The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) welcomes you to a quick trip through history with a snapshot of how we've been turning anger into action for 50 years.
Since 1972, NWLC has given a voice to women’s rage—turning hurried whispers into desperate shouts, and finally, into a rallying cry for justice and change.
Our leadership has fueled a vision—and solutions—for laws, policies, and a societal culture that center gender justice values.
Celebrating Our Legacy, Defining Our Future
“What is often called exceptional ability is nothing more than persistent endeavor.”
—Pauli Murray, Civil Rights Activist
For over half a century, the National Women’s Law Center has been nothing if not persistent.
Title IX protections. Child care supports. Reproductive freedom. Workplace equity and equality.
Against exceptional obstacles, and with exceptional success, we’ve fought persistently for those rights and many more—slowly chipping away at a system determined to make women feel less than.
We are more than enough, and we are just getting started. As we look toward the next 50 years, we recommit to relentlessly pursuing justice for her, and justice for all.
NWLC grows from the Center for Law and Social Policy into its own organization to secure and advance legal rights for women in the Courts, in congress, and the states.
After Roe v. Wade, reproductive rights become a cornerstone of our organization.
NWLC works to protect vulnerable women and women in low-paid jobs from testing and involuntary sterilization.
Congress creates the Child Support Enforcement Program to provide new legal remedies, which the Center plays a central role in expanding in 1984, 1988, 1993, 1996, and 1998.
Women Working in Construction v. Marshall is filed, and in 1978 the Center wins a court order requiring government-enforced, nationwide goals for hiring women in federally funded construction.
NWLC fights for enforcement of Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools or federally funded programming.
NWLC sues the Department of Labor and spurs Congress’ passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
The Supreme Court adopts the Center’s friend-of-the-court arguments in Califano v. Westcott, establishing that AFDC must be available for two-parent families with unemployed mothers, not just those with unemployed fathers.
In a case supported by NWLC, the Supreme Court establishes that sexual harassment violates Title VII, prohibiting sex discrimination in employment. In its aftermath, NWLC launches a major effort in the courts, Congress, and government agencies to expand legal protection for survivors.
NWLC advocates for stronger child support protections—including the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which has since benefited millions of families.
With the Equal Rights Amendment extension drive just expired, Justice O’Connor’s early opinion in MUW v. Hogan adopts arguments advanced by the Center establishing stronger constitutional protection against sex discrimination.
The Center wins Parents Without Partners v. Massinga, establishing a right to state child support enforcement services without regard to income.
IRS determines that almost 1.4 million new taxpayers claimed the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit after the Center convinced IRS to add the credit to the 1040A “short form” the year before.
With Congress beginning to debate major tax reform, the Center organizes and co-chairs the first ever Coalition on Women and Taxes, helping to win important benefits for women in the 1986 Tax Reform Act.
The Supreme Court establishes that sexual harassment violates Title VII, prohibiting sex discrimination in employment, in a case in which the Center participated, and the Center launches a major effort in the courts, Congress and government agencies to expand its legal protection.
With the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, the Center releases the widely quoted report, Setting the Record Straight: Judge Bork and the Future of Women's Rights, forming a basis for successful opposition to his confirmation.
In Haffer v. Temple University, NWLC brings the first case to take on an entire athletic program. The win builds a foundation and model for thinking about discrimination in athletics and across-the-board inequities.
The Center secures $14 million for women and minorities, the largest-ever Executive Order 11246 back-pay award, in Department of Labor v. Harris Trust, while representing Women Employed.
The Center plays a central role in crafting and pressing a national agenda on child care, resulting in passage of the first comprehensive child care legislation since World War II.
Anita Hill gives history-changing testimony that will eventually spur significant change. This includes, in part, President Bush's signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 which for the first time allows limited money damages for victims of harassment and other intentional discrimination.
Record numbers of women win public office and the Center helps win the Supreme Court case, Franklin v. Gwinnett County, holding that Title IX contains a damages remedy for sexual harassment and other forms of sex discrimination in schools.
The Center’s three-year Child Care Tax Credits Outreach Campaign assures that millions of low-income families claim significantly more assistance under the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.
The Center’s analysis of gender stereotyped limitations helps secure congressional legislation and Defense Department policies that open 260,000 new military positions to women, including combat ships and aircraft.
The Center begins taking on legal cases to help women in prison.
The Supreme Court opens the Virginia Military Institute and The Citadel to women, adopting the strongest-ever standard of constitutional protection against sex discrimination, reflecting the Center's lead friend-of-the-court brief.
The Center files 25 Title IX charges against colleges and universities across the country alleging sex discrimination in athletic scholarships and ultimately securing millions of dollars more in scholarships for women students each year.
The Center helps pass the Child Support Performance and Incentive Act, which holds states accountable for improving their child support enforcement programs by basing federal incentive payments to states on their performance records.
NWLC brings, and argues, Davis v. Monroe County to the Supreme Court, where they rule in our favor, deciding that under Title IX, a school board can be held responsible for "student-on-student" harassment.
The Center expands women’s access to prescription contraceptives by securing a landmark EEOC ruling that employers’ exclusion of contraceptives from otherwise comprehensive health insurance plans constitutes sex discrimination and serving on the legal team that won the first federal court ruling to the same effect, Erickson v. Bartell Drug Co.
