Lillian Poltere Papers



Women’s Museum of California



Lillian Poltere Papers



Collection Overview

Title: Lillian Poltere Papers

Accession Number: AC-025

Prepared by: Kim Matsuo

Head Archivist: Julia Friedman

Date Acquired: Unknown

Date Processed: April 6, 2017

Location: Women’s Museum of California San Diego, CA

Language: Collection material is in English

Extent: One box.


Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: Open to research

Use Restrictions: None


Biographical Note

Lillian Poltere founded the San Diego Chapter of National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1970. She was active in the city of San Diego’s Affirmative Action Committee, and also worked closely with private corporations to promote gender discrimination awareness and to improve working conditions for women.


Brief Biography

Born in China on February 18, 1925, Lillian Poltere and her family moved to San Diego in 1941. After graduating from San Diego City College with a degree in political science, Ms. Poltere studied at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. In 1967, Ms. Poltere joined the Los Angeles NOW chapter. Founded in 1966, NOW has grown to be the largest feminist activist organization in the United States.1


In 1970, Poltere, Eleanor Bevege, and Helen and Bill Hawkins founded the San Diego Chapter of NOW. Poltere served as the chapter’s first vice-president. Until the late 1970s, she was also the group's newsletter editor. Moreover, she chaired the San Diego NOW chapter’s Employment and Discrimination Task Force. Then-Mayor Pete Wilson appointed Poltere to the city’s first Affirmative Action Committee. Keeping well-abreast of laws and bills affecting women’s rights in San Diego, Poltere worked passionately as an affirmative action activist to ensure improved working conditions and salaries for women. She strongly advocated for more women representation in areas such as television and radio, higher education institutions, and private sector corporations. Ms. Poltere was instrumental in fighting for women’s workplace rights during a time when discrimination of women and minorities in the workplace was commonplace.


Ms. Poltere died February 26, 2008, in La Jolla, California.2


Summary of the Collection

The Lillian Poltere Papers Collection consists of one box divided into three series. The collection contains materials from the earlier years of the San Diego NOW chapter, including newsletters (April-July, 1973), membership information and updates, and papers from the Employment & Compliance Task Force and the Women & Religion Task Force. There is a folder of some awards Ms. Poltere received from NOW.


Affirmative action material regarding various San Diego entities--government, education, and private sector--is contained in the collection. These include the San Diego City Citizens Advisory Committee on Affirmative Action, the Emergency Employment Act of 1971, and Affirmative Action plans and related material from San Diego universities and colleges (1972-1974). There is a series containing publications, all relating to women’s issues of the day. There is a folder of Women of China magazines (November, 1986-June, 1987). Most newspaper and magazine clippings are identified and dated, between years 1970 and 1978.


Container List: Box and Folder Material

Series 1 Subject Files NOW

     Series 1: Box 1: Folder 1: Newsletters, April-July, 1973

     Series 1: Box 1: Folder 2: Newsletter submissions

     Series 1: Box 1: Folder 3: Employment & Compliance Taskforce

     Series 1: Box 1: Folder 4: Taskforce on Women & Religion

     Series 1: Box 1: Folder 5: Membership information and updates

     Series 1: Box 1: Folder 6: Awards

     Series 1: Box 1: Folder 7: Miscellaneous Papers


Series 2 Subject Files Affirmative Action

     Series 2: Box 1: Folder 1: Citizens Advisory Committee on Affirmative Action

     Series 2: Box 1: Folder 2: Emergency Employment Act of 1971

     Series 2: Box 1: Folder 3: Manpower Service Agency

     Series 2: Box 1: Folder 4: Government Bills and Laws

     Series 2: Box 1: Folder 5: Private Sector

     Series 2: Box 1: Folder 6: UCSD (1972-1973)

     Series 2: Box 1: Folder 7: San Diego Community College District (1974)

     Series 2: Box 1: Folder 8: Other Higher Education (1972)

     Series 2: Box 1: Folder 9: Miscellaneous


Series 3 Subject Files Publications

     Series 3: Box 1: Folder 1: Newspaper and magazine clippings and articles

     Series 3: Box 1: Folder 2: Women of China (Nov. 1986 – June 1987)

