History of the Coalition of Free Men, Inc. (NCFM)
The Coalition of Free Men, Inc. (NCFM) has for over 35 years fought for Men’s Rights.
NCFM was founded in 1977 upon the realization that men needed a unified voice in addressing issues concerning men and boys.
Since that time, NCFM and its members have sponsored conferences, organized rallies, filed successful civil rights lawsuits, brought legislative reforms, provided direct services, made many radio and television appearances, published academic papers, magazine and newspaper articles, written books (including bestsellers), produced films, made numerous radio and television appearances, testified before legislative and other government bodies, spoken before the United Nations, formed one of the United States only state commissions on the status of men, and engaged in countless other forms of activism throughout the United States. The accomplishments of NCFM and its individual members are extraordinary, unrelenting, and too long to list.
What is not typically known about NCFM is that we work behind scenes and support select like minded organizations. Readers might be surprised to learn the names of these organizations though for practical reasons they won’t be revealed here. Readers might also be surprised to learn that some of these organizations were conceptualized, started, and continue to be operated by NCFM members.
NCFM’s general membership includes men and women from all walks of life – truck drivers, accountants, cabinet makers, homemakers, attorneys, politicians, farmers, media personalities, actors, doctors, psychologists, airline pilots, construction workers, engineers, computer technicians, and more
Free Men, Inc. was founded in Columbia, MD, in January 1977. Bylaws were formally adopted in July. The four founding members were: Richard Haddad, Dennis Gilbert, Allan Scheib, and Allen Foreman. Richard Haddad authored the Free Men Philosophy, which included 26 items that it was felt men should be freed from. These represented options. The name “Free Men” was used as a verb. Haddad also created the logo with four arrows pointing in different directions. This represented “options” for men. The first newsletter was named, “Options”.
This early chapter concentrated on forming “support groups”, which were their counterpart to “consciousness raising groups”, tailored to women. During the late 1970’s the largest group of men called themselves, “Feminist Men”. Their underpinnings in thinking arose from socialism and its connection to feminism. By contrast, Free Men was pro business. Members proudly wore suits and ties. Feminist Men were characterized by blue jeans and sweat shirts. The undercurrent of philosophy between the two was not something that could be nailed down on a piece of paper, like the Free Men Philosophy. Rather, it was evident from the flavor of their environment and individuals’ behavior.
Richard Haddad became the first Executive Director. Executive Director was the title used in place of “President”. He served one year. During the time Free Men, Inc. was active it forged friendships with other similar groups, such as Man Alive in Madison, WI, and Men’s Rights, Inc., in Massachusetts, which was founded by Frederick Hayward in 1977. MR, Inc., as it was known, was formed by Fred Hayward as a means to support his lobbying work. Fred came to represent the political side of Free Men, while Free Men concentrated on gathering grass roots and organizing support groups.
Initial national interest resulted from appearances by author Herb Goldberg, PhD. author of the Hazards of Being Male. After having read this book, Richard Haddad corresponded with Dr. Goldberg, who often mentioned Free Men while on book tour. However by 1980 the Free Men, Inc. organization in Columbia had begun to disintegrate. Nevertheless, undaunted by local circumstance in Columbia, MD, some of the people in different parts of the country wanted to start groups associated with the Maryland organization. Two new groups formed as chapters. They were in Boston, Massachusetts and Nassau County, NY. The stronger of the two was in Nassau County. As a result it received all of Free Men, Inc.’s, records as it became clear that the Maryland group was going to fold.
The general membership of Free Men, Inc., held their last meeting in September 1980. From that point forward the founding chapter was dead, except in name only. The few surviving members of the Maryland group appointed Dan Logan the job of reviving it. The pressure for this revival came mostly from people in the Nassau County and Boston chapters. As part of an attempt at revival Dan Logan produced the last two issues of Options.
