Freethought Heroine Award

Eleanor Smeal – 1994

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, was named 1994 Freethought Heroine and gave the keynote speech at the 17th annual Freedom From Religion Foundation convention on October 1, 1994, meeting in Madison, Wis.

Eleanor Smeal co-founded and became President of the Feminist Majority Fund and Foundation in 1987, after serving three terms as President of the National Organization for Women, from 1975 to 1982 and from 1985 to 1987. The first housewife to be elected president of NOW, she took it from a very small membership base to a mass membership group.

Ellie introduced the first Homemakers' Bill of Rights into Congress. She led the nationwide campaign for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. She led the first national abortion rights march in Washington, D.C., attracting more than 100,000 participants. She was the first to identify the "gender gap" in voting and to popularize its usage as a political strategist.

Through the Feminist Majority Fund, she sponsors the "Feminization of Power Campaign" recruiting record numbers of feminists to run for public office. The Feminist Majority specializes in education and research projects to empower women and break the glass ceiling. Feminist Majority sponsored the largest public education campaign on the need for RU 486, and new contraceptive development.

The Feminist Majority is instrumental in providing defense to abortion clinics nationwide, monitoring antiabortion clergy and zealots. As president Smeal has co-authored and co-produced two award-winning 30-minute videos, "Abortion Denied: Shattering Young Women's Lives" about the devastating impact of parental consent and notification laws, and "Abortion: For Survival," a documentary on abortion as a global public health issue.

She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke University and holds an M.A. degree from the University of Florida and a Doctor of Law honorary degree from Duke University. The World Almanac for 1983 chose her as the fourth most influential woman in the United States.

Dr. Liz Karlin introduced her, and Anne Gaylor presented her with the plaque reading: "Ellie Smeal Freethought Heroine 1994, recognizing her activism and leadership in countering the religious war against women."

For the full speech click here

Photo by Brent Nicastro

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