     Series 3: Box 1: Folder 3: Miscellaneous


Scope and Content of the Materials

Series 1: Box 1

Series 1 contains NOW newsletters, from April, 1973, to July, 1973. In addition to the NOW National Office (March, 1973) and the California NOW (May, 1973) newsletters, there are editions from other NOW chapers: Sacramento (April, 1973), Contra Costa (June-July, 1973), Santa Barbara (April, 1973), Los Angeles (April, 1973), Santa Cruz (April, 1973), San Fernando Valley (April, 1973), Harbor-South Bay (April, May,1973), San Jose (April, 1973), Long Beach (April, 1973), Ventura (May, 1973), North San Diego County (May, 1973), Snohomish County (WA) (May, 1973). The newsletters cover a range of information, such as dates of upcoming events, meeting minutes, advertisements, and book lists. Some newsletters have articles discussing the annual NOW National Conference of February, 1973. There are also reports on government legislation. These include childcare (AB1244, SB395), the Equal Rights Amendment, discrimination (AB386) and issues related to women's health. A letter from a chapter president may also be included. Newsletters from chapters in California contain similar information in their calendar of events.


As Ms. Poltere served as the San Diego NOW chapter newsletter editor, Series 1 contains article submissions from members, as well as job listings from the community. There is also handwritten correspondence to Ms. Poltere conveying ideas for upcoming newsletters. One is a typewritten letter from Sharon M. Hall, dated August 11, 1972. She instructs Ms. Poltere to edit her submission accordingly. Ms. Hall directs her words to three men—Mr.'s Beatty, Couppee, and Swieg--who were featured on an evening TV program, Assignment on Channel 10 KGTV. In it, she expresses disdain at the men's comments regarding women in the Navy.


Ms. Poltere was also chairperson of the Employment and Compliance Taskforce of the San Diego NOW chapter. There is a folder in the series containing letters and documents relating to the Taskforce work on women's discrimination in the workplace. There is material for Navy and Marine organizations with civilian employees regarding the processing of discrimination complaints. This includes a Department of the Navy complaint form submitted by Ms. Lois Hogue and Ms. Helen Carmichall. There are letters and documents regarding a discrimination complaint filed by Ms. Barbara-Ann E.Swartz against J. C. Penney in August, 1975. Moreover, there are letters and spreadsheets regarding the County of San Diego hiring practices in the early 1970s, as well as statistics sheets from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Standards Administration Women's Bureau. There is a letter from the Lawyer's Club of San Diego to the San Diego NOW chapter president Sue Metzker, dated June 18, 1973, discussing the establishment of a non-profit organization to represent individuals experiencing job discrimination. Material about maternity leave and benefits are also included. There is a copy of a letter from Dr. Katherine F. Carson, M.D., to Rear Admiral C. A. Karaberis, dated February 16, 1973, discussing her personal views and experience regarding maternity leave.


The Taskforce on Women and Religion folder contains a reading list from Jan Gleason, dated July 26, 1972, though underneath is the name “M. G. Nelson” in parentheses. (Marjorie G. Nelson was the chairperson of this Task Force.) Another letter from the American Bible Society, October 2, 1972, is addressed to Ms. Nelson and discusses Bible translation and cultural context. There is a letter from Ms. Nelson to Ms. Poltere, November 16, 1972, regarding religious equality for women, from Bible translations to representation in church leadership roles.


There is considerable NOW membership material, from application forms and renewal reminders, to “NOW Right to Choose” press kits. There is a typed membership list dated May, 1972, with hand-written notes, perhaps by Ms. Poltere. There are type-written updates from NOW members regarding both chapter and state board meetings, and letters to NOW members regarding legislation. A paper titled “Two Years in Review 1970-1972” highlights the work of the San Diego NOW Chapter during the time since its inception.


There is a folder containing a few awards Ms. Poltere received for her work in NOW, as well as a certificate for completing the “Women on Wheels” program by Chrysler Corporation in June, 1972.


