In Memoriam: Jo Ann Evansgardner

Jo Ann Evansgardner, 84, Hazelwood, Pa., tireless feminist and Foundation Lifetime Member, died Feb. 16, 2010, at Forbes Hospice in Pittsburgh.

Jo Ann Evans was born April 19, 1925 in Latrobe, Pa. She received her Ph.D. in psychology in 1965 from the University of Pittsburgh. She and her husband, Gerald Gardner, a mathematician and geophysicist, were

college professors and partners in life and activism for 59 years. She combined their surnames when they wed in 1950. They joined FFRF in 1978. He preceded her in death in 2009.

Jo Ann and Gerald were co-presidents of the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Organization for Women. She served on NOW’s national board and was a founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus and was the first president of the Association for Women in Psychology.

In 1969, they sued The Pittsburgh Press to end the practice of publishing classified job ads as “Help wanted — male” and “Help wanted — female.” Despite opposition from the entire newspaper industry, they won a U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended the practice nationwide. They founded KNOW, a feminist press, which supplied early course material for women’s studies programs.

Jo Ann was not afraid to stand up for her principles. She protested at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., and got into a shoving match with hospital security guards over the hospital’s ban on abortions. She did a lot of work and mentoring behind the scenes, but the media highlighted her confrontational activities. She disrupted a 1970 U.S. Senate hearing on the doomed nomination of Judge G. Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court, demanding to testify for women’s concerns, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, and Sen. Edward Kennedy ordered her to sit down.

One of the women she recruited was Eleanor Smeal, now president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. Smeal thought Jo Ann had gone too far once by complaining that only male mice were used in medical experiments.

“Jo Ann said, ‘Believe me, it matters,’ ” Smeal told the Post-Gazette. “And it did matter.” Her concerns were later verified by studies showing that medical research, long done only on males, produced results of little use to women, Smeal said.

“Jo Ann was a real firecracker,” said Anne Gaylor, Foundation president emerita. “We will miss her special brand of passion and activism.”

The couple had no children. A memorial service for both was planned at the Evans family farm in Morgantown, W.V.

Freedom From Religion Foundation