An Activist with a Sense of Fun

Karen DeCrow (1937 – 2014)

Karen DeCrow got the vision early. As a pioneer, the only woman in her class at Syracuse University Law School, she sensed the immensity of the struggle and learned how the battle must be waged.

She listened, but given the scope of the challenges she chose, she had little time for the political and cultural rhetoric of the time. She wanted to get to the point.

While confrontation was inevitable, DeCrow’s strategy for raising issues included an understanding that opponents need not be cast as permanent enemies and that fighting the good fight should always allow for an element of having fun.

Although her roles as local organizer and coordinator, and later national president, of the National Organization of Women demanded her to be the personification of the feminist movement, her 1969 Liberal Party campaign for mayor of Syracuse (the first female mayoral candidacy in New York) displayed political consciousness well beyond a single-issue focus.

DeCrow then spoke openly, in televised debate, in opposition to the Vietnam War and the repression of the young and people of color. She proposed an office of consumer protection and advocated vitalizing the unused enforcement powers of the Mayor’s Commission for Human Rights in the areas of job and housing discrimination. She favored cross-busing for the public schools and citizen participation in the urban renewal process of that time.

Writing for the Syracuse New Times, Karen DeCrow helped keep the gender consciousness alternative, patiently explaining the nuances of radical life changes, balancing the tricks history was playing on the Sixties generation with updates on her mother’s adventures in South Florida.

She maintained perspective in search of that expression of ultimate humanity that would signal the triumph of her movement. Knowing that the triumph was inevitable, she was not impatient so much as just wishing we could all enjoy it a little more quickly.

To read the Campbell Conversations interview with Karen DeCrow – Click Here

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