Series 2: Box 1

Ms. Poltere was a member of the City of San Diego Citizens Advisory Committee on Affirmative Action. This series contains a considerable amount of documents and correspondence as it pertains to women and minority employees in the public sector. In addition to data collected of employee statistics, there is an article by Judith Filner (San Diego NOW Chapter president, 1973) describing a complaint NOW filed with the EEOC (United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) against the City of San Diego for gender discrimination in the workplace. There is a memorandum of ruling concluding that the hiring plan of San Diego is unconstitutional. Attached to the ruling are newspaper clippings about the ruling, as well as some that discuss the firing of five San Diego women firefighters (October, 1972). Some of the printed items include outlines of Affirmative Action Programs from the EEOC, a Procedure for Prevention of Unlawful Employment Practices (also from the EEOC), and a copy of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972.


There is considerable material regarding the Emergency Employment Act of 1971. A “Preliminary Summary of Investigation of...Public Employment Program in San Diego,” conducted by Ms. Poltere, is labeled “not for release” and dated October 11, 1971. In it, she details her personal experience with the PEP involving hiring attempts in the public sector. There is a copy of the program guidelines of the Emergency Employment Act, as well as a copy of guidelines regarding the EEA for Reservation Indians, dated September, 1971.


A folder contains correspondence concerning the name “Department of Manpower,” the new name resulting from the merger of two California government agencies, the Departments of Human Resources Development and Rehabilitation. There is a letter written by Eve Norman, California State NOW Coordinator, to Director Sig Hansen of the California Department of Human Resources Development, proposing a name change and explaining possible consequences varying from demonstrations to filing a class action lawsuit if the name remains. The response to the letter is included, from Mr. Dwight Geduldig, explaining that Ms. Norman's letter has been forwarded to the task force overseeing the creation of the new department. There is a letter to Ms. Poltere from Ms. Norman, in which Ms. Norman confers to her the authority to pursue the Manpower name matter. There are also Manpower newsletters. The April 1973 issue includes an article regarding the agency name.


Ms. Poltere read and studied a substantial amount of legislation concerning women's issues. There is a folder containing copies of laws and guides. Some bills, such as the Assembly Bill No. 458, have Ms. Poltere's address label and hand-written notes. There is a packet with a stamp “Compliments of Speaker Bob Moretti” containing a summary of California laws in March, 1973, that either concern only women or that clearly discriminate between men and women. Title 29, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and different versions of and guides to the Fair Labor Standards Act are also included in the folder. There is a sizable packet entitled A Guide to Federal Laws Prohibiting Sex Discrimination, by the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights, printed in 1974.


A letter from a KOGO Radio executive to NOW chapter president Judith Filner highlights a recent visit and responds to inquiry regarding the corporation's affirmative action program. There are other letters regarding fair representation of women in broadcasting media. Affirmative action-related material includes a copy of an article from the Training and Development Journal (November, 1971), “Identifying and Developing Women for Management Positions;” “Step by Step: Affirmative Action for Women,” by Womanpower; and “A Development Program for Women Employees,” a proposal for the Southern California First National Bank. There are hand-written notes on legal paper that appear to be preliminary brainstorm notes for the later Development Program packet. A type-written paper, dated May 19, 1973, and hand-addressed “To Lillian” with the words “court action” written in the left hand margin, regards the Bank of California and outlines ways it is to ameliorate working conditions of women and minority employees.


Ms. Poltere amassed a remarkable number of papers from the UCSD (University of California, San Diego) Affirmative Action Committee. A letter dated January 5, 1973, from Charles J. Hitch to UCSD Chancellors, Vice Presidents, and Laboratory Directors, explains that affirmative action programs should follow a singular policy and guidelines, which is attached to the letter. Another letter, March 20, 1973, to Dr, Paul Saltman (Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs), from Dr. Juan Yguerabide (Chairman, Affirmative Action Committee), requests a new way to present academic goals and timetables that agree with Affirmative Action guidelines. There are two packets, “Academic Personnel Affirmative Action Program” (dated March 20, 1973) and “Staff Personnel Affirmative Action Program” (dated March 16, 1973), both with attachments, that formally state and outline UCSD's equal opportunity and non-discriminatory policies to employees. These appear to be drafts, as there are changes made by hand.


