in the media.
FEW joined with its partners in the National Coalition for Equity in Public Service (NCEPS) to host the second annual Diversity Conference in November 2005. With this strong foundation in place, FEW will continue to work with its members and partners to become a stronger organization with a focus on helping women advance in government service well into the 21st century and beyond.