History and Accomplishments


- conducts a statewide initiative we call the Listening Project, consisting of several elements soliciting public input, including an online survey.

- is recognized by the General Assembly for our strengths in providing effective and collaborative public education by an appropriation of $125,000 in Act 183 for the purposes of implementing a public outreach and education campaign on sexual harassment and workplace discrimination.

- produces comprehensive research on women’s economic status in Vermont through our Change the Story project in partnership with the Vermont Women’s Fund and Vermont Works for Women, research that has spurred tremendous activity around the state as more people grow to understand the importance of women’s economic advancement and impact on our state's economy.

-  engages in coalitions and collaborations that are far-reaching and powerful, spanning the state as well as New England. Our work has contributed to Vermont being recognized as a leader in legislation and policies related to sexual harassment, equal pay, and engagement of private sector partners.

- provides testimony and information on reasonable workplace accommodations, such as having access to water, access to a stool or a chair, longer or more frequent restroom breaks, or avoiding heavy lifting, for healthy pregnant workers. The legislation was signed into law in spring of 2017.

gavel wordle for alimony reform- serves on legislative Spousal Support and Maintenance Task Force, created for the purpose of reviewing and making legislative recommendations to Vermont’s alimony laws.  As well as research and information, VCW collects and presents the stories of Vermont women on this issue at a taskforce public hearing

- hosts an Equal Pay Day ““Vermont Women and Leadership” report press conference at the State House with new data about participation of women in various leadership roles in Vermont, including federal, state and municipal government, Abenaki Nations, academia, law enforcement, and the corporate and non-profit sectors.

- celebrates Women’s History Month with the evening roundtable discussion, "Women of the Counterculture Movement in 1970s Vermont," featuring Euan Bear, Bridget Downey-Meyer, Louise Andrews, Melinda Moulton and Verandah Porche, reflecting on what brought them into this movement, what their experience was like, and what lasting impact it’s had on their own lives and on Vermont society, as always with the Vermont Historical Society and with Vermont Public Radio offering a corresponding-themed week-long commentary series.

 100 signers to our compact- marks the 100th signer of VCW’s Equal Pay Compact, a voluntary online pledge enabling Vermont-based employers to learn more about and to indicate a commitment to closing the gender wage gap.

- provides a “sneak preview” of Change The Story Women in Leadership data to policy makers at our biennial legislative lunch, featuring a speech by newly elected Governor Scott.  The data highlights Vermont as a national leader in gender parity among state legislatures, with the highest percentage of women, as well as women in many leadership positions, but also points out that just one woman currently holds statewide elective office, and that Vermont is one of only two states that have never sent a woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. 

- helps to plan and joins nearly 400 women at 2016 New England Women’s Policy Conference, learning about state and regional strategies to advance policies that can increase economic security for all women and their families, with a focus on low-wage workers and other vulnerable groups, as per the conference theme: “Expanding Opportunity and Building Equality for Women and Girls of Color.”

- reveals Change The Story VT (CTS) report, Women's Business Ownership and the Vermont Economy at the Women Business Owners Network fall conference.  The report details both exciting opportunities and great success that owning a business holds for women, as well as barriers and challenges faced, with focus on latent potential.  Like CTS’s other reports, this one closes with questions, rather than recommendations in order to generate statewide conversations and deepen understanding. 

- joins Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FaMLI) Coalition, a group supporting time to bond with or care for a newborn, recover from a serious long-term illness or injury, or care for a family member with a serious long-term illness or injury. 

- sponsors Re-Imagining Justice Conference, with Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform and Vermont Law School's Criminal Law Society. This was a community conversation about criminal justice in Vermont—what it looks like, its challenges and successes, and examining reforms and alternatives to mass incarceration. 

poster from 2016 Governor Candidate Forum- hosts a State House Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Women's Issues with League of Women Voters of Vermont, and Vermont Federation of Business and Professional Women, and moderated by Anne Galloway of VTDigger.org, with candidates Bill Lee, Liberty Union Party; Sue Minter, Democratic Party; and Phil Scott, Republican Party.

- unveils report Where Vermont Women Work…and Why It Matters developed by Change The Story VT at Equal Pay Day.

