The primary concerns of the Minute Women and other similar groups were the exposure of communist subversion, the defence of constitutional limits, opposition to atheism, socialism and social welfare provisions such as the New Deal; and rejection of internationalism, particularly in the form of the United Nations. They campaigned to expose supposedly Communist individuals, focusing particularly on school and university administrators.
Unlike many other anti-communist groups, the Minute Women operated in a semi-covert fashion. Stevenson instructed members to never reveal that they were Minute Women and always present themselves as individual concerned citizens. In her view, political activism was more effective when it appeared to be spontaneous.
The organization was structured in a unique fashion, ostensibly to defend against Communist infiltration. It had no constitution or bylaws, no parliamentary procedure to guide the meetings, and no option for motions from the floor; its officers were appointed rather than elected. Its members communicated via a chain-telephoning system in which one member called five others, who in turn made five more calls, enabling hundreds to be contacted within a short space of time. Membership of the Minute Women was restricted to American citizens, though the group's founder had been born in Belgium and was the sister of the Belgian Ambassador, Baron Robert Silvercruys.
The Minute Women sought to apply political pressure through letter-writing campaigns, heckling speakers and swamping their opponents with telephone calls. In Houston, Texas, where they were particularly strong, they took over the local school board and claimed to have planted observers in University of Houston classrooms to watch out for controversial material and teachers.
Even well-respected groups and individuals found themselves targeted by the Minute Women. The Quakers' American Friends Service Committee was refused permission to use a Houston meeting hall after the Minute Women protested that Alger Hiss had once attended a Quaker meeting. Rufus Clement, the President of Atlanta University and the first-ever African-American to serve on the Atlanta Board of Education, faced protests from Minute Women when he lectured at a Houston Methodist church, on the grounds that he was "too controversial". The Houston Post commented that "a new meaning has been given to the word controversial… It now often becomes a derogatory epithet, frequently synonymous with the word Communist." There was an overt element of racism in the Minute Women's activities, which included distributing anti-semitic literature and opposing proponents of integrated schools, which they regarded as Communist-inspired advocates of "race mongrelization."
The Minute Women's campaign in Houston was eventually blunted by an exposé by the Houston Post in 1953, which published an eleven-part series of articles by reporter Ralph O'Leary which highlighted the group's activities. The newspaper was deluged by an avalanche of mail which was largely complimentary of the newspaper's courage in taking on the Minute Women. O'Leary's reports were widely praised, with Time magazine describing the Post's coverage as "a model of how a newspaper can effectively expose irresponsible vigilantism."
Despite this setback the Minute Women remained active throughout the remainder of the 1950s and into the 1960s. They played a major role in stoking the 1956 controversy over the Alaska Mental Health Bill (HR 6376), claiming that the bill was an attempt by Congress to give the government authority to abduct citizens at will and imprison them in concentration camps in Alaska. The group finally faded away as the nation turned against McCarthyism and the anti-communist hysteria diminished.