East, Catherine Shipe, 1916-1996

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Catherine Shipe East (May 15, 1916 – August 17, 1996) was a U.S. government researcher and feminist referred to as "the midwife to the women's movement". She was a powerful force behind the founding of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and held several influential federal government positions throughout her career.

Catherine Shipe East was born on May 15, 1916, in Barboursville, West Virginia to Bertha Woody and Ulysses Grant Shipe. She was the oldest of three children. Her mother suffered a nervous breakdown when Catherine was eleven years old and four years later her father committed suicide. Considering teaching her only option at the time, she entered teaching school at Marshall College, but had to withdraw due to financial difficulties eleven credit short of getting her bachelor's degree.

She married Charles East in 1937, whom she subsequently divorced; they had two daughters. In 1939 took a position with the U.S Civil Service Commission as a clerk. She earned her bachelor's degree in 1943.

Catherine Shipe East began her career as a junior civil service examiner with the U.S Civil Service Commission in 1939. She advanced to become the chief of the career service division before going to work for the Department of Labor in 1963. She served as the technical adviser to the President's Commission on the Status of Women and participated in the research and writing of the commissions report, American Women, published in 1963. Subsequent to the release of this report, President John F. Kennedy created the Interdepartmental Committee on the Status of Women and the Citizen's Advisory Council on the Status of Women, appointing East to serve as executive secretary for both groups.

Through her position as a government insider, Catherine East served as a foundational conduit of information for feminists across the nation. She believed that women needed a powerful organization similar to the NAACP. She encouraged Betty Friedan, who referred to her as "the midwife to the women's movement and other women in her circle to create the National Organization for Women, in order to have an organization that could function outside of the government to create change in government policies.

After retiring from government service in 1977, East became a full-time activist, working to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia and nationally and serving as women's issues coordinator in the John Anderson Presidential campaign (Nov. 1979 - Nov. 1980) and as legislative director of the National Women's Political Caucus (Oct. 1983 - Dec. 1986). She served on the board of the National Organization for Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund from 1979 to 1983.

She took part in a study of how newspapers handled various women's issues and co-authored a report called "New Directions for News." She was an active member of numerous organizations, such as the American Association of University Women, American Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters, National Woman's Party, and Planned Parenthood. She also received numerous awards, including WEAL's Elizabeth Boyer Award in 1983 for her "outstanding contribution to the advancement of women," and the Veteran Feminists of America Medal of Honor in 1993. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1994. A longtime resident of Arlington, Va., East moved to Ithaca, N.Y., in early 1996 to be near her youngest daughter. She died on August 17, 1996, in Ithaca, New York.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf East, Catherine Shipe. Papers of Catherine Shipe East. 1941-1995 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Boyer, Gene. Documenting the midwestern origins of the twentieth-century women's movement, 1987-1992. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Papers of NOW officers, 1971-1976 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Women in the Federal Government Oral History Project. Records, 1981-1991 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1931-2002 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Records of Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards. 1893 - 2008. Records Relating to the Equal Rights Amendment National Archives at College Park
referencedIn NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund. Records, 1970-1998 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1884-1998 (inclusive), 1929-1988 (bulk) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of Bernice Resnick Sandler, 1963-2008 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records of the Women's Equity Action League, 1966-1979 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1966-1969 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records of the Project on the Status and Education of Women (Association of American Colleges), (inclusive), (bulk), 1969-1991, 1971-1985 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf East, Catherine, 1916-1996. [Audiotape collection] [sound recording]. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Women's Equity Action League. Records, 1966-1979 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Veteran Feminists of America. Veteran Feminists of America records, 1972-2010. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Alexander, Dolores, 1931-2008. NOW officer papers, 1960-1973 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Peterson, Esther, 1906-1997. Papers, 1884-1998 (inclusive), 1929-1998 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn National Organization for Women. Records, 1959-2002 (inclusive), 1966-1988 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1968-1985 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, (inclusive), (bulk), 1955-1990, 1972-1990 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Alexander, Dolores. Papers, 1960-1973 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Neuberger, Maurine Brown, 1907-2000. Papers, 1966-1969 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Heide, Wilma Scott, 1921-1985. Papers, 1968-1985 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Friedan, Betty, 1921-2006. Papers, 1933-1985 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Additional papers of Betty Friedan, 1941-2006 (inclusive), 1980-2000 (bulk) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Rawalt, Marguerite, 1895-. [Audiotape collection] [sound recording]. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf East, Catherine, 1916-1996. Papers, 1941-1996 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Audiotape collection, 1979-1981 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Records of Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards. 1893 - 2008. Subject Files National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Records, 1967-1990 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Kolb, Frances Arick,. [Audiotape collection] [sound recording]. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Records of Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards. 1893 - 2008. General Records National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Records, (inclusive), (bulk), 1959-2002, 1966-1998 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Darcy, Lynne. Papers of NOW officers, 1971-1976 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Audiotape collection, 1953-1979 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Kolb, Frances Arick. Papers, 1955-1990 (inclusive), 1972-1990 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Women in the Federal Government Oral History Project. Interviews, 1981-1983 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Rupp, Leila J., 1950-. Audiotape collection of Leila J. Rupp and Verta A. Taylor, 1979-1983. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
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Place Name Admin Code Country
Ithaca NY US
Arlington VA US
West Virginia WV US
Subject
Feminism
Sex descrimination against women
Women political activitists
Abortion
Occupation
Government employee
Women's rights activists
Activity

Person

Birth 1916-05-15

Death 1996-08-17

Female

Americans

English

Information

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