- presents American Association of University Women’s Start Smart salary negotiation workshop to Norwich University students through a grant from UMass at Boston's Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy.

- presents Sex, Race & Empowerment in the 21st Century at Vermont Law School (VLS) with VLS’ Women's Law Group and VLS' Law Students for Reproductive Justice, examining the impact of violence, the importance of providing legal and advocacy services to all survivors, and the importance of ensuring women's access to affordable and safe reproductive healthcare.

- collaborates with Vermont Historical Society, for women’s history month event telling the story of “The Three Musketeers”: the first women to hike the Long Trail end-to-end in 1927. 

- provides testimony on paid sick days legislation, signed into law in March, 2016.

-sponsors Women, Poverty & Justice: Addressing Homelessness and Promoting Financial Security for Women in Vermont, a standing room only event with experts speaking on the unique challenges of homelessness to women in Vermont.

- releases Women, Work and Wages in Vermont, the first of a series of briefs looking at women’s economic security in Vermont from Change the Story.

- receives a $173,794 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau to study the feasibility of developing a statewide paid family and medical leave program.

CTS logo- launches Change the Storya multi-year initiative to align policy, program and philanthropy to significantly improve women's economic status, in coalition with powerful partners, Vermont Women’s Fund and Vermont Works for Women

- creates new statewide events calendar, an extension of VCW’s efforts to facilitate collaboration between Vermont organizations doing work with women and girls.

- serves as member on the Governor's Pathways from Poverty Council.

- presents Vermont Women's Economic Security Summit with the Vermont Women's Legislative Caucus featuring U.S. Department of Labor's Director of the Women's Bureau, Latifa Lyles.

- hosts a series of free public forums across the state focusing on long-term paid family and medical leave with Main Street Alliance Vermont

- benefits from the talents and skills of two Vermont Law School student interns to update VCW's Legal Rights of Women in Vermont handbook.  The students write, research state and federal statutes, and work with experts in the field to update the handbook with recently passed laws. The internship is named in tribute to  Professor Cheryl Hanna, who passed away in 2014, and who worked with VLS students to update this publication in 2011.

- invites all Vermont employers to sign on to the Vermont Equal Pay Compact to learn about and commit to concrete steps to help close the wage gap between men and women in our state.


Cary Brown on panel and big screen- presents at The Unfinished Agenda: New England Women’s Policy Conference, held in Boston November 2014, a power-packed day of learning, networking and celebrating state and regional action in four issue areas promoting women’s economic security: wages and income security; health and family leave policies; childcare; and elder care.

- coordinates and co-sponsors The Incarcerated Women’s Initiative, Then and Now: Vermont Summit on Women in Corrections, examining issues still facing women in corrections and ideas for next step policy recommendations.

- celebrates 50th anniversary in 2014. Watch our slideshow featuring material and photos from our archives:

  View our anniversary event program thanking those who have worked to improve the lives of Vermont women and girls as part of the Commission.  Watch the VCW’s 50th Anniversary Celebration (video from ORCA Media, 34 minutes).  Featured speakers include: VCW Commissioner Marion Milne, VCW Chair Marcia Merrill, Ally Richards of Governor Shumlin’s Office, Governor Madeline Kunin, Diane Derby of Sen. Leahy’s office,  Gretchen Bailey, VCW Commissioner and for Sen. Sanders’ Office, Tricia Coats for Congressman Welch, and Cary Brown, VCW Executive Director. Link here for pictures and more!


- holds a Vermont Summit on Working Families , focused on how workplaces can both better support families and ensure economic competitiveness. This was a lead up event to a national summit in DC.


Governor Shumlin signs Equal Pay Day proclamation, 4/8/14
- collaborates with Business and Professional Women each year on Equal Pay Day, the symbolic day when women’s earnings finally catch up to men’s due to the gender wage gap. Nationally, women make just 77 cents for every dollar that men make and women in Vermont make 85 cents per dollar.


files an amicus brief in Federal District Court in Vermont in the first case interpreting the Vermont Equal Pay Act

- hosts Listening Forums in Bennington, Brattleboro and the women’s correctional facility in South Burlington so that women’s concerns can shape the work of VCW, policymakers and community leaders

- works in coalition with other groups to pass an Act Relating to Equal Pay. This law makes Vermont the first state in the country to guarantee employees’ right to request flexible working arrangements. In addition, the law includes provisions for equal pay; protections for employees who ask coworkers what they are paid; certification of compliance of government contractors with Vermont’s equal pay laws; protections for new mothers who must express breast milk for their babies at work; and establishment of a study committee looking at the mechanics of a paid family leave law in Vermont.

