Sunday, August 19, 2018
Some women, through the example of their own lives, inspire us to put down our iphones and demand more of ourselves than just tweeting here and there. Arvonne Fraser, who passed away on August 7 at age 92, was just such a person. Early on, she ran her husband's successful political campaigns and headed his staff while he was served as mayor of Minneapolis and later in Congress. All the while, she took individual actions to change the culture, including bringing gender equity to his staff. By the 1970s, she wanted to step out of the limited role of political wife and helpmate. She served as national president of the Women's Equity Action League, which focused on economic equity for women. Fraser also recognized clearly that women's rights are human rights. Under President Carter, she served as director of the Office of Women in Development at the U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
In a 2011 interview reflecting on her career, Fraser bemoaned the obscurity of women's history: "We just have to get more of this history down because I'm a firm believer that progress generates progress . . . [and] the lack of women's history disempowers women."
Though we mourn her passing, Fraser's impact can live on in our own actions and the power of her history to inspire and teach. It's up to us to take up the baton. In announcing a celebration of her life scheduled for August 30 in Minneapolis, Fraser's family wrote, "If you want to honor Arvonne, please don't send flowers or cards. Instead, go out and organize for a cause, donate to and volunteer for candidates, read the news and talk to your family, friends and neighbors and elected officials about important issues."