Rosemary Matson

On this date in 1917, feminist, activist, humanist and grassroots organizer Rosemary Matson was born at the family farm in Geneva, Iowa. Matson set an example for others by acting virtuously and advocating for world peace, equal opportunity and the right of women to have a voice. She lived in many places, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Berkeley, Calif., and, finally, in her longtime home in Carmel Valley, Calif.

Matson was a longtime member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the National Organization for Women. Through these organizations, she conducted outreach, served on committees and created programming. She also co-wrote a 100-page guide for a Unitarian Universalist (UU) course on patriarchy that used Unraveling the Gender Knot: Challenging the System that Binds Us by Allan G. Johnson as the text.

Matson did not identify as an atheist, and she and her husband Howard Matson became prominent figures in the UU’s Women and Religion Movement. However, she worked to remove sexist practices from Christianity and performed weddings and memorial services as a humanist minister, using nonsexist practices and nontheistic inspirational statements. She was honored with a UU Ministry to Women award in 1998 and received many other awards for her decades of leadership in peace and social justice movements.

She overcame breast cancer and was honored in the 2006 collection “Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975.” She died at age 97. (D. 2014)

Freedom From Religion Foundation