Workplace Laws Employers Should Know  - produces Workplace Laws Employees and Employers Need To Know, flyers to educate both employers and workers in Vermont about their rights and responsibilities under the new equal pay law

- publishes Women in Public Life Report featuring a historical look at women lawmakers in Vermont and also women serving on state Boards and Commissions

- partners with the University of Vermont Women's and Gender Studies program, for a panel discussion concerning paid sick days for Vermont workers

- updates Vermont Workplaces Support Nursing Moms information for women returning to the workforce after having a baby

- joins with Community College of Vermont for a "Taking Your Place at the Table" leadership roundtable discussion about women in higher education. Taking Your Place is one of VCW's signature events, exploring how and why individual women embrace leadership positions.

- sponsors a “Women, Poverty & Justice” sumposium with many other organizations addressing hunger and housing and to promoting financial security for women.



 - files an amicus brief in Federal District Court in Vermont in the first case interpreting the Vermont Equal Pay Act

- presents Women’s History Month events each March in coordination with the Vermont Historical Society.   Works with Vermont Public Radio to present a week-long commentary series focusing on theme.  Most recent themes: "Do We Still Need Women's History?" "Women in the Arts", "Women in Journalism", "Women in Law: Making Strides in Women’s Legal Rights in the 70s and 80s" (see video here) and “Women Veterans: Honoring Military Service of Vermont Women From World War II to Present”.  Find more information on these events, and this year's event here

 The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont  - edits, updates and improves The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont handbook with the help of Vermont Law School students under the supervision of professor Cheryl Hanna. New features include links to VCW’s resource directory and to federal and state statute websites, as well as information on human trafficking, health insurance, same sex marriage, and immigration. Watch this vintage video interview about an earlier Legal Rights handbook update in 1991.

- is appointed to serve on the Governor's Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence task force. The first of its kind in the nation, its goals were to evaluate Vermont’s domestic and sexual violence prevention resources and programs, identify gaps in services, identify ways to increase coordination of prevention efforts around the state, and make recommendations to enhance and improve prevention efforts in Vermont

- hosts Listening Forums in Bennington, Brattleboro and the women’s correctional facility in South Burlington so that women’s concerns can shape the work of VCW, policymakers and community leaders 

- participates as member of the state's Human Trafficking Taskforce which has worked on several meaningful projects over the last few years, including in 2011, legislation (Title 13, Chapter 60: Human Trafficking), and a Crisis Response Protocol guide,  providing information and resources for anyone in Vermont that may have contact with potential victims of sex or labor trafficking.

- works with colleagues to present annual events of benefit to Vermont women and girls, including: American Legion Auxiliary Green Mountain Girls State a statewide five-day mock government program where high school juniors learn about civics and American government by campaigning, debating, voting, and electing mock local and state leaders; Vermont Works for Women’s Women Can Do! Conference - providing high school girls a chance to try their hand at non-traditional careers; Entrepreneur’s Week - inspiring students and reminding everyone that entrepreneurs and their creative thinking grow Vermont’s economy; Central Vermont Career and Job Fair providing students with career exploration and adults with jobs and job search help; Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference - day-long conference with workshops in creating or expanding career and professional goals

- hosts three forums: Gender Identity and Harassment, Racial Equity and Socio-Economic Class with the goal of developing equitable programs for Vermont youth as a member of the Vermont Girls Collaborative, a coalition of organizations that provide services and programs to Vermont girls

- sponsors Lilly Ledbetter’s speech: The Lilly Ledbetter Story: Ensuring that Women are Paid Fairly (video from CCTV/Channel 17, 3/9/2011) at St. Michael’s College  Mrs. and Sen Leahy, Marcia Merrill (VCW Chair), Lily Ledbetter and Lindy Hatcher VCW Advisor from BPW

