Wednesdays in Mississippi - Excerpts from the Report from Polly Cowan, Project Coordinator, 1964
How the project was conceived
An inter-racial team of four women went to Selma, Alabama last October, 1963 – 4th and 5th. They went because of their concern for women and girls in the hands of the police and to verify the reports of mistreatment in the Dallas County jails. Many teen-agers and their parents spoke to members of the team during those two days.
One of the team members was Miss Dorothy I. Height, National President of the National Council of Negro Women. Miss Height, who is also on the staff of the National Board of the YWCA, transmitted her concern to the YWCA when she returned from Alabama.
The National Board of the YWCA was able to enlist the interest and support of the National Council of Jewish Women, the National Council of Catholic Women and the United Church Women. These groups and the National Council of Negro Women formed a base of operation to act on their common concern.
Our original purpose was to build a bridge between the Negro and white women of the south. The mechanism through which we planned to work was those national women’s organizations which involved women of both races whose goals include the active pursuit of human and civil rights.
As the project progressed, even before the Wednesday visits began, we realized that this process of working with the southern women in order to open their eyes, their hearts and their minds, would also cause the northern women to re-examine and re-valuate themselves in their northern world. We also realized that the exposure of northern women to the effect of life behind the cotton curtain would be a cultural shock. The visits have proved that we were right. Our team members are working out their involvement in dimensions which would be impossible to estimate. The ripples will continue long after the waves have subsided.
Polly Cowan wrote a report at the end of the first summer of the Wednesdays in Mississippi project (WIMS) in which she described the group’s goals and their accomplishments. Two excerpts describe how WIMS began and how its purpose evolved.