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Spirit of Houston
'77 Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library.

The National Women's Conference:
Taking 1977 into the 21st Century

Sponsored in part by the John P. McGovern Endowed Lectureship in Family, Health and Human Values

Historical Overview

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the National Women’s Conference held November 18-21, 1977. At this momentous event, 2,000 elected delegates and around 32,000 observers descended upon Houston, Texas, to participate in the first and only federally funded National Women’s Conference in U.S. history. Hosted in a Sunbelt city on the rise, this conference was the domestic answer to the United Nations’ International Women’s Year official conference and NGO tribune held in Mexico City in 1975. The Houston Conference reflected the tensions of a nation at a crossroad with some seeing it as a promising expression of a more representative, rights-centered democracy and others viewing it as a liberal cooptation of taxpayers’ dollars.

The conference remains one of the most imaginative and wide-ranging exercises in civic engagement realized in the twentieth century, and we seek to draw attention to the diversity, ingenuity, and determination of participants who dared to dream up concrete policy goals of “what women want.” We expect to carry on the conversation in Houston once again this fall, looking forward to the challenges women face in the early twenty-first century as we reflect on past successes and failures.

To learn more about the National Women's Conference that took place in 1977, read the report here.


We invite you to return to Houston, Texas and take stock of this historic gathering.

In honor of this moment the University of Houston is hosting a two-day conference, November 6-7 bringing together former participants and dynamic scholars.

Register for the Conference >



You are also invited to participate in a series of community activities around Houston, brought to you by the Houston Women March the weekend of November 3-5. Join women across the city as we unite in the name of equality.

Conference Highlights

Community Rally Events
Nov 3-5

Reignite "The Spirit of Houston"

Visit Website >

National Women's Conference
Nov 6-7

All events at the University of Houston are FREE
and open to the public.

Conference Schedule >

GET INVOLVED

  • A Sharing Stories Challenge from Gloria Steinem

    Share your story from 1977

    Where were you in 1977, and what were you up to? If you were at the National Women's Conference, what was your role? What did you think about this gathering? How does it stand out in your memory? If you were not in attendance, how did you hear about the conference? What do you think made this moment matter?

    Participate in Gloria Steinem's challenge by submitting your story in writing, voice recording, or short video.

    More Details >