TitleBuilding bridges of understanding
NameTuuri, Rebecca A. (author), Hewitt, Nancy A. (chair), White, Deborah Gray (co-chair), Lawson, Steven F. (internal member), Dittmer, John (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
Women civil rights workers--Mississippi,
Civil rights movements--United States,
Wednesdays in Mississippi--History
DescriptionWednesdays in Mississippi (WIMS) was an interracial, interfaith civil rights organization formed in 1964 to aid in the Freedom Summer voter registration project. The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) sponsored this organization, with participants hailing from major national liberal women’s organizations such as the Young Women’s Christian Association, National Council of Jewish Women, National Council of Catholic Women, Church Women United, and the NCNW. These women sought to counteract southern whites’ negative stereotypes of civil rights workers by promoting themselves as an older generation of activists sympathetic to their cause. By wearing white gloves, pearls, and dresses, they employed gendered performances of respectability, membership in national women’s organizations, and ties to major business and political leaders to change the hearts and minds of white southern moderates resistant to integration. In that first summer, 48 WIMS members in teams of five to seven women flew to Jackson, Mississippi on Tuesday, visited a smaller Mississippi town on Wednesday, and flew back on Thursday. Teams returned in the summer of 1965 to work with Head Start initiatives. In 1966 the organization became Workshops in Mississippi and shifted its focus to supporting anti-poverty initiatives, such as a pig farm, day care centers, and low-income home ownership projects, in Mississippi. This dissertation explores the ways that middle-aged, middle class black and white women engaged in activism during the 1960s. Unlike more radical feminist and black power activists, these women sought to be unobtrusive and inoffensive in their efforts, working behind the scenes to foster social and economic justice. Their activism depended on individual transformation and on building connections between local activists and national officials and organizations. Their quiet strategy has been largely responsible for the lack of attention given them by historians. Yet they offer an important and largely overlooked form of middle class liberal activism through which women influenced local civil rights campaigns; forged ties between black and white women, North and South; and used their connections to bring federal resources to poor southern communities. Ultimately, WIMS efforts also served as a model for NCNW projects in Africa.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Rebecca A. Tuuri
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.