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National NOW Times >> Winter 2003/2004 >> Article

In Memoriam: NOW Grieves the Loss of Four Leaders

Dr. Shepard G. Aronson
Gene Boyer
Rhoda M. Bradshaw
Mary Jean Tully

Dr. Shepard G. Aronson

Dr. Shepard Gerard Aronson, the first chair of the elected board of NOW New York City, the founding chapter, died Nov. 10, 2003, at the age of 90.

Aronson and his wife, Muriel Fox, were living in Manhattan at the time and both had attended the NOW organizing conference in Washington, D.C., in 1966.

When David Susskind interviewed Aronson as part of a panel of feminist men on his "Open End" show in 1972, he asked Aronson how he would feel if his wife made more money than he did. "Relaxed," Aronson replied.

Aronson explained his support and work for NOW by saying, "I want my wife to make more money."

In 1981, Aronson organized and co-chaired the New York County Medical Society's joint committees of nurses and physicians, the first in Manhattan and one in which nurses were equal partners and co-chaired with a physician.

Aronson also was a medical adviser to Planned Parenthood of New York.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Cornell University and received his medical degree from Cornell University's Medical School.

During World War II, Aronson was the chief of surgery at Santa Tomas Hospital in Manila, where he was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and five battle ribbons.

Gene Boyer

Gene Boyer, one of the original 28 founders of NOW and a lifelong advocate for women, died on Aug. 19, 2003, after a long and fruitful life spent encouraging and promoting the dignity and worth of women and girls.

Boyer served as NOW's national treasurer from 1968 to 1974 and was instrumental in forming the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1970, serving on its board in various capacities through the mid-'90s. She was a driving force behind the 1977 celebration of International Women's Year and continued to promote the goals of the Houston conference for the rest of her life. She practiced what she preached and founded the Wisconsin Women's Network in 1979. She continued her efforts on behalf of Wisconsin women for the next two decades, serving as the Founding President of the Women Business Owners of Wisconsin (1987) and as Chair of the Beaver Dam Community Forum on Health Care (1993).

Boyer tirelessly persisted in her campaign to advance women nationally and internationally, serving as a planning committee member of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women (1994-95) and founding the Jewish Women's Coalition (JWC) in 1995. She realized the potential of the Internet and email communications long before many others, establishing a list-serve and contributing regularly to JWC's email alerts and thoughtful feminist advisories.

During Boyer's long tenure as a feminist activist, she supported and furthered work on the Equal Rights Amendment, sexual assault reform, marital property reform, reproductive rights, sex equity in education and stopping violence against girls and women. She worked to improve the status of women across the country and specifically in her home state of Wisconsin and her winter home in Florida. Her special interest, however, was the economic status of women. She devoted much of her effort to bringing women into the business world as full and equal players. She did this through local chambers of commerce, various government committees and task forces (both state and national), and through her own consulting firm, Gene Boyer and Associates.

Rhoda M. Bradshaw

Rhoda M. Bradshaw
Rhoda M. Bradshaw
Photo by Susan Mackenzie
Rhoda M. Bradshaw, long-time NOW member, feminist, peace activist and friend to many, died suddenly of massive heart failure Dec. 26, 2003, in South Bend, Ind.—the place where she had lived since l974.

Bradshaw led a simple life economically, but one rich with people, ideas, goals, theater and music. She enriched South Bend and many a NOW event at local, state, regional and national levels with her deep, rich singing voice and dramatic talents.

Bradshaw was a national NOW board member from l998-2002 and served on the national Diversity Committee. She prided herself as a regular on what she called the "Vampire Committee"—the committee that cleans up the language on resolutions brought before the national conference. This was, in pre-computer days, often an all-night task.

The St. Joe Valley Chapter of NOW was established in 1982, and Bradshaw was active in the chapter from the beginning. She didn't talk much of why she was so devoted to NOW issues, but whether working on racism, diversity, reproductive choice, lesbian/gay issues, domestic violence or pay equality, she was steadfast in her devotion to improving women's and men's lives. She served as co-chair of the chapter almost continuously from l988 until her death, except for the occasional year when she served as secretary or treasurer. Even then, she simultaneously headed the local diversity committee, worked on the chapter activist newsletter "Around the Bend" and did publicity work wherever and whenever needed.

In the late eighties, she instituted a column in both the South Bend Tribune and "Around the Bend" for February's Black History and March's Women's History months with a quiz about significant women and persons of color. In February l991, she developed the first of eight annual "Ain't I a Woman?" women-of-color awards dinners. These served to highlight and publicize the many accomplishments of local women of color.

In 1990 Indiana NOW chose her as the first Minority Rights Coordinator and, since then, she also held other positions of leadership in Indiana NOW, such as Vice President and board member. She regularly encouraged other local NOW members to participate in state and national activities, serving as a contact person for many a conference, march and rally.

Over her years in NOW, she presented workshops at various local, regional and national levels on topics such as sizeism, racial diversity, media diversity, Love Your Body Day, and chapter growth and development. She attended most state, regional and national NOW meetings and rarely missed a chapter meeting. Her signature feminist song was "Miss Celie's Blues" from "The Color Purple" (also called "The Sister Song") and she often was asked to sing it at NOW ceremonies. We are grieving. She is missed.

Mary Jean Tully

Mary Jean Tully, an early NOW activist and a founder of the Veteran Feminists of America (VFA) died Dec. 27, 2003, in White Plains, N.Y., of a heart attack. She'd been ill since October, and her death is another great loss for the feminist movement.

Tully came into the movement after the Women's Strike for Equality of 1970. She co-founded Westchester NOW in New York, co-edited NOW's national newsletter and then helped build the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund into a powerful organization. In no time, she found a home for NOW LDEF—a whole floor at a 57th Street building off Fifth Avenue; had corporations and foundations giving money; and held fund raising events with the cooperation of the Mayor and the Governor of New York.

Her efforts are responsible for NOW LDEF's "Hire Him. He's Got Great Legs" campaign of the 1970s, and she had much to do with the success of Title XI.

In the late 1980s, Tully funded the History of NOW and Betty Friedan project at Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe/Harvard in Cambridge. Mass. Jacqui Ceballos was one of the interviewers for the Project and expanded interviews to include leaders of Women's Liberation groups and other NOW activists who expressed a wish to reunite. This was the motivation for the founding of Veteran Feminists of America, which was organized in Tully's New York apartment.

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