There is a notice from the UCSD Office of the Chancellor concerning the Affirmative Action program at UCSD. In it, Chancellor McElroy outlines the school's complete commitment to affirmative action. Attached are copies of an “Academic Personnel Affirmative Action Program” and a “Staff Personnel Affirmative Action Program.” These are noticeably shorter than the aforementioned packets, and the Chancellor states that more detailed, expanded versions of both will be forthcoming. This letter is dated July 6, 1972. Another copy of the letter, dated July 28, 1972, is addressed to “Key Administrators” and “Policy and Procedure Manual Holders.” The content is identical and there is no attachment.


There is a draft, entitled “Recommendations to the Chancellor on the Structure and Role of the Affirmative Action Committees From the Affirmative Action Committee and Subcommittees on Minorities and Women,” and a revised draft and final draft outlining the Committee's intention to develop an Affirmative Action program at the university, both entitled “Guidelines for the Structure and Role of the Affirmative Action Committee and its Subcommittees on Minorities and Women.” There is a copy of a letter from UCSD Chancellor, W. D. McElroy, with the final draft attached, in which he approves of the guidelines of the committee and subcommittees.


Dr. Ruth Covell, the Chairman of the UCSD Affirmative Action Subcommittee on Women, carbon copied Ms. Poltere on a communique of her formal comments on the Affirmative Action program draft for the UCSD Policies and Procedures Manuals for staff and academic personnel. Ms. Poltere's name is included in meeting notes as an attendee; it is probable that she was a member of the UCSD Affirmative Action Committee. There are April 5, 1973, meeting minutes from the Affirmative Action Subcommittee on Women; March 30, and April 2, 1973, meeting minutes from the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee. At the later meeting, the committee was going to investigate whether the affirmative action policies were followed in the case of Dr. Arturo Madrid, a UCSD Spanish Lit professor who was denied tenure. Dr. Covell sent to Ms. Poltere a copy of a paper by Joan Huber, President of Sociologists for Women in Society, concerning Affirmative Action in higher education. There is a copy of an article, dated May 25, 1973, “HEW Asks Ten States For Desegregation Plans of Colleges.”


There is a list of UCSD Affirmative Action members, dated May 15, 1973, on which Ms. Poltere's name is listed as a consultant for Statistics Monitoring. There is a packet of papers of statistics of 1971-72 high school seniors who selected UCSD, as well as a paper dated April, 1973, which provides a graph of the proportion of female to male graduate students at UCSD. A guest list for a Planning Office Open House lists Dr. Covell representing the Medical School.


There are Affirmative Action policies from San Diego Mesa College, San Diego City College, and Miramar College, dated 1974. There is also an Affirmative Action Program from the San Diego City College Headquarters, adopted February, 1974.


Contained in Folder 8 are various papers and materials regarding higher education. Women’s Work Has Just Begun: Legal Problems of Employing Women in the UniversitiesCourse Materials is a published text, dated June 23 and 24, 1972, and contains the Affirmative Action materials for the University of Michigan. Approximately 300 pages, the last few pages are torn. A general letter from Joan Huber, President of Sociologists for Women in Society, from the University of Illinois, discusses overall support and criticism of Affirmative Action nationwide. There is a short cover letter dated April 23, 1973, from Lucy W. Sells, Chair of the Committee on the Status of Women, encouraging the reader to “act affirmatively.” There is a photocopy of “Federal Laws and Regulations Concerning Sex Discrimination in Educational Institutions,” from the December, 1972, edition of The College and University Business Officer. This could be the magazine at the time from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). A photocopy of a type-written report, entitled “General Comments,” appears to be the results of a study on a university’s Affirmative Action Goals. No institution, however, is named in the report. The names Dorinda Bickley, Lillian Poltere, and A.S. Russ are typed at the bottom; these could be the authors of the report. On the top, handwritten, are the words “for Dorinda.” There is a hand-drawn chart attached that displays different departments, divided into minorities and Caucasians, and subdivisions into male and female. A letter from Inga K. Kelly, Associate Professor of Education at Washington State University, requests that the attached job description for a director of affirmative action and special programs be circulated. There is a paper by Lucy W. Sells, dated March 11, 1973, “Availability Pools as the Basis for Affirmative Action,” with the initials “L.P.” handwritten in red on the top corner. A report by Doris Lee McCoy, “A Study of Verbal Behavior of Male and Female Students Toward Male and Female Faculty in an Undergraduate College,” is also included in the folder. A paper entitled “Affirmative Action: Means and Ends: an address by Robert F. Sasseen, Dean of the Faculty California State University, San Jose,” is undated and provides no details on where the address was given.