The Nassau County Chapter was formed sometime in early 1980. Tom Williamson and Tom Lynch announced in an article in Newsday, September 23, that there would be an initial meeting to form a chapter. This meeting was held at the Roslyn, NY, High School where Tom Lynch was an English teacher. At that meeting was another teacher, Naomi Penner, who volunteered to use her house to hold meetings. The people at the first meetings were called, “The Organizing Committee”. The chapter held its first official meeting in November of 1980. Officers were elected (Tom Williamson, President; Naomi Penner, Vice President), activities were planned and dues were sent in to the Maryland chapter. No national administrative body had been formed. Everyone who joined had to join the Maryland organization.
In February 1981 the Nassau County, NY, chapter began its own newsletter called, Transitions. By October of 1981 the chapter had been responsible for inspiring and forming other groups in Suffolk County NY, and New Milford, CT. The Boston group was formed by Fredrick Hayward (of Men’s Rights, Inc.) and Robert Sides independent of any efforts by the Nassau County chapter to form other chapters.
On Saturday, October 24, 1981 the Nassau County chapter produced its first conference. It was funded by Adelphi University. It was called, Freeing Men From The Macho Mold: Options For Men In The 1980’s. The conference was followed up the next day by Free Men’s first convention, which was attended by representatives from the various groups. It was convened at Edith Herbert’s house, Valley Stream, NY. It was clear to MOST that some national body was needed to bring everybody together. For example, up to that time everybody paid dues to Maryland, although they got no benefit from chapter membership. There was no pooling of resources. Everything went into Maryland’s pocket.
Even so, in the early 1980’s the Nassau County chapter enjoyed considerable success by offering support groups, national conferences, and monthly meetings which drew up to 70 people including many women. Many of the members were married people and frequently wives insisted their husbands join. Our small but very active New Milford, CT, chapter was more than 50% female.
The five groups represented at the first national convention were, Nassau, Suffolk, Boston, Columbia, New Milford.
- Nassau County, NY – Tom Williamson and Naomi Penner
- Suffolk County, NY – William Vanderstine
- Boston, MA – Robert Sides
- Columbia, MD – Dan Logan and Richard Connoboy
- New Milford, CT – Jim and Barbara Copeland
Tom Williamson was NCFM President for 22 years!
At the time a Manhattan chapter was being planned. It was not represented (see December 1981, Transitions). Tom Williamson was elected national president and Naomi Penner became national vice president.
Dan Logan and Richard Connoboy left the effort to formally bring everyone together under a single governing body. Dan Logan ran Free Men for about 4 years after that. He chaired support groups and was invited to give lectures. The Maryland Corporation was abandoned.
The last issue of Options was dated December 1980/January 1981. In February 1982 the newsletter of the Nassau County, NY, chapter, Transitions, became the national newsletter which is still being published as of November 2008.
Out of the convention at Edith Herbert’s house was born the “Coalition”. Tom Williamson and Naomi Penner organized the convention, organized the national body and are credited with founding the “Coalition”. Tom Williamson was elected President and Naomi Penner was elected Vice President (they also served as President and Vice President of the Nassau County chapter).
When the organization moved to New York we tried to incorporate as Free Men, Inc., which was before common use of computers and the Internet. Attorney’s were required to do “name searches” to ensure a name did not legally belong to someone else. We were told that “Free Men” was already taken in New York, though we later learned the attorney confused Free Men — two words — with Freemen — one word. Problematically the Freemen Foundation has a long tradition in New York and the name comes from someone’s last name. So, after considering such words as “Union” and “Association” we chose “Coalition” because it means merging into a single entity or political alliance and left room for considerable discussion and differing opinions among members. Secondarily, the group in New York planned to unite other chapters under a national board of directors. In 1981 there were three chapters operating individually with no coordination, New York, Maryland, and Boston. Hence, “Coalition” seemed like a good name.
Incorporation proceedings began and became official in December 1981. The governing body was formally incorporated as The Coalition of Free Men, Inc. when the attorney inadvertently tacked on the word “The”. The incorporation was amended in 1982 to further clarify objectives.
