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Patricia IrelandPatricia Ireland
former President, 1991-2001
NOW President Patricia Ireland led the largest, most visible and most successful feminist organization in the United States for 10 years, from 1991-2001. Ireland's major contributions included organizing NOW activists to: defend women's access to abortion, elect a record number of women to political office, work more closely in coalitions with other social justice and civil rights groups and champion international feminist issues.

Ireland developed NOW's Project Stand Up for Women, including training thousands of activists in direct clinic defense; and major lobbying and litigation successes. In April 1998 a jury unanimously found Operation Rescue and others guilty of racketeering in the landmark class-action suit, NOW v. Scheidler. Ireland helped originate the lawsuit when she served as legal counsel for Florida NOW and briefly served as lead counsel on the case. In 1992, she led NOW in organizing a record-breaking crowd of 750,000 for NOW's March for Women's Lives.

The NOW "Elect Women for a Change" campaign Ireland initiated in 1992 played a pivotal role in making it "the Year of the Woman." The campaign provided feminist candidates with experienced organizers who trained and deployed volunteers to: staff phone banks and knock on doors; distribute leaflets and posters; organize visibility actions and fundraisers; and get people to the polls. Several women candidates -- former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.), and U.S. Representatives Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) -- say it was NOW's backing early on that made the difference in their campaigns. 

Ireland forged stronger links with: welfare and poor women's rights activists; nationally-known civil rights leaders; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups. As part of NOW's work with the Up and Out of Poverty Now! coalition, Ireland delivered testimony and organized lobby days, news briefings and protests on behalf of poor women. She served on the board of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and, in 1993, was a co-convener and keynote speaker for the 30th anniversary march on Washington commemorating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Her efforts on behalf of lesbian and gay rights have included: organizing activists to fight punitive ballot initiatives around the country; getting arrested at the White House over the continued ban on gays and lesbians in the military; and serving as a speaker and major organizer for the 1993 March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian and Bi Civil Rights.

Active since 1975 in international women's rights and human rights work, Ireland was the prime architect of NOW's Global Feminist Program . At NOW's Global Feminist Conference in 1992, Ireland brought together women from more than 45 countries. She has represented NOW at six international women's conferences around the world.

Before becoming president, Ireland had served as executive vice president and treasurer since 1987.  Prior to that, she was a partner in a major Miami law firm. She served as legal counsel to Dade County and Florida NOW for seven years. Ireland received her law degree from the University of Miami Law School in 1975. She worked as a flight attendant for Pan American World Airlines from 1967 through 1975, flying principally in South and Central America.

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