Southern California Women for Understanding (SCWU) was founded in 1976 to create "an atmosphere of understanding of Lesbian issues within both the homosexual and heterosexual communities." Betty Berzon, a lesbian board member of the predominantly male Whitman-Radclyffe Foundation, took hold of the idea to form an all woman support group in Southern California. Twenty women attended the first meeting in a private home, and ten decided to start a women's group.
At the first meeting of what was to become SCWU, Myra Riddell was elected chair, and the name "Southern California Women for Whitman-Radclyffe" was adopted. However by July 1977, the group decided to break with Whitman-Radclyffe and form an independent organization of women. SCWU incorporated in August 1978, and the organization began forming chapters a year later. In 1979, SCWU held its first Lesbian Rights Award, and Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were the first honorees. By 1980, the number of members exceeded 500, and an office was opened with a fulltime staff person. In 1984, SCWU established the L. Diane Anderson Trust to support education and research on lesbian issues. Support of community organizations also expanded with the sponsorship of Connexxus Women's Center/Centro de Mujeres.
Described in 1982 as one of the largest lesbian support organizations in the country, SCWU at its peak had over 1100 members who were predominantly professional, educated women. By the late-1980s, the group was experiencing internal conflicts and its membership began to dwindle.
[Box 1, Folder 4] Southern California Women for Understanding Records, Coll2011-076, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California