In 1980, despite the fact that women were instrumental in establishing the regional theatre movement, there were very few artistic directors at the major regional theatres. Nor were many women functioning in non-performing artistic capacities in the Broadway theatre. No woman had ever won a Tony for directing. The idea for the League of Professional Theatre Women was hatched at an American Theatre Association conference in San Diego in 1981 by a group of women aware of this situation and concerned particularly with the dearth of women playwrights and directors in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors.
Julia Miles, Associate Director of the American Place Theatre in New York City, was the League’s founding member and first chair. She recalls the purpose of founding the League as “to get the commercial Broadway theatre to know about non-profit women playwrights and directors so that we could get them some work…to bring commercial interests together with nonprofit interests so they could benefit from each other.” In the early years a major thrust of the League was networking. The League continues to emphasize networking activity, but has expanded its programs to include various types of services to the entire field. Its mission is to increase the visibility of and promote opportunities for women in all aspects of the professional theatre. Incorporated in 1986, the League now boasts a membership of nearly 500 women representing a diversity of theatre professionals in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. League members are actors, administrators, agents, arrangers, casting directors, choreographers, company managers, composers, critics, designers, directors, dramaturgs, educators, general managers, historians, journalists, librettists, lyricists, press agents, producers, stage managers, and theatre technicians.