The Center seizes the opportunity to improve the Child Tax Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit to benefit millions of low- and middle-income families and co-chairs a coalition of more than 350 diverse organizations whose educational efforts limit to some extent the size of the 2001 federal tax cut.
During Title IX’s 30th anniversary year, the Center brings national attention to the discrimination that women and girls still face in education by conducting a nationwide investigation into high school vocational and technical programs, showing that girls are segregated into traditionally female and lower-paying careers, and by exposing a $6.5 million scholarship gap for female athletes at just 30 colleges and universities alone.
The Center releases the groundbreaking Women and Smoking: A National and State-by-State Report Card, the first comprehensive assessment of women’s smoking-related health conditions and tobacco-control policies, urging states and the nation to adopt cost-effective, proven policies to reduce smoking among women and girls.
The Center, building on its pioneering legal theories, partners with the NAACP to inform and activate African American communities to fight threats to reproductive health services by a growing number of hospitals refusing to provide emergency and other forms of contraception, full HIV/AIDS counseling, tubal ligations, and abortions.
The Center achieves a groundbreaking Supreme Court victory in Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education, a critically important Title IX decision that makes clear that the law prohibits retaliation against those who complain about sex discrimination and restores protections essential to the effective enforcement of Title IX and other bedrock civil rights laws.
The Center issues its quadrennial 50-state report card and analysis of state child care tax provisions, Making Care Less Taxing, documenting improvements in 23 state tax provisions secured by the Center and its partners, and engages in an intensive outreach campaign with state child care groups that increases the number of families claiming tax credits to help pay for child care and meet other needs.
The Center improves women’s economic security by helping to secure the first increase in the federal minimum wage in ten years and gaining House passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007, which reverses a Supreme Court decision making it nearly impossible for women to obtain relief for sex discrimination in compensation.
The Center releases its groundbreaking report, Nowhere to Turn: How the Individual Health Insurance Market Fails Women, which documents the disparities that women face in the individual insurance market, such as being charged more than men for coverage and being rejected for coverage for “pre-existing conditions,” such as having survived domestic violence.
The Center's extensive national campaign to pass critical pay equity legislation results in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act being passed by Congress and signed into law, and its new awareness campaign, “Being a Woman is Not a Pre-existing Condition,” galvanizes a national movement to end insurers’ discriminatory practices based on gender.
The Center’s groundbreaking reports and public awareness campaign on gender disparities in health insurance bring women’s voices into the health care debate and contribute to the passage of landmark legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The Center wins inclusion of contraception and yearly well-woman visits in a package of preventive health care services that insurance companies must provide without co-pays or deductibles under the Affordable Care Act.
The Center files a Supreme Court brief on behalf of 60 organizations detailing what's at stake for women in the challenge to the landmark Affordable Care Act, which is upheld as constitutional in a landmark decision.
The Center opens the door to 55,000 military jobs for women by securing an end to the Defense Department policy banning women from direct ground combat.
The Center wins the first reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant in nearly 20 years to ensure the health and safety of children in child care, improve the quality of care, and make it easier for families to get and keep child care assistance.
NWLC leads advocacy and litigation efforts, alongside a broad coalition of women's and civil rights groups, to set the foundation for new civil rights protections in health care under the ACA—the first federal law to prohibit gender discrimination in federally assisted and federally conducted health programs and activities (Section 1557).
The Center protects the jobs and health of pregnant workers by securing new state laws and a Supreme Court ruling that requires employers to make temporary accommodations to help pregnant women stay on the job.
NWLC publishes our Let Her Learn toolkit—helping to ensure girls who have experienced harassment are not unjustly pushed out of school.
NWLC leads a groundbreaking, class action, pregnancy discrimination lawsuit againt Walmart .
In the surge of the #MeToo movement, NWLC launches and becomes home to the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund. The first-of-its-kind fund connects survivors of workplace harassment and related retaliation with attorneys, and in select cases pays for their legal and PR fees. To date, the Fund has assisted nearly 6,000 survivors with these critical services.
In the immediate wake of the COVID pandemic, NWLC leads uniting the gender justice movement in their collective demands to center the needs and burdens of women—in particular women of color—in the government's COVID response, relief, and recovery efforts and policies.
NWLC continues to demand less discrimination and greater workplace protections through legislation like the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the BE HEARD in the Workplace Act.
NWLC leads a nationwide effort to secure historic relief dollars that would stabilize the child care sector during the pandemic, in particular lifting up the needs of early childhood educators, frontline workers, and women of color.
NWLC leads the way in supporting more women of color appointees and a more fair and equitable judiciary. From fighting back against problematic societal narratives to leading national SCOTUS nominee campaigns, NWLC continues to demand that our leaders truly represent our country and our values.
NWLC launches We Are the Backbone: a national campaign that shifts the narrative around care work from being a personal responsibility to a public infrastructure.
NWLC continues its efforts to end problematic school discipline policies and works alongside coalitions to redefine and support safer school environments.
An overly politicized and extremist Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, decimating our constitutional right to abortion. Fueled by anger, hope, and a clear vision for our collective reproductive rights, freedom, and health, NWLC prepares to fight on all levels—in court, in state and federal policy, and in our culture—to ensure that the right to abortion is restored, protected, and accessible for anyone who needs it.
Extremist politicians are attacking transgender and LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly students and athletes. NWLC will fight fiercely to protect their rights and to ensure all children feel safe and accepted in their school environments.