Recent Change

On Oct. 16, 2017, the Wake County Board of Commissioners approved steps to refocus the work of the commission on board priorities such as issues that women face in vulnerable communities, health care, child care, affordable housing, and other areas identified in the recent report from the Task Force on Women and Employment.  
The Commission for Women will work to identify, develop, and implement strategies that will eliminate discrimination affecting women who reside and/or work in Wake County by:
  • Providing advice and guidance to the board on legislation and policy issues affecting women;
  • Encouraging equal opportunity for women in employment and pay issues, health care issues, and issues relating to homelessness and housing; and
  • Conducting educational seminars in collaboration with other organizations for residents and businesses in Wake County.
The Board of Commissioners will appoint up to 20 community leaders to the commission. The commission will consist of two members from each district and six at-large members. All members will serve staggered terms. The newly focused Commission is expected to convene in January 2018.


Prior History
On August 29, 1994, the Wake County Commission for Women (WCCW) was created by the Wake County Board of Commissioners in a resolution signed by Vernon Malone, Chairman of the Board. The resolution directed that whereas more than 50% of the population and more than 40% of the workforce of Wake County are women, that a group of Wake County citizens is appointed to acknowledge and honor women, educate and advocate on their behalf and celebrate what they have done and what they will do.

A "Mentor of Distinction" Award received by  from the Women's Business and Professions Advisory Council is a testament to the concerns and accomplishments of the WCCW. The WCCW owes its beginnings to former Wake County Commissioner Merrie Hedrick, who, while working to get the County to establish a Historical Preservation Committee, discovered that the state had in place legislation allowing each county to organize a Commission for Women. Realizing that Wake County had not organized such a group, she contacted the NC Council for Women, and with the assistance of Juanita Bryant, Director of the NC Council, and other council members, she proceeded to outline plans for the organization and operation of a Wake County Commission for Women.
 
The first 15 women appointed to serve were: Linda Bamford, Martha Glass, Connie Grant, Esther Hall, Merrie Hedrick, Yvonne Lewis-Holley, Jeanene Martin, Nancy Perry, Adora Ragsdale, Mary Rollins, Kathy Schneiderman, Carol Spruill, Lucille Webb, Deborah Williams and Margaret Wohgenant. Mary Rollins was elected chair. Under her leadership that first year, the group developed a structure and a logo, elected officers, identified its mission and began partnering with other organizations for the causes of women. Members joined the Wake County League of Women Voters in a celebration of the 75th anniversary of a woman's right to vote and encouraged the City of Raleigh and the County Board to proclaim August 26 as Women's Equality Day. Additionally, they raised over $1,000 to support the North Carolina Council for Women's celebration of women's right to vote and purchased a banner to hang in front of the North Carolina Museum of History. In May 1994, they encouraged the Board of Commissioners to pass a resolution concerning domestic violence. Their final work of the year was to prepare a long-range written plan of activities for the Commission.

Margaret Webb led the Commission its second and third years. It continued to celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment by co-sponsoring, with the
League of Women Voters, an event saluting Wake County women elected to public office in the County. Likewise, seeing the growing need for a list of organizations composed of women and/or dedicated to women's special needs and interests, the group, through research and contacts, put together a directory of these organizations. In October 1996, a reception honoring these organizations and their leaders was held at Oak View. Copies of the directories were presented to the leaders on this occasion and copies were also put in libraries, churches, and places where they would be accessible to women.
 
In 1997, the directory was revised and distributed in a similar manner at a reception held at Meredith College. This time, the Commission honored Dorothy Allen Freeman, who had retired from Wake Opportunities after 17 years of service impacting the lives of Wake County women. Additional activities included WCCW preparing and distributing a quarterly calendar of women's events held in the County, presenting to the County Board a resolution, requesting observance of women's history month, and members attending the North Carolina Council of Women's Awards Banquet. To better address domestic violence concerns, a WCCW member participated in meetings with the Council on Domestic Violence at Triangle Family Services. Funds were donated to help publicize the YWCA's "Week Without Violence," and members coordinated four radio talk shows on domestic violence, which featured police and sheriff initiatives, a judge, and a District Attorney.
 
In April 1997 the group held its first planning retreat at Meredith. Shortly thereafter, Cleo Perry, Treasurer presented the first budget requests to the County. As a result, Wake County Human Services Department volunteered support staff assistance and the County included in its budget $12,500 for WCCW's work. Previous commission members were asked to contribute and to secure corporate gifts to fund the Commission's work.

