WASHINGTON, D.C. April 28th, 2000

It's always fun to be in Washington DC. Reunions are smaller and more intimate than the ones we hold in New York. There's time to meet those who run the important organizations based there, to visit long and laugh a lot with veteran and young feminists, to sight-see and eat in some of the Beltway's great restaurants, and maybe even to get in a l little lobbying.
Being at the Sewall Belmont House is a high in itself. The aura and energy of Alice Paul, who chained herself to the White House, was jailed and force-fed, wrote the Equal Rights Amendment and got it introduced year after year in Congress, permeates the place.

The late Catherine East, our first honoree, who was a great supporter of VFA, had urged us not to forget the women who worked in Washington, either in or close to the government. This year we honored six, along with activists from Texas, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan and New Hampshire..

It was good to hear the applause that greeted Patricia Schroeder, Betty Friedan and Ellie Smeal when they arrived. Nothing like some boisterous hand-clapping to say "thank you."

Ellie Smeal
(photo: Judy Kaplan)

Other prominent guests included Senator Max Baucus, who walked from the Senate building next door to greet fellow Montanan Mary Condon Gereau; Alice Cohan from the Feminist Majority came with Ellie; Judith Kaplan, former New York NOW activist and chronicler of feminist history, came from Fort Lauderdale.

There were so many young women in attendance. Lara Avery arrived with her mother, Kathryn, an honoree; Tara Levison was with her mother, Cathryn Adamsky, also an honoree; Karen Staser and Chris Renz, president and director of communications of the National Women's History Museum, were there. There were also representatives from the Clearing of Women's Issues, CLUE, WIN, "OFF OUR BACKS," the AAUW and The Women's History Project. Actually everyone there was prominent. If you'd like to see the guest list, send a stamped envelope to VFA .

Introducers, the honorees, and a little of what they've accomplished...

Karen Mulhauser (left), former Executive Director of Naral and president of Karen Mulhauser Associates, introduced former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder

(photo: Kappie Spencer)


photo: Kappie Spencer

PAT SCHROEDER won election for Congress in Colorado's first district In 1972 and was re-elected eleven times. A Democrat, she became the first woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee and was a prime mover behind the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Schroeder left Congress in 1997, undefeated after serving 24 years. An early supporter of legalized abortion, she sponsored legislation making it a federal crime to obstruct access to women's clinics; in 1991 she expedited the National Security Committee's vote to allow women to fly combat missions. She was a leader in issues of education, a champion of free speech and a strong advocate for protecting intellectual property rights and reinforcing the creative incentive for developing intellectual property, which she continues to do as president and CEO of the Association of American Book Publishers.
She is as well known, though, for saying of Ronald Reagan, "He's just like a Teflon frying pan: Nothing sticks to him."

Mary Eastwood, a former president of the National Woman's Party introduced Mary Condon Gereau, Kathryn Avery and Karline Tierney, all ERA activists and active in the National Woman's Party or NWP Corp.


President of the National Woman's Party Corp. from 1991 to '96, Mary was active in the ERA campaign with the NWP. Hailing from Iowa and Michigan, she was with the American Red Cross as a program director for the Services to the Armed Forces and was Dean of Students at Eastern Montana College. She served two terms as Superintendent of Education there, and was president of the Council of Chief State School Officers, one of two women among 48 members. Mary has been a consultant to the U.S. Senate Interior Committee and to the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs. She was Executive Director of the White House Committee on Education and Secretary to the Penn State Legislative Dept of the National Education Association, all topped off with the presidency of the ERA Ratification Counsel of NEA.


Kathryn Avery graduated from the U of Washington in English Literature and Theater Arts. When she moved with her military husband and family to Washington in the 1970's she met Alice Paul, who put her right to work. She spent 20 years as an indispensable backstage volunteer for the National Woman's Party, where she worked for passage of the ERA and helped organize the famous ERA march in Washington in 1977. Always active in theater wherever her husband was stationed, she works today in Washington with the Children's and High School Shakespeare Festivals. She lives with her daughter, Tara, in Falls Church, VA..