Throughout all of this the word “Free” was an important part of our promotions. One of our conferences was called, Freeing Men from the Macho Mold. We wore buttons that said, Free Men From…” People asked, “Free men from what”. Member, Francis Baumli published a book titled, “Men Freeing Men”, a collection of essays many of which were written by Free Men members.
In 1990 President Tom Williamson got fed up with newspapers wrongly and provincially referring to us as a local Manhasset, NY, organization. So, Tom tacked on the word “National” thereby making us, National Coalition of Free Men (without the “The”). However, The Coalition of Free Men, Inc. remained the legal name as it does today.
Early on the organization and name were criticized for a variety of reasons, similar to the more recent discussions regarding the word “Free”. Because we were open to experimentation, in the early 1990’s we decided to let member Charles Fink provide services around the officially registered DBA, Men’s Resources Hot Line. We advertised it. Charlie counseled men on just about any kind of problem. Our hotline ended up primarily getting calls about divorce and false accusations of rape. While no one was critical of the new DBA it got us not one new member.
Since then, chapters in New York, Washington D.C. and Northern California have come and gone while on-and-off debate continued about our name.
The Twin Cities Chapter was founded after NCFM members from across Minnesota got together several times in early 1999. Following those meetings, they decided to form their chapter. Each member had their own reasons for wanting to form a local chapter. Some had endured terrible ordeals in family court. Some had seen women get away with doing things to men, for which men would be severely punished for doing to women. Some were disgusted with the media’s and the government’s fixation on the problems of women, real or imagined, while the problems of men were ignored, denied, or celebrated. Some were tired of rights issues referring only to women, and responsibility issues referring only to men. Some were fed up with being blamed for everything bad, being demonized and vilified — after one million men had died in wars to create and preserve the United States. All our Minnesota members wanted to do something to make people aware of men’s issues and to improve conditions for men. This chapter became NCFM’s mid-west anchor organization.
Both the Los Angeles, California and Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas chapters were approved in 2003. Dallas/Ft. Worth was founded by Deborah Watkins, the former President of the Tarrant County Chapter of the National Organization for Women who had grown tired of what she considered hypocrisy and male bashing by NOW. The Los Angeles chapter was founded by Marc Angelucci, who had recently graduated from UCLA School of Law and who joined NCFM while a law student after seeing domestic violence shelters deny services to his male friend (and children) solely because he was male.
On June 6, 2004 Tom Williamson, after 22 years of service, stepped down as President. Newly elected as President was John Macchietto, member of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter. John had been active in NCFM since 1990 and had previously held a board position, had been editor of Transitions and served in other capacities, such as Awards Chairman. Chapters represented at this meeting were Dallas/Fort Worth, Greater New York, Twin Cities and Los Angeles. Tom Williamson was elected to serve the board as Member At Large.
In 2005 the San Diego California chapter was founded by Harry Crouch who had been involved in domestic violence reforms since 1992. The year before he founded the California Men’s Centers which is now home to NCFM’s first national office.
In 2006 NCFM-SD became the first chapter to become eligible to solicit donations from Federal employees through the Combined Federal Campaign.
In 2008 NCFM began a revitalization program including converting to an accrual accounting system, overhauling our website, creating an Internet based national event calendar, developing a menu driven telephone system so callers can more easily reach our officers and chapters, strengthening our list of involved advisors, working toward instituting a speakers bureau, and making a concerted effort to expand our chapters and membership.
As a result of our revitalization program in 2009 the Combined Federal Campaign officially recognized NCFM as a national organization. This year or early in 2012 the CFC should recognize NCFM as an “international organization” and authorize us to provide educational materials to and solicit donations from United States Federal employees around the world. To our knowledge NCFM is the only openly “Men’s Rights” organization to receive such distinctions.