Debra Nesbit was elected chair in 1998. The year began with a planning meeting in February. WCCW activities during the year included the issuing of a proclamation in observance of Women's History Month and co-sponsoring, with the League of Women Voters, an event on Women's Equality Day. Also, the members started planning their first summit, which was held in 1999. In February 1999, the WCCW leadership role was passed to Eula Turner.

On March 2, 1999, the first summit was held at Meredith College. More than 100 people attended the event.  "Opening Doors – A Better 2000" was conducted in the afternoon, and Mary Anne Fox, Chancellor of North Carolina State University, a chemist and a member of the National Science Academy, gave the keynote address. Breakout sessions provided opportunities to discuss the topics: aging, domestic violence, education, health care, single parenting, and workplace issues. Presenters were local experts in these areas. A wrap-up session provided an opportunity for attendees to ask questions and share feedback. The success of the first summit prompted members to begin planning a second for March 2000. "Zero Tolerance for Violence" was the selected topic for the meeting. Soon it became apparent that if the leaders of local women's organizations were to have opportunities for networking, they would be united and more effective in their work. Thus, WCCW scheduled its first luncheon, held on September 14, 1999, at Meredith College for the leaders of these groups to gather, discuss and share.

To aid in planning the second summit, a luncheon for persons and groups concerned with or involved in domestic violence was held at Peace College on February 22, 2000. Also in February, Vicky Goudie was elected chair of the Commission. On March 25, 2000, the "Zero Tolerance for Violence" summit was held at Hillyer Memorial Church. Marty Langelan, a nationally recognized expert on a number of violence issues, was the keynote speaker. Of particular interest was the report of Whitney Vanderwerff, Executive Director of the National Alliance for Non-Violence programming, on the desensitizing effect on young people by media violence. Topics discussed by local police and county sheriffs were Family and Domestic Violence, Youth Violence and Community Programs, Media Influence, Victims Rights, and how women can make good decisions.

During 2000, the Commission focused on establishing a web presence, and the possibility of working with a Duke intern to secure updated information on the status of women in the County was considered and accepted. Also, the participation in a Tri-County Commission was investigated but did not prove feasible. On May 23, 20 women leaders attended a luncheon at Shaw University to discuss women's issues and needs. In November, a similar meeting was held at St. Augustine's College. WCCW agreed to co-sponsor an Anti-Violence Group, which was an outgrowth of the two luncheons.
 
Louise Coggins began a two-year term as chair of the Commission in February 2001. On March 3, 2001, they co-sponsored with SC Equity a second "Zero Tolerance for Violence," held at the County Commons Building. The keynote speaker was Dr. Whitney Vanderwerff. Other guest panelists were Waltye Rasulala, director of grants for the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, and Pam Saulsby, a broadcast journalist.

A highlight of this summit was the recognition of an individual who had through the years been a strong supporter of WCCW. A plaque was presented to Maria Spaulding, Wake County Department of Human Services, Director, which read, "In appreciation for strong support, able assistance, caring concern, inspiring interest by the WCCW, March 3, 2001."

The group continued its focus on violence. Partnering with Interact, it participated in the YWCA's 2001 "Week Without Violence" program and hosted community awareness meetings at Peace, St. Augustine's and Meredith colleges. To gain input on how to prevent violence, WCCW sponsored luncheons for community leaders and organizations at Meredith and Peace colleges. It also began a partnership with The Healing Place, a substance/alcohol abuse treatment center for homeless men of Wake County. Commission members toured the facility and four members went to Louisville, Kentucky, to visit a women's treatment center to gain insight for establishing a similar center in Wake County. Other 2001 activities included updating the directory, developing a brochure, co-sponsoring A Women's Right to Vote Celebration with the League of Women Voters, and supporting the training of two Commission members for television shows on Community TV, to aid in providing greater publicity for WCCW programs and projects.

A February 2002 retreat, led by Karen Morant of Wake County Human Services Community Initiatives Department, involved analysis of WCCW's programs and projects and establishing long-range plans for the group. On March 22, the Commission conducted the "Get on Board for Public Service" summit at the Wake County Commons Building. The meeting was opened with a presentation by the Color Guard of Cary High School. The areas studied were: County Boards and Commissions, State Boards and Commissions, Ethics for Board Members, and the Council of Women. Speakers were Barbara Goodmon, chair of Wake County Human Services Board; Sondra Davis, Director of Boards and Commissions – Office of the Governor; Paul Ridgeway, attorney; Paige Johnson, member of the Orange County Commission; and Elaine Monaghen, member of NC Council of Women.