A native of Auburn , NY the chemist, married to a chemist, moved with husband and three adopted children to Baton Rouge, LA. in 1965 where she and her husband were employed. The AAUW member heard Sylvia Roberts speak on the ERA and joined the feminist movement. Soon she was head of the state's ERA campaign. While on the AAUW national board she traveled to meetings nationwide speaking on the need for the ERA, participated in marches and galvanized hundreds of women and men into action. She was a founder of the LA.Women's Political Caucus, served on the Mayor's Commission on the Needs of Women and on the board of the Battered Women's Center. Retired, she and her husband live in Catonsville, MD.


From Scarsdale , New York the long-time DC denizen is president of the Clearinghouse on Women's Issues (over six million members!) and secretary of OWL. She's been president of the D.C. League of Women Voters and the National Association of Commissions for Women ( 3 terms), was executive director of the National Advisory Council on Women's Educational Programs, was Senior Program Officer of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Conference in Mexico City and delegate-at-large at the '77 National Women's Conference in Houston. She was the first woman to serve as chair of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board of D.C. from 1964 to '72. When she retired from the professional staff of the Employment and Housing Subcommittee of the House Government Operations Committee, she was the oldest employee in the entire House.

Gracia Molina-Pick, founder of the first Chicana/Latina Women's Liberation organizations, introduced:


(photo: Judith Kaplan)

A native of West Virginia, Anne Turpeau was a member for nine years of the D.C. Commission for Women and Chairperson from '76 to '79. Under her leadership the Commission became a statutory body of the government of the District of Columbia and advanced revisions of the D.C. code which eliminated sex discriminatory language in the civil laws of the district. She was the Commission's director of a federally funded research project on sexual harassment and organized a citywide conference on elder abuse. She served as co-chair of the National Women's Conference Continuing Committee for 3 terms; was a member of the U.S. Delegation to the U.N. Mid-Decade Conference in Copenhagen and a representative at the Nairobi conference of NGO's, Today she is active in the Friends of the D.C. Commission for Women and the Heritage Tourism Commission.

Kay Cole,
Dallas activist, introduced, Maura McNiel -


Judith Kaplan)

Maura moved to Dallas from Minneapolis in 1953 and became involved in the civil rights movement and invironmental issues. A course she took called "Explore" changed her life, and from then on, the feminist cause came first. She founded Women for Change in 1971, the first women's center in Dallas, then helped organize the Rape Crisis Center, Women's Coalition, Family Place (for battered women), the Southwest Credit Union, The Dallas Commission on the Status of Women and the Women's Issues Network. She worked on Choice, childcare, the women's vote. In 1978 she began Women Helping Women Awards which later became the "Maura Awards". She now lives with her daughter and granddaughter in Los Altos , CA, but travels every year to Dallas to attend the now celebrated MAURA AWARD ceremony.

Pat Cuza, first Exec. Director of the Michigan Women's Commission introduced:


Jean Ledwith King of Ann Arbor helped found the Women's Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, which achieved equal representation of women at all levels both in the state and national party. She founded "Focus on Equal Employment for Women" which filed a complaint against the U. of Michigan for discrimination against the women faculty and staff (they won); helped found the Religious Coalition for Abortion Reform, challenged the Kalamazoo school's choice of text books under Title IX; was co-chair of the Research & Fund Report Committee of the federal Glass Ceiling Commission, which documented the shortage of women and minorities in top management and was president of the Women's Law Fund '81 to '83. She was a member of the Board of Trustees and president of the Women's Law Fund from '81 to '89. She continues practicing law with emphasis on gender bias cases.

Aleta Styers, founder and first president of Chicago
NOW and VFA's new Finance Chair, introduced Kappie Spencer.


