Library exhibit and lecture honor feminist icon

Marking the 50th anniversary of the National Organization for Women, NOW president Terry O’Neill ’74 will give a public lecture at Northwestern this fall in conjunction with University Libraries exhibit about fellow alumna and NOW president, Karen DeCrow ’59.

Terry O'Neill '74, president of NOW

O’Neill ’74

“Evolution of the Women’s Movement: NOW’s Purpose Through the Years” will address DeCrow’s influence on the women’s movement as well as NOW’s current projects, particularly its Strategic Action Program for setting and achieving its national goals.

O’Neill will speak at 5 p.m., Nov. 16, at Northwestern’s McCormick Tribune Center, 1870 Campus Drive in Evanston. Her lecture will be followed by a reception at nearby University Library.

O’Neill, a feminist attorney, professor and activist for social justice, was elected president of NOW in June 2009. She oversees NOW’s multi-issue agenda, which includes: advancing reproductive rights and justice, promoting racial justice, stopping violence against women, winning civil and human rights for the LGBTQIA community, ensuring economic justice, ending sex discrimination and achieving constitutional equality for women.

DeCrow, president from 1974-1977, died in 2014, after which her papers came University Archives upon her death in 2014. Those papers are the subject of this fall’s exhibit at University and Deering libraries, “You’re No One ’Til Somebody Hates You: Karen DeCrow and the Fight for Gender Equality” which runs through Dec. 30.

The exhibit, which takes its name from a needlepoint sampler that hung in DeCrow’s bedroom, examines DeCrow’s life and career, including her tireless (and ultimately fruitless) fight for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. DeCrow was also well-known for broadening her advocacy to men’s rights as well, once declaring, “I think that what gender a person is should never—I repeat, never—make a difference.”

Northwestern University Libraries keep significant holdings that pertain to the feminist movements known as First Wave (dedicated to suffrage) and Second Wave (defined broadly by the Equal Rights Amendment). The Femina Collections in the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections include more than 3,700 books and pamphlets about the movement, as well as newsletters, newspapers, posters, flyers, calendars, and ephemera like political buttons and T-shirts.


Karen DeCrow at a 1975 NOW convention in Philadelphia. AP Photo/Bill Ingraham.