- observes Equal Pay Day each April, symbolizing the day in the new year in which the wages paid to American women catch up to the wages paid to men from the previous year. Rather than a celebration, this day is a reminder: pay discrimination exists, and it exists in Vermont

- creates Listen, Talk and Keep Talking, tools and tips for parents when confronted with sexist language or imagery

- launches a Vermont Commission on Women Facebook page

- partners with the Vermont Attorney General's office, the Vermont Council on Domestic Violence and other advocates to address domestic violence as a public health and safety issue in the workplace


- successfully advocates passage of the Equal Pay Act, ensuring that employees who do the same job receive the same pay, regardless of gender

VT Women's History Project brochure  - establishes the Vermont Women’s History Project to document contributions Vermont women have made to our state’s rich history

- successfully advocates for passage of the Unlawful Employment Practices Act, ensuring that employees can disclose and discuss their wages without fear of discipline, discharge, or retaliation. Collaborates with the Vermont Attorney General’s office and Vermont Business and Professional Women to create Equal Pay: Your Rights and Responsibilities as an Employer and Employee

- ensures nursing mothers have a private place and time to express breast milk for a nursing child at their workplace through the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace law. Works with the Vermont Department of Health on fact sheet outlining the rights of nursing mothers in Vermont Gov. Douglas signs nursing bill into law while appreciative future voters look on

- supports legislation to end bullying and harassment in schools 

- conducts annual statewide e-surveys, What Teen Girls Say, of Vermont middle and high school girls in collaboration with the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains

- votes to support civil unions and freedom to marry legislation 

- advocates for increasing child care subsidies for low-income Vermonters

- becomes an independent state agency, the Vermont Commission on Women under Act 142 in 2002

- outlines women’s needs in health care reform report: Accessing Health Care in Vermont: A Woman-Centered Approach

- publishes report, The Status of Women and Girls in Vermont to fuel dialogue, encourage positive change, inspire partnerships and assist efforts to improve the lives of women and girls in Vermont. Watch the Status of Women in Vermont an interview with Executive Director Judith Sutphen and UVM Economist Francis Hunterupon the launch of the initial report, (11/13/1998, 29 minutes - CCTV/Channel 17)

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace cover- works with other children’s advocacy groups to pass universal Pre-K legislation  

- successfully advocates for a fund similar to unemployment insurance to help women who must leave employment to ensure safety from an abusive partner

- participates in the creation of and serves on advisory board of Vermont Women's Business Center since its inception in 2002. The center, a partnership project of Capstone and the US Small Business Administration, assisted more than 6,000 Vermont women starting up and/or growing their businesses with training, access to financing, and support.

- works in coalition with women’s groups to pass legislation allowing emergency contraception to be dispensed by pharmacists without a prescription

- successfully advocates for legislation that makes sexual assault by an immediate supervisor of a person under supervision of the correctional system a felony

- works in collaboration with the Secretary of State's Office to establish the Safe At Home Address Confidentiality Program, a free mail-forwarding service assisting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking who have relocated in an effort to keep their perpetrators from finding them


- effectively advocates for legislation requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for mammograms.  Watch a 1991 Interview with Executive Director Sara Lee and staffer Susan Allen about the Commission’s effort to have mammograms covered in health insurance, and to update the handbook, The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont (10/3/1991, 116 minutes - CCTV/Channel 17)

- spearheads, along with the State Labor Council, an amendment to Vermont’s Parental and Family Leave Act allowing for short-term family leave, the first such legislation in the country; partners with the Attorney General’s Office to write and distribute The Vermont Guide to Parental and Family Leave

- helps secure passage of insurance coverage for prescription contraceptives  Vote! bumper sticker

- convenes Harassment in Education Task force, comprised of legislators, educators, and state officials to address harassment in schools. The work results in passage of a new law mandating schools develop policies regarding harassment of students. The task force drafts a model harassment-in-education policy. This policy, along with a resource directory, is distributed to every school in Vermont.  

