A nationally recognized attorney, author and activist, Karen DeCrow is one of the most celebrated leaders of the women’s movement.
Born in Chicago, and educated in its public school system, Karen DeCrow earned her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism, in 1959. Her literary career began after graduation, and she spent ten years as a writer and editor. During this time she also became active in the women’s movement.
1967 saw Karen ascend to the presidency of the Syracuse, New York chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). From 1968 to 1974, she also served as a member of the National Board of Directors of NOW. In 1974, she was elected National President of NOW, serving in that capacity for two terms. During DeCrow’s tenure as President of NOW, the organization embarked on important initiatives including achieving non-governmental status with the United Nations, supporting the first ordination of eleven Episcopal women, persuading the federal government to include sex discrimination in the Fair Housing Law, and instituting highly publicized and successful discrimination actions against Sears and AT&T. She was the last President of NOW to serve without pay or an office.
In 1969, DeCrow returned to college at Syracuse University, College of Law, graduating as the only female in the class of 1972. She devoted her legal career to cases promoting gender equality, eliminating age discrimination and protecting civil liberties. She was also a strong supporter of equal rights for men, evolving to support joint custody when parents divorce. DeCrow campaigned tirelessly for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). During the 1970s and 1980s, she traveled throughout the United States (often at her own expense) to debate anti-feminist author, Phyllis Schlafly, on the ERA. She wrote numerous books and articles and is recognized as a noted lecturer worldwide for her expertise on topics including law, feminism, politics, civil rights, parental rights and the ERA. In 1970, she served as National Coordinator of the Women’s Strike. In 1974, Time magazine named her as part of the 200 Future Leaders of America. In 1988, she co-founded World Women Watch.
Karen Decrow died in 2014.