The Women of Ellensburg
In April before the Washington State International Women's Year Conference, Coordinating Committee member Dee Boersma, acting as an individual, wrote a grant entitled "Washington State Conference for Women; An Adjunct of the International Women's Year National Women's Conference Mandated by Congress." Through funding provided by the King-Snohomish Manpower Consortium, three staff members were hired with CETA funds and housed in an office at the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Washington. They were managed by a consultant paid by funds collected during registration at the conference.
The Coordinating Committee participated in setting the general direction of the report via individual responses to a table of contents, but the control of content rested in the hands of the manager. It was decided that the report would be most timely if produced before the National Women's Conference scheduled to be held in Houston in mid-November.
In addition to being comprehensive, one of the earliest decisions was that the report would be as fair and impartial as possible. Thus, the staff members who were hired were selected not only for the professional standard of their research and writing but, just as importantly, for their ability to deal effectively with women of all political persuasions. Two part-time and one full-time employees were hired.
Research involved conducting more than 350 interviews with Coordinating Committee members, the leaders of political organizations, and conference participants. Both in-person and telephone interviews were conducted. Documents relating to the conference were also used and, in more than one instance, the complete conference files of individual committee members were loaned to the report office. Audio and video tapes of the plenary were viewed and carefully analyzed.
Reports of issues, which by common agreement of pro and con ERA spokespeople were confined to those issues discussed at the conference, were based on conference notes and resources suggested by workshop leaders and feminist and conservative women.
Research consumed the first six weeks of the project and proved so time-consuming that all three staff members consistently worked hours in excess of full-time. Throughout the research phase, the manager and staff concentrated on evaluating the information collected equitably. The desire to check out the accuracy of information collected from such a myriad of sources prompted us to issue an information draft early in October. This draft was sent to all Coordinating Committee members, delegates, alternates, workshop leaders, and other sources, along with a cover letter explaining that the draft contained information that would be in the final report, but that this information was not in its final form. Out of a desire to interpret the information for our readers grew a "Conclusions" section - an addition to the report to which committee members, delegates, alternates, and all other sources were again given an opportunity to respond.
Minority reports were solicited from groups who had earlier expressed interest in presenting their own perspective of either the report or the conference. Some groups declined, saying that they were satisfied with their representation in the text of the report.
We had expected that no further research would be necessary after the draft was issued, but with the report pulled together for the first time, we discovered that additional research was needed in both "The Story of Ellensburg" and in the issues part of the report. One of the areas that had not been explored was the concern of the Mormon church about the IWY conference. Another was the Oklahoma tape (described in the report) which our sources had described, but which we had not heard. Both proved to be very imporLant to understanding the story of Ellensburg. Meanwhile, workshop leaders and some panelists expanded our understanding of the crucial issues facing women in the state.
In evaluating feedback from all sources, we consistently looked for first-hand accounts of information and viewed second-hand information with disfavor. Where there was time to check out new information, we did so. When time was limited, we checked out first-hand accounts. Second-hand versions of incidents were, we freclently discovered, merely more rumors resulting from the polarization of the conference.
The combination of late but significant research in addition to extremely constructive feedback about the draft resulted in limited time before the deadline to publish the final report. While the finished document may not, in fact, be the whole story of Ellensburg or reflect all the issues of women in Washington State, we believe that it is nevertheless as complete a version as can be obtained.