In 1974, the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) established a community advisory board to provide information and to make recommendations on the status of women in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Former County Commission Chairwoman Elizabeth “Liz” Hair, is credited with providing the key leadership toward the establishment of the Women’s Commission. Originally referred to as the Commission on the Status of Women, it was renamed in 1979 to the Mecklenburg County Women’s Commission with the direct focus on employment, training, domestic violence victim services, and advocacy.
The original Commission on the Status of Women consisted of nine Board of County Commissioners' appointees. Nancy Klein and Sarah Stephenson presided as the first Chair and Vice-Chair. Other members included James G. Babb, Jr., Marilyn M. Bradbury, Flo Bryant, Carrie Graves, Eddie Hodgson, Betty Maxwell and William P. Mullis.
Two important Boards were established with members appointed by both the Board of County Commissioners and the City Council. The Women’s Commission still serves as the liaison to these Boards. The Women’s Advisory Board (WAB), originally known as the Women’s Commission Advisory Board (WCAB),was immediately established in August of 1974 with the purpose to increase public understanding of the problems, needs and abilities of women. Their focus has always been to provide an annual update on the status of women in Mecklenburg County. The Domestic Violence Advisory Board (DVAB) was established in 1992 and reports annually on the status of domestic violence in the community to both the Board of County Commissioners and the City Council.
The CSS Women’s Commission has historically been a catalyst for the development of numerous programs in the community that benefit women and families. Included in its many accomplishments is the key developmental leadership they provided to the establishment of the first Shelter for Battered Women, the Council for Children, Charlotte Emergency Housing and the first batterer’s intervention program (ADAM, later became NOVA).
The Women’s Commission Department moved under the Community Support Services (CSS) umbrella in 2008, joining Homeless Services and the Veterans Services Office. This newly formed department of Mecklenburg County offers assistance to domestic victims, offenders and child witnesses as well as displaced homemakers, veterans, homeless individuals and individuals living in targeted neighborhoods.
The CSS Women’s Commission leads the way still today by implementing and facilitating the first Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team in North Carolina producing law changing recommendations since 2009. They are also leading the charge to establish the Mecklenburg County Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Center opening in 2014.
The CSS Women’s Commission leads the way in Charlotte-Mecklenburg with Prevention and Public Awareness efforts, coordinating educational events and providing resources to churches, civic groups, schools and local corporations.
Much of the success of the CSS Women’s Commission over the past forty years is due to the assistance provided by community volunteers and student interns. One of many examples is the partnership with Safe Alliance in providing community education on domestic violence (DV) through coordination of the Domestic Violence Speakers Bureau. With a pool of more than 80 volunteers, the DV Speakers Bureau has reached more than 90,000 citizens since 2007, averaging more than 13,000 per year.
For more information on the effects of domestic violence in our community, call the Mecklenburg County’s Community Support Services Women’s Commission at 704-336-3210.
If you need a speaker for your next event contact the Domestic Violence Speakers Bureau at 704-432-1568 or go to http://DVSB.Charmeck.org.