Toni Van Pelt, longtime feminist and secular humanist activist, was elected president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 2017. She is also president of the NOW Foundation and chairwoman of the NOW Political Action Committee, and serves as the principal spokeswoman for all three entities.
Van Pelt oversees NOW’s multi-issue agenda, which includes: achieving constitutional equality for women, advancing reproductive rights and justice, promoting racial justice, stopping violence against women, winning civil and human rights for the LGBTQIA+ community, and ensuring economic justice. Van Pelt has served in leadership positions at all levels of NOW.
She was spurred into action by the 1989 Supreme Court decision in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, when Republican Gov Bob Martínez declared Florida would be the first state to limit a woman’s right to abortion. She finally decided to take action. She joined NOW and Florida Now activists in organizing 10,000 women in a march on Tallahassee. Declaring Martínez a one term governor they drove him out of office.
Her motto is “When we take action, we win!” She has been taking action ever since.
She has been arrested twice, once on a felony charge for aiding and abetting an illegal abortion and once for demonstrating against the Promisekeepers, a religious patriarchal men’s oppression group.
She remains fiercely devoted to grassroots activism.
Van Pelt is a longtime advocate for secular humanism, and the separation of church and state. She serves on the board of the Institute for Humanist Studies.
She is co-founder, and served as the president and public policy director for the Institute for Science and Human Values (ISHV). Currently she is the chairwoman of the board of directors of the Kurtz ISHV.
A former vice president and the first public policy director of the Center for Inquiry, Van Pelt organized and directed one of the first public policy offices of the secular humanist movement in Washington, D.C. She lobbied for law and policies driven by the empirical scientific evidence as opposed to faith.
Her past career as the owner of a travel agency, International Travel Associates, Inc. specializing in international travel gave her the opportunity to expand her worldview through global travel.
Van Pelt is a former member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers when she worked for Northwest Orient Airlines.
She is committed to building an inclusive, intersectional, and intergenerational feminist movement.