DMH Spotlight - Mary Burke Nicholas Washington, Kitty Carlisle Hart and Mary Crisp Back


Mary Burke Nicholas (July 6, 1926 – November 30, 2014) speaking at the plenary of the

NY State Women's meetingin Albany NY and on Wall Street, photographed by Diana Mara Henry

Promoting the NY State Women's Meeting, summer, 1977, Mary Burke Nicholas and Ruby Dee.

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Mary Crisp died March 24, 2007 at her home in Phoenix. She was 83. Born Mary Dent in Allentown, Pa., in 1923, she majored in botany at Oberlin College and did graduate work in political science at Arizona State University. In 1948, she married William Crisp; they were divorced in 1976.

Mary's stalwart advocacy of feminism and abortion rights as national co-chairman of the Republican Party led to her ouster in 1980 and a sharp rebuke from the party’s presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan. In 1980 she made an impassioned plea to the Republican National Convention in Detroit for passage of the equal rights amendment to the Constitution.

Mary also spoke out against a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, which the party had advocated in 1976 and again supported in 1980, and opposed her party’s opposition to federal financing of abortions. “We are about to bury the rights of over 100 million American women under a heap of platitudes,” she said of those positions.She had earlier agreed not to run for re-election after Bill Brock, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, expressed anger about newspaper reports saying she supported the independent candidacy of Representative John B. Anderson of Illinois. She denied the reports but later became Mr. Anderson’s campaign manager.

After the Anderson campaign failed, Ms. Crisp directed the political action committee of the National Abortion Rights Action League. She was a founder of the National Republican Coalition for Choice after the Supreme Court in 1989 restricted federal financing for abortions in its decision in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services.

She served two terms as Arizona’s national committeewoman. In 1976, she was chosen to be secretary of the Republican National Convention and read the roll of the states. From 1984 through the mid-1990s, she was national director of Business Executives for National Security, a nonpartisan advocacy group that gives advice to the military.

Mary continued her efforts to liberalize Republican stances on abortion and equal rights, arguing that it was good strategy because polls often showed that a majority of the public favored abortion under varying conditions. She further contended that favoring abortion rights was the logical position for free-market libertarians. “How can we support freedom from government interference on economic issues but not on the most basic personal decision of all?” she asked in 1992.

Source for text: Veteran Feminists of America


Kitty Carlisle performed  at the "Celebrating Women" event, an evening of entertainment at the New York State Women's Meeting in the summer of 1977, preliminary to the First National Women's Conference in Houston, Texas that November. She died on April 17. 2007 at the age of 96. (For more about her life and art.) .
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