Push Back, Move Forward

The National Council of Women's Organizations and Coalition Advocacy

Laura R. Woliver
Book Cover

PB: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1683-4
Publication: Sep 18

HC: $99.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1682-7
Publication: Sep 18

Ebook: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1684-1
Publication: Sep 18

240 pages
6 x 9

An in-depth explanation of the coalition dynamics—origin, workings, strengths, and weaknesses—of the National Council of Women’s Organizations

Read the Introduction (pdf).


The coalition known as the National Council of Women’s Organizations no longer exists today, but the history and the lessons learned from the NCWO’s activism remain as important as ever—perhaps even more so in this age of Trump. Laura Woliver spent fifteen years doing fieldwork and conducting research and interviews to understand how the NCWO coalition group functioned. The result is her impressive study, Push Back, Move Forward.

Woliver explores the foundational work of the NCWO and member groups to promote women’s economic security, citizen status, and political rights. She investigates women’s access to previously “male only” organizations, such as private clubs; the increase in voter participation generated by measures such as early voting; advocacy campaigns for such benefit programs as Social Security and the Affordable Care Act; and global human and women’s rights activism. In addition, she examines the accomplishments of women of color, both alongside and within the NCWO, who orient their politics toward achieving justice and attaining rights.

Push Back, Move Forward artfully documents this important group’s activities while also gleaning larger lessons about coalition organizations.


"Push Back, Move Forward traces the history, work, and impact of the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO).... Woliver’s engaging description of the role of the NCWO in many of the key political developments of the past two decades only leaves us wanting more.... Push Back, Move Forward provides unique insights not only into the functioning of the National Council of Women’s Organizations but also for gender politics, activism, policy making, and coalition dynamics in the contentious first decades of the twenty-first century."
— Perspectives on Politics

In this fascinating intersectional account of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, Laura Woliver explores decades of feminist activism to promote participatory democracy, community-based collective action, social justice, and policy transformation. Focusing on the challenges of institutional coalition building by and for women, Push Back, Move Forward provides fresh insights into feminist accomplishments in the United States and the complex forces that seek to derail them.”
Mary Hawkesworth, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University

“Push Back, Move Forward fills large gaps in existing literature on the second and third U.S. women’s movements. Woliver connects the pieces of these stories, illuminating the benefits and costs of coalition building and policy advocacy on behalf of women’s issues. She also highlights the frequently overlooked modeling of activist citizenship by Black women who have and continue to sustain movements for social justice as well as numerous policy coalitions. Woliver reveals much we do not know and presents an original look at the National Council of Women’s Organization’s work and impact.
Anne Costain, Professor Emerita of Political Science and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder

"The book provides a useful overview of the many fronts the feminist movement was fighting and how these issues were tackled within one coalition. Its central strength is providing succinct summaries of various episodes of feminist engagement."
— Contemporary Sociology

Table of Contents

    List of Acronyms and Abbreviations
  1. Introduction: Easier in Groups; The American Women’s Movement and the National Council of Women’s Organizations
  2. Precursors: Genders, Matrixes, and Coalitions
  3. More Than the Sum of the Parts: NCWO History and Structure
  4. Master Narratives While the Masters Golf
  5. Working the Gender Gap: The NCWO and Voter Engagement, 2006–2014 (with Annie Boiter-Jolley, coauthor)
  6. Gender and Safety Nets: Reforming and Saving Social Security
  7. Health Care Reform: Being a Woman Is Not a Preexisting Condition
  8. The NCWO and Global Feminism
  9. Conclusion: Pushing Back Neoliberal Agendas via Women’s Coalitional Activism
    Appendix A: Interviews Conducted as of December 12, 2016
    Appendix B: NCWO Meetings Attended
    Appendix C: NCWO-Related Events Attended and Observed
    Appendix D: Interviews, Meetings, and Observations by Year

About the Author(s)

Laura R. Woliver is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of South Carolina. She is the author of From Outrage to Action: The Politics of Grass-Roots Dissent and The Political Geographies of Pregnancy.