As the WIMS project progressed, even before the Wednesday visits began, we realized that this process of working with southern women in order to open their eyes, their hearts and their minds, would also cause the northern women to re-examine and re-evaluate themselves in their northern worlds. 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 have been impossible to estimate. The ripples will continue long after the waves have subsided.
Each woman on this project serves as a communicator.
Each woman serves as a catalyst.
- Pauline Spiegel Cowan
The women of WIMS had many goals: racial justice; inter-racial, inter-regional, and inter-faith communications; opening the closed society of Mississippi; supporting the freedom schools and voter registration; and expanding the horizons and commitments of the northern women themselves. They were confident that they would in some measure succeed. As Polly Cowan wrote, “the ripples will continue long after the waves have subsided.”
Did they succeed? Everything that fit into freedom summer was important. When Delta sorority sent clothes to the black school children who were integrating the Jackson schools, that was important. Communications between people is always a struggle, but Mississippi is no longer the closed society it once was. Many of the Northern women who went South in 1964 and 1965 returned home to work hard for a just society. And the National Council of Negro Women listened hard to what the Southern poor women, both black and white, had to say, and went to work to solve their problems.
The first WIMS summer led to a second one. After that Wednesdays in Mississippi became Workshops in Mississippi. The NCNW – still working across racial and religious boundaries – helped poor women in Mississippi learn how to help themselves, how to achieve economic self-sufficiency. They taught poor women how to survive in a society where the cotton economy had collapsed for poor tenants and laborers, and where a viable new economic structure not yet developed. The NCNW remains in Mississippi to this day.