Chapter startup guidelines were streamlined to facilitate new chapter creation. The “Tennessee/Kentucky” provisional chapter was formed 2008 by long-time NCFM members Barry Jernigan in Tennessee and Lea Perritt in Kentucky. Provisional chapter status ware granted for the Chicago chapter in February, 2009, which was formed by Tim Goldich, Dennis King, and Larry Clary to “advance the goals and objectives of NCFM”.
As of 2011, NCFM has active liaisons or informal chapters in India, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Tasmania, the Democratic Republic of Georgia, and Mexico. In fact, it appears that our liaison in the Democratic Republic of Georgia was instrumental in that country adopting a national “Fathers Day“. Also, our liaison in Baja, Mexico reports information relative to our issues in Mexico and promotes solutions to issues adversely impacting men through his television reporting for “ex-pats” living in Baja. Our liaison and long time NCFM member in Australia has for years produced one of the most popular Men’s Rights radio shows on the Internet as well as actively working for applicable legislative reforms. Another of our liaisons operates the only shelter for abuse men in Canada. He is also heavily involved in legal and legislative actions to end misandric institutionalism in Canada.
In 2010, with the generous support from the Margaret Hubbard Woodward Trust, the “NCFM Permanent Freedom Endowment” was established. This fiscally conservative endowment is chartered for the purpose of providing NCFM with a financial mechanism to help guarantee its future.
Our “doing business as” (DBA) name morphed into “National Coalition For Men”, which was adopted by the national Board of Directors earlier in 2008. It was generally felt by the Board and general membership that “National Coalition For Men” is less problematic without the word “Free”, the absence of which will hopefully facilitate increasing our ability to affect long sought social, cultural, and legislative changes to the benefit of all of us, but especially men, their children, and the women who love them.
Changing our name has never been without controversy. With respect to our 2008 name change, one of our board members was pleased with the change since he receives a goodly flow of inquiries from prisoners thinking NCFM is an organization dedicated to freeing men from incarceration, which we most certainly are not unless some disparate treatment causes a certain group of men to be wrongfully imprisoned or we become aware of a particularly heinous miscarriage of justice.
A member attorney noted, “Thank God. Do it yesterday. The ‘Free Men’ part of the organization’s name makes us sound like a bunch of kooks.” He was making a presentation in front of 100 other attorneys and the room erupted in laughter at our name. Another wrote, “The name has bugged me for some time and it was obvious to me how it limited a mainstream acceptance from the start.”
A long term member who threatened to leave the organization if the new DBA were adopted wrote, “I totally and completely disagree with you, indeed hotly so, that, the word free obstructs us moving the organization forward…”
Another saliently offered, “The problem isn’t the name; the problem is no one wants a men’s rights organization to exist,” an observation underscoring systematic discrimination against men, to which NCFM is dedicated to eliminating until men are truly free.
Similarly, from a purely business perspective, having to explain what “free” means is detrimental to our sustainability and growth, as demonstrated by laughter. Our outreach, education, activist, legal and legislative efforts embrace our dedication to freedom, and will continue to do so. As stated on NCFM’s web site, our motto reads, “Freeing men from sex discrimination since…”
Over the years, we have been called everything from radicals, women haters, gay activists, gay haters, abusers, right-wingers, left-wingers and more. But as an organization, we are none of those. We are a nonpartisan, inclusive organization dedicated only to freeing men and boys from sex discrimination, period. Liberal or conservative, gay or straight, any ethnicities, all are welcome if committed to equal, fair, and just treatment.
NCFM has never wavered in its pursuit of equality and justice for all – never. NCFM members are good meaning and action oriented people and activists. To do otherwise leaves us in old age comfortable around hearth explaining to our grandchildren how we failed to fight for their freedom, perhaps wondering if there was more we could have done…
If you are reading this and not an NCFM member you can do something constructive to help make the world a better place for all of us, you can join NCFM. Click HERE and join now. If you are already a member recruit someone before “free” is deleted from dictionaries and human thought.
November 11, 2008
Updated November 15, 2011