Patricia Ireland was named "Freethought Heroine 1990" at the thirteenth annual national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on October 6, 1990. At that time, Ms. Ireland was a vice-president of the National Organization for Women, and her duties included monitoring the Supreme court, Operation Rescue and the debate over RU-486.
In 1992, Ms. Ireland became NOW's national president, serving until 2002. A former airline attendant, she got her law degree from the University of Miami Law School in 1975 and specialized in sex discrimination lawsuits. Under her tutelage, NOW played a pivotal role in making 2002 "the Year of the Woman," by helping to elect a record number of women to political office. She oversaw NOW's historic lawsuit against Operation Rescue. 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.
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