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"Women's State-Wide Legislative Network"

November/December 1995 issue of Poverty & Race

3 Temple Place, Third Floor Boston, MA 02111 617/426-1878
Contact: Kelly Bates

The Women's State-Wide Legislative Network (WSLN) has used its recent publication, Glass Ceilings and Bottomless Pits: Women, Income, and Poverty in Massachusetts (available from WSLN, June 1994, 36 pp., $10), as a tool for grassroots education and advocacy. WSLN created the Glass Ceiling Project to distribute the publication and educate the Massachusetts community on women, poverty and welfare reform. PRRAC funded the initial research component of the project.

The Project's purpose is to change the dynamics of the welfare reform debate from a focus on punitive measures to a focus on how to eliminate female poverty. The Project's objectives include: demonstrating that female poverty is a crucial issue that must be addressed; shattering the myths that poor women, in particular single-mother families, are unmotivated, unproductive and undeserving people; eliminating the racist, sexist and classist mythology that is fueling the current welfare reform debate; and empowering a diverse group of women to speak out against attacks on poor women and their children.

WSLN organized eight forums across Massachusetts: in Roxbury, Cambridge, Framingham, Springfield, Pittsfield, Amherst, Barnstable and Haverhill. The forums were sponsored by over 60 community organizations and agencies across Massachusetts and 25 university and college departments in the Greater Boston area. Over 180 individuals across the state attended.
WSLN's model of organizing educational forums was adopted by the YWCAs of Haverhill and Central Massachusetts after the demonstrated success of WSLN's forums. The Barnstable forum helped to bring women's organizations together for similar forums in the Cape Cod region. In addition, the South Carolina Department of Social Services recently modeled one of their programs after the Glass Ceilings forums.

The Project also spurred the creation of two coalitions, the Women and Welfare Action Coalition and the People of Color Task Force. The Coalition is a diverse group of 30 women and women's organizations who are collectively addressing welfare reform, economic justice for women and female poverty issues. The Coalition's purpose is to help women in Massachusetts make the connection between welfare and economic issues that affect all women and to fight for just welfare policies. The Coalition's goals are to create a long term planning process for achieving economic justice and to undertake a plan for public education on economic issues and welfare. The Coalition is coordinated by WSLN.
The Task Force is a group of women of color who, among other things, have organized a speakers bureau to educate welfare recipients and agencies working with welfare recipients about the impending changes in the AFDC program. The Task Force is coordinated by WSLN and the Massachusetts Human Services Coalition.

WSLN received over 1000 requests for the Glass Ceilings study from low-income women and women's organizations, individual WSLN members and organizational members, advocates, policy analysts and state and federal legislators in Massachusetts.

Glass Ceilings and Bottomless Pits also received widespread national recognition, as evidenced by requests from Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington, DC. WSLN received many requests from other states due to PRRAC's coverage of the Glass Ceilings publication in P&R.

In addition to educating the people who attended the Glass Ceilings forums and received our report, WSLN received extensive media coverage of the educational forums held in each region of the state. This coverage not only promoted the Project and publication, but also enabled WSLN to educate a larger audience about the reality behind female poverty by citing important statistics and facts discussed in the publication.

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