- creates a model workplace sexual harassment policy in partnership with the Human Rights Commission, Attorney General’s office and Department of Labor, and distributes 15,000 copies of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: A Guide for Employers and Employees, co-authored with the Attorney General’s Office  Girls envision future jobs, apartments and expenses at a VCW event

- conducts voter registration drives, develops and distributes voter educational materials, and holds leadership in public life panel discussions

- convenes a task force that helps to pass regulations providing women enrolled in managed care insurance plans direct access to OB-GYN care without referral

Displaced Homemakers report  - takes a leadership role in passing the Gender Equity in Education Act

- holds hearings about women’s health, poverty, child care and women in prison at the State House

- develops and distributes materials to help women understand managed care health plans


- successfully advocates for passage of regulation to require insurers to provide maternity coverage on the same terms and conditions under which other illnesses are covered

- distributes federal funds to domestic violence prevention and support programs throughout the state

- successfully champions legislation allowing VSAC (Vermont Student Assistance Corporation) to designate grants to part-time students (the majority of whom are women)

1983 newsletter- holds “59-cent Hearings,” a public forum about Vermont’s gender wage gap   


- as a result of the Commission’s work, law enforcement officials begin correctly reporting rape as rape and not lewd and lascivious conduct, setting the stage for funding programs treating rape victims

- endorses civil rights for gays and lesbians

- becomes The Governor's Commission on Women through Governor Madeleine Kunin's 1986 executive order

NOW members march for Equal Rights in Washington - publishes Getting Appointed to State Boards and Commissions

- holds a Women’s State Fair attended by 5,000 Vermonters


- successfully argues to lift restrictions prohibiting the names of wives from being listed in the telephone book. Agreement is reached that allows husbands and wives to be listed free of charge. Vermont is first in the nation to secure this right. 

Participant arrives at Town Meeting- successfully advocates for revocation of a Department of Education rule calling for suspension of pregnant girls from school  


- champions legislation amending Vermont’s income tax law to allow child care credits

- produces booklet to help police officers and hospitals respond in rape cases

- introduces Fair Employment Practices Act

ERA Poster   - leads endorsement of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Read more about this effort in Marilyn Blackwell's Vermont and the Equal Rights Amendments: A Case against Exceptionalism, a 2019 article in the journal of the Vermont Historical Society, Vermont History

- conducts child care study 

 LIttle League from 1974- supports a Montpelier girl’s desire to play Little League baseball, which instigates changes in national Little League rules, allowing all American girls to play.  She becomes the first girl to play in a scheduled Little League game.

- acquires a staff of three in the fall of 1974 with funds from the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). Staff positions were funded by the state starting in July, 1978 

- issues a report supporting a woman’s right to reproductive choice

- helps pass legislation prohibiting discrimination in lending and granting personal credit

- researches, writes and publishes first edition of Women and the Law handbook ('77) now titled The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont and in 6th edition

- Governor Dean Davis extends the existence of the Commission indefinitely by executive order in 1971 and Governor Thomas Salmon changes the length of Commissioner's terms from two to four years in 1973


The Vermont Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women was an outgrowth of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, established by President Kennedy in December, 1961.  Vermont Senator George D. Aiken was a member of this Commission.

Commission Newsclip from 1970President Kennedy called upon each state to create a “Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women.” The purpose of these state commissions would be to determine "How women are being discriminated against...How the role of women is changing in a shifting society...The needs of working mothers and their children... How can women be more active in political life."  

In response, Governor Philip Hoff established the Vermont Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women by Executive Order on November 23, 1964.   The Commission was comprised of 26 men and women from the fields of education, labor, business, law, state government and included Vermont’s future first female governor, Madeleine Kunin. Governor Hoff, addressing the work of the Commission in 1964 said, “If you do not get the maximum out of the members of a society, the society is failing its members.”

Work in the first year of the Commission included a focus on research, conducting surveys, holding interviews, and sifting through available statistics to gather information.    Four Committees: Home and Community; Women and Education; Women and the Law; Women and Employment produced recommendations, many of which continue to be relevant: support day care legislation, appoint women to local and State boards and commissions, encourage women to participate in political life as voters and office holders, prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in all employment practices, create new sources of financial aid for educational opportunities. 

The Commission remains the only Vermont state agency singularly focused on women’s issues, and it continues to evolve and respond to the needs of Vermont women while holding fast to its commitment to reduce discrimination and increase opportunities.

Organizations or agencies the Commission helped create or found:

Vermont Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse
Office of Women’s Health at the Vermont Department of Health
Child Care Fund of Vermont