Records of a Chicago-based advocacy and service organization for women prisoners and ex-offenders, including files on workshops and projects and correspondence with prisoners and prison officials. Interfaith in its programs and support, the Institute was co-founded and directed for many years by Sister Margaret Ellen Traxler.

Related material in the papers of Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler in this repository.

Gift of Margaret Traxler, 1978.

Historical Note

The Institute of Women Today, based in Chicago, was founded by Sister Margaret Ellen Traxler and an interfaith group of women in 1974. Inaugurated in the leadup to International Women's Year "to search for the religious and historical roots of women's liberation," the IWT initially featured "traveling workshops"  whose faculty was composed of women attorneys, historians, psychologists, and theologians and scripture scholars.These sessions, sponsored by local groups, stressed the importance of follow-up actions.befitting each community's needs. Within a few years, however, the Institute's focus had shifted to the provision of legal assistance to women in prison. (An early workshop, at Alderson Federal Women's Prison, included Dorothy Day as a member of the faculty.) This program later expanded to offer other services, including sponsoring vocational training in selected jails and prisons. In 1989, with support from Cardinal Bernadin, the IWT opened Maria Shelter in its southside neighborhood as a residence for former prisoners and their children. After Sr. Margaret retired in 2000, due to an incapacitating stroke, the agency concentrated on serving the local community, adding a family shelter and senior center. The IWT was renamed Margaret's Village in 2016 to honor its founder.

Scope and Content

Series 1, Subject Files, 1974-1997,  documents the IWT's efforts in behalf of women prisoners, its internal governance, and relations with sponsoring groups. There are files for many of the correctional institutions with which the agency was involved. The series is arranged in alphabetical order by name or topic.

Series 2, Workshops and Conferences, 1974-1978, contains information on these programs, many held at colleges and universities, including audiocassette tapes of talks and discussions.

Series 3, Press Clippings, 1974-1990, undated, consists of articles concerning the IWT.

Series 4, Newsletters, 1974-2002, contains the publications issued by the IWT.