The last folder in Series 2 contains miscellaneous papers regarding Affirmative Action. Some of these are letters to government officials from California and San Diego NOW chapters. These include: Assemblyman Lawrence Kapiloff, regarding AB 765 to include the prefix ‘Ms.’ on voter registrations; Senator John Tunney, regarding revenue sharing; a draft of a letter to a generic assemblyman asking to ratify Equal Rights for Women Amendment. There is also a typewritten paper, “Women’s Rights,” about the Democratic Party support of women’s rights. Papers regarding women's health are: a letter to Marge Stanley from the County of San Diego Health Care Agency regarding an alcohol detoxification program for women in San Diego; a brochure, “Abortion Counseling Service & The California Therapeutic Abortion Act;” a petition regarding a proposed measure about abortion; and a half-sheet of typewritten instructions regarding signature-collecting on the aforementioned petition. Some of these papers have the initials “L.P.’ handwritten on the top corner. A collection of material regarding a bias lawsuit against the city of San Diego, in which NOW requested to be involved, is included in the folder. Other miscellaneous papers are included: “The Covert Power of Gender in Organizations,” by Theodora Wells, from the Summer, 1973, edition of Journal of Contemporary Business; a collection of California NOW papers regarding women's poverty and pay status, as well as a paper by Jo-Ann Evans Gardner, Ph.D., “Recommendations to the Republican National Committee Resolutions Committee—Subcommittee VI--'Responsive Government'” (the first page has a NOW national banner).


Series 3: Box 1

There are a wide variety of newspaper and magazine clippings, original and copies, all focused on women's issues (equal opportunity, Women's Liberation Movement, discrimination). Most are dated and in fair condition. Examples of the articles are: “Everything a Woman Needs To Know To Get Paid What She's Worth,” by Caroline Bird, in Family Circle, April, 1973; “County Discrimination City in EEOC Report” (handwritten “S.D. Union 7/19/78”); “Public channel in new concept of TV training” (San Diego Evening Tribune, August 8, 1977); and “Beyond Women's Liberation” (McCall's, August, 1972). Photocopies of “Help Wanted--Men” sections from San Diego Union Tribune are included. Complete publications include: an original of Mother's Home Life and the Household Guest, dated May 1952; Equal Rights, a publication of National Woman's Party, Vol. 39, No. 2, Jan.-Feb., 1953; San Diego Daily Aztec, April 23, 1960.


There are six Women of China magazines, from November, 1986, to June, 1987. Women of China began publishing in 1952, and they are sponsored by the All-China's Women's Federation, the largest NGO in China. They continue to publish monthly in English. Their mission is to educate readers about Chinese women and their accomplishments.3 There is no record of why these magazines are in the collection.


Miscellaneous publications include the December, 1974, edition of Criterion for Tufts Alumni and Parents, whose main article is “Uppity Women Unite”; two editions of now-defunct The Spokeswoman: An independent monthly newsletter for women (December 15, 1974; August 15, 1975); the first five pages from The 1972 Annual Handbook for Group Facilitators, an article entitled “Openness, Collusion and Feedback,” by J. William Pfeiffer and John E. Jones; and an article by Theodora Wells, “Equalizing Advancement Between Women and Men,” reprinted by the American Society for Training and Development, Madison, Wisconsin; News Digest, vol. II, number 11, May 17, 1973, of the EEOC.


1“Who We Are,” accessed March 25, 2017,

2“OBITUARY--Lillian Poltere; founding mother of local NOW chapter,” accessed March 25, 2017,

3“About Us,” Women of China, accessed March 30, 2017,