A longtime friend described her as the “perfect model for the women’s movement.” In addition to her unflagging advocacy work, DeCrow had been a journalist and prolific writer. While a law student at Syracuse University she ran for mayor of the town, a first in the state of New York.
DeCrow campaigned for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, passed by Congress in 1972, but eventually falling short of the necessary legislative approval at the state level. There were crushing disappointments which she saw as backward turning losses.
Her obituary detailed the work she did as NOW president, an organization she joined after experiencing pay inequality in her own workplace: pressuring government agencies and big corporations to hire more women and calling for federal investigations of gender. She lobbied Ivy League schools to enroll more female students, urged social groups to open their male-dominated membership rolls and NASA to recruit more female astronauts.
DeCrow was a full decade older than me at the time of her still untimely death, a member of that generation of women who carried the heaviest load of the work in support of the right to reproductive choices and constitutional parity when I was in my 20’s. Instead of women’s rights, my witness was focused on (or was distracted by) opposing the draft for the Vietnam War; protesting the presence of military ROTC on my campus; alliances around the Black and Latino power movements; and a bit later on juggling the challenges of being a very young wife and mother struggling to stay on some sort of vocational track and having my personal voice heard. I benefited, as did so many of us, from the dedication of the preceding cohort of women to causes we were not yet tuned into, or ready to take on.
Her not-to-be-silenced generation Second Wave feminists orchestrated so many of the victories and suffered the defeats of those years, just as perhaps my wave (Second Plus) did the same for the Generation X women. They were coming into young adulthood, when we Boomers worked to stem the assault on the legal integrity of the Supreme Court decision around legal abortion and access to contraception, that so quickly followed what we thought was the end of that particular battle.
Wave upon wave of women who have benefited from the time and energies and talents of those who went before them, is the story of the slow, and often frustrating progress of justice and equity for successive generations of women and girls.
This narrative, and the stories that make it up will be the subject of what promises to be an engaging and inspiring program at the upcoming UU General Assembly in Providence, RI.
“Crashing Waves: Multi-Generational Feminisms” will feature women from several generations in a conversation about what our experiences have been, and ways in which our passions and our challenges resonate and differ. I will be a panelist, as will Kathy Calhoun, the Vice President for Leadership Development for the UUWF. The women’s auxiliary group in Kathy’s Dallas UU congregation played a pivotal role in the Roe v Wade court decision.
It promises to be a rich and instructive session. I will post about it following the end of the General Assembly, and about our own UUWF program about forming effective feminist’s relationships/collaborations to work successfully on behalf of women’s issues.