Reprinted with permission from Veteran Feminists of America
Veteran Feminists of America mourns the passing of Mary Eastwood, a founder of NOW and a member of VFA’s board since day one. Mary died at her home in Madison, Wisconsin October 11, 2015 of congestive heart failure.
Mary was a cohort of the late, great Catherine East, VFA’s first honoree, who had inspired Betty Friedan to start the National Organization for Women. After VFA’s event honoring Catherine, the two worked closely with me, reaching important feminists around the nation and urging them to join VFA, thus bringing great feminists back into action and reviving the feminist movement.
Mary graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Law in 1955, then moved to Washington, D.C. where she worked on a study project for the National Academy of Sciences. She joined the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 1960, served as an attorney advisor and later as an equal opportunity advisor. The following year, she became the associate special counsel for investigation in the office of the Merit System Protection Board, which was charged with looking into allegations of illegal personnel practices in the federal government.
As technical secretary to the civil and political rights committee of President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), Mary researched decisions involving women and the Fourteenth Amendment. With Pauli Murray, she wrote the highly influential article, “Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII,” which appeared in the Georgetown Law Review in December 1965.
She was also a board member of Human Rights for Women (HRW), an organization that helped finance sex discrimination litigation and research projects on women’s issues; and a member of Federally Employed Women (FEW), a group that sought an end to sex discrimination in the federal government.
After Catherine’s death, Mary continued helping VFA as a member of our regular board and later, our honorary board.
Mary requested no funeral, so her loved ones are discussing having neighbors visit her home sometime in the coming weeks, and then burying her remains as part of the family reunion next July.
Mary was much loved and will be missed.