In 2003, the Commission continued to broaden its contacts, promotions, and assistance as it worked on the issues affecting Wake County women. Lindy Brown served as its chair. Under her leadership, the group participated in the ninth annual Women's Empowerment Expo, which supported and promoted African-American women; partnered with The Healing Place; set up and ran a booth at the Southern Women's Show; advocated the passage of House Bill 79 to expand the DNA database in the state; and took part in the Rex Health Fair. WCCW honored Lou Mitchell at the YWCA Academy for Women Banquet for her strong support of homeless women, and plans were made to conduct a summit at The Healing Place for Men of Wake County.

Because of their strong interest in the mission of WCCW, twelve former members met on August 14, 2003, and organized the WCCW Alumnae Group. Their mission is to assist and to serve the Commission with its programs and activities.

The highlight of 2004 was the celebration of WCCW's tenth-anniversary. In February, Cleo Perry was selected as Commission Chair. Three new members were oriented.

The first activity was to set up and staff a booth at the Duke Health Fair. In March, more than 60 people attended the summit, "The Female Perspective: Faces of Substance Abuse," held at The Healing Place for Men. Speakers included Jennifer Hobgood, social worker; Doug Scott, educator and former law enforcement officer; Barbara Gomez, counselor; and Nancy Finn, counselor and past drug abuser. This intensified the group's concern that a Healing Place for Women be constructed, and a member was appointed to serve on the Healing Place Campaign Committee. Members agreed that in preparing for a tenth anniversary celebration, they should take inventory and evaluate the Commission's programs and activities as well as plan special events and a birthday celebration. Thus, at the April planning retreat, committees were named to study the effectiveness and efficiency of the present Commission structure to analyze its operational procedures and to plan programs and projects that would enable the Commission to fulfill its mission. This study initiated revision of the bylaws, incorporate the County's attendance policy and to reorganize the committee structure so that it would comply with current practices. Additionally, the website was updated to include the County's Service Index link. A recommendation to reduce the Commission's size to ten members was not accepted by the group. WCCW again sponsored the League of Women Voters' celebration of Women's Equality Day. Members attended the YWCA "Academy of Women" dinner and volunteered to partner with NC Women United in focusing on passage of legislation related to women's issues. A member was appointed to serve as a liaison with this group.

A steering committee composed of representatives from the Commission – Meredith, A. G. Edwards & Sons, YWCA, and Financial Planning Services, Inc. – planned a major conference and Tenth Anniversary Celebration, which was held on October 16, 2004, at Meredith College. "What Wise Women Need to Know" provided opportunities for advocating, educating and celebrating on behalf of the women of Wake County. Sponsors of the conference were: A. G. Edwards & Sons. Inc. Meredith College, Progress Energy, Rich Commercial Realty, and The Hartford. Those partnering with WCCW included Distinctive Human Resources, Inc.; Financial Planning Services, Inc.; First Citizens Bank; Harris Flanagan & Hilton; Passage Home; SAS; and YWCA of the Greater Triangle. Holly Nicholson, a Triangle Top Women in Business Award recipient and author of "MONEY & YOU: A Woman's Financial Guide," was the keynote speaker. Among the topics explored by the attendees were: insurance, investing, job searching, legal matters, purchasing power, stress management, and women's health. Those conducting the various workshops were: Ajuba Joy, Alesandra Price, Anne McLaurin, Anthony Flanagan, Brian Ivey, Burr White, Dennis Taylor, Eloise Best, Erika Small, Lu Ann Wooters and Stuart Levine. Special recognition was given to the Charter Members, former members, and WCCW Chairs. The conference was declared a great success, with more than 85 persons attending.

In October WCCW co-sponsored with Wake County Human Services the summit, "Step by Step Perinatal Substance Abuse Program – Celebrating 10 Years Presents ...Evolution of Substance Abuse Treatment for Women," which was held at the County Commons Building. Program participants included renowned author, journalist and motivational speaker Patricia Gaines and assistant professor, School of Social Work, UNC-Chapel Hill, Dr. Amelia Roberts. Following this meeting, the Commission agreed to work to establish a Wake County Healing Place for Women. To gain a better understanding of substance abuse effects on women, members visited the Glory to Glory House of Refuge, Mission House for Women, and Southlight Pathways. A highlight of the year was meeting with the International Business Women's Council, whose members were from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and Ukraine. The group discussed issues affecting women in public service.
 
At the November 2004 meeting, the group evaluated the anniversary celebration and oriented six new members. In December, WCCW's special guest was Maria Spaulding, who was recognized and thanked for her and her Department of Human Services' continued support of the Commission. She suggested that WCCW may want to compile a history of the outstanding women of Wake County. The group will consider its role in such a venture.
 
Through its programs and projects, WCCW will continue to acknowledge and honor women and their roles as vital contributors to Wake County and to educate and advocate on their behalf as it celebrates their accomplishments.