One reason the University of Michigan women were successful in pursuing their complaint against the University was that they wrote numerous letters to members of Congress, asking them to send inquiries (called "Congressionals") about the status of the complaint to top officials at the Departments of HEW and Labor.
Jean L. King, who co-signed the original complaint, said they wrote 84 letters to the Michigan congressional delegation in the weeks following the initial complaint, sending off another round when the secretaries at the top of both departments changed within a matter of weeks.
In May, 1970, when the women filed their complaint, there were only 11 women members of the U.S. House of Representatives, but by 1973, that number had grown by nearly 50 percent. A key ally was Democratic Rep. Martha Griffiths of Michigan, who was recruited early on to serve on the board of directors of the Women's Equity Action League (WEAL), which played a critical role in publicizing the complaint process. (In 1970, Griffiths also was praised for getting the Equal Rights Amendment discharged from the House Judiciary Committee after it had languished there for many years.)
In August 1973, King wrote Griffiths a thank-you note, and copied 14 other women members of Congress on the letter.
The other documents here (Documents 43B and 43C) provide King's exchange with one of those members, Democratic Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas. Jordan, an African American, had entered Congress in January 1973 and later gained national attention when she served on the House Judiciary Committee during its 1974 hearings on the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon.
In Jordan's response, which was probably written by a staff member, the Congresswoman appears to try to deflect King's concerns back to Griffiths, viewing them as parochial Michigan issues. But King persists, seeking to demonstrate to Jordan that the outcome of the Michigan complaint is important to Texas women, too. In her final letter (Document 43D), King notes that because of the united opposition of university officials from all across the country, "it is essential that the pressure on HEW to act also come from representatives from all parts of the country."
Congresswoman Martha W. Griffiths
House Office Building
Washington, D. C. 20515
Dear Congresswoman Griffiths:
I enclose a copy of a report on sex discrimination at the University of Michigan recently issued by the Chicago Regional Office of Civil Rights of HEW.
The complaint with regard to sex discrimination at the University of Michigan was originally filed with the Department of Labor in May of 1970. The University has been under investigation and in the process of negotiation with HEW almost continuously since that time.
Over these years you have been especially helpful to those of us who have persisted in raising these issues within the University and with HEW. We wish to express our appreciation to you and to the members of your staff who have helped us. We are certain that this matter would never have come to the stage it has reached if it had not been for the "Congressionals" which you issued on our behalf.
Thank you very much for your help.
Jean L. King
cc: Fourteen other congresswomen.