Flexing Our Political Muscle: 40 Years of Lobby Corps Victories
“With 185,000 constituents, we’re worth listening to. We have a credible organization and we must be credible witnesses.”
AAUW Legislative Program Director Ellen McGovern spoke these words in March 1975 to the newly formed AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps, encouraging them to prepare for the demanding job that lay ahead.
In 2015, Lobby Corps celebrates 40 years of successes in advancing legislation to empower women and girls.
It all began in 1973, when AAUW took the step to register as a federal lobbyist, thus forming the Capitol Hill Lobby Corps. This kind of group was a first for AAUW, and the inaugural team (which began lobbying in 1975) boasted 29 members from branches in the Washington metro area.
“Nationally, it is foolish to underestimate the power of a group that represents 200,000 women,” AAUW’s magazine Graduate Woman wrote in 1977, noting Lobby Corps’ relentless efforts to advance the Equal Rights Amendment. “There is a world of difference between the influence of one vote at polling time, one letter to Congress on an important issue from one informed citizen, and the lobbying power exerted by AAUW as a national body.” Through Lobby Corps, women were learning how to use their political clout — and it was working.
Over the past 40 years, Lobby Corps members have continued to flex their political muscle as volunteer citizen activists, spurring action around issues like economic security, education, and civil rights. One of the group’s first victories was a bill to provide divorced women with legal access to a portion of their former spouses’ pensions. Another critical victory came in 1993, when President Bill Clinton signed into law the Family and Medical Leave Act, legislation for which Lobby Corps had been pushing for seven years. Major successes also came in 2009 with the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and in 2013 with the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.
Lobby Corps members’ enduring commitment to advocating and advancing gender equity is only one of many reasons why AAUW is proud to recognize the group as one of our 2015 Title IX Champions. In the past four decades, the group has conducted tens of thousands of visits to congressional offices, placing a face and a voice to the thousands of AAUW letters and phone calls that our members deliver across the country. We look forward to even more successful years of Lobby Corps members advocating on behalf of women and girls.