Kappie Kaplan Spencer has been on a 30-year crusade to change the sexist language and laws of wills and trusts which demean and discriminate against women. She is a pioneer member of Planned Parenthood, worked on campaigns to keep funding their educational programs, took part in the Beijing Conrference, was State and National Legislative chair of AAUW in '82 and '83 , was involved in major ERA campaigns. She the Iowa phone company to list women separately from their husbands in the directory (now in all states ). She works also on the National Gender Balance project to get more women on boards. From Iowa, she lives in Sarasota in winter.

Heather Booth, a founder of Chicago Women's Liberation introduced:


Educator, inspirator, mentor for hundreds of young women, Cathryn taught at Chicago U in the late 60's and was inspired by the women who formed the first women's liberation group there. She later taught Psychology at Indiana-Purdue, where she lobbied for and was allowed to teach women's studies, a program she created. She helped found the Association for Women in Psychology and coordinated the first conference in 1973 and was spokeswoman for AWP from '77 to '82. She was head of Women's Studies at the U of New Hampshire, where she helped develop the first minor and ultimately the first major in women's studies. Under her leadership the university got a National Institute for the Humanities grant for an institute, "Women in 19th Century American Culture." She now lives in Portsmouth, NH


Virginia Whitehill, all-around activist of
Dallas spoke for:

RUTH McLEAN BOWERS -- activist, feminist philanthropist.

Ruth has served on the board of Planned Parenthood, helped found Texas Abortion Rights Action League, helped fund the Roe v Wade Supreme Court case, served on the board of National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws - (NARAL) and is responsible for the first abortion clinic in San Antonio. She is also very interested in the education of young girls and women and has served on the board of Regents of Texas Women's University. She's been active in the National Women's Political Caucus and Emily's List. Ruth lives in San Antonio and Hawaii.

Sylvia Roberts - attorney, won landmark cases for women, including NOW case against Southern Bell in early '70's. Baton Rouge, LA and Evelyn Dubrow, CLUE activist, lobbyist, could not be with us.

After each honoree received the VFA medal of honor (with their name and the date of the event etched on the back), the former president of the National Woman's Party, Elizabeth Chittick, addressed the guest briefly and called on the current president, Marty Langlon. Marty spoke about the campaign to meet the $500,000 grant awarded the Sewall Belmont House.

Paula McKensie, an NWP vice-president gave news of NWP events, and VFA's Barbara Love, publisher of the Pioneer Directory, urged the women to take and fill out the questionnaires and help us find early feminists.

Two highlights were when Tara Adamsky and Lara Avery accepted for their mothers, who were in poor health. There is nothing quite so moving as daughters of feminists who are proud of their mother's work!

Aleta and I were struggling over the bills ( DC is expensive!) and were wondering how we'd meet the loss, when a Boston member, Betsy Dunn stepped by and wrote us a check for $400. Needless to say, the conversation later on was how we can earn a little money to help keep VFA going!..

An hour later we were at Betty Friedan's apartment for cocktails greeting other women and men who'd not been at the luncheon. Betty beamed as her photo taken with some, and she loved hearing them tell her how "The Feminine Mystique" affected their lives. Later some of us went out to dinner in small groups. Diana Gartner, Barbara Love , Gracia Molina Pick , Betty Friedan and I were there til the last person left, so with Betty we went to an exotic Asian restauarant where we heard Betty's family's response to her latest book (not too good) and shared NOW memories.

Saturday at noon Aleta , Barbara and I gave reports of VFA's past and future activities.to the few who showed up at the Mayflower Hotel for the VFA meeting. Members will receive a full report later on.

Besides Aleta Styers, who came from New York City to handle the door and help in general, several VFA members from far away showed up to help out and/ enjoy the event. Gracia Molina Pick, my right hand and good pal, flew in from San Diego, Barbara Love of NYC and CT was promoting the "Pioneer Directory." Then there was Diana Gartner, early NY NOW Image Committee chair and Baltimore resident; Winnie Wackwitz, a pilot and an author of girl's adventure stories, accompanied the Dallas group; Elizabeth Spalding, early NOW Marriage and Divorce committee and current president of the Hartford chapter was with her son and daughter-in law; Betsy Dunn flew in from Boston and came with Suzanne Butler from Maryland.