Bonnie's Farewell

 Dear Northern NJ NOW friends,

I have mixed emotions as I write to tell you that I am not running for re-election as President of the chapter in 2019. It is difficult to retire, even as a volunteer, but it is time. In fact, where did all the time go? (And my energy?)

I have been told I never take credit for anything, so I want to share some of the things I am most proud of that the chapter accomplished with my leadership over the years, as well as some stories I won’t forget, while I still can. In case you don’t know, I have been a member of the chapter for 45 years, and it is the oldest chapter in the State.

I can’t include everything, so come take a selective stroll down Memory Lane with me:

My titles:

In the 70’s, I was Secretary, Co-Coordinator, and then President, of NNJ, and chapter delegate to NOW-NJ in 1981-83. I was delegate again from 2011 till I became Administrative VP for NOW-NJ in 2014, and served in that capacity till 2018. I have served again as President of the chapter from 2011 to this January, 2019.

Early Years:

I had been married in 1965. At the time I joined NNJ NOW, this fact put some of my NOW sisters into a frenzy. They lobbied me to get a divorce. As a feminist, I refused.

The best thing:

Coordinating the effort for and finally winning a buffer zone for Metropolitan Medical Associates in Englewood in 2014. This happened without the support of the clinic itself, which was hostile to our efforts, no matter what they said at Council meetings. No matter what happened in courts later, women were helped, and this was our/my greatest accomplishment.

The next best thing:

In 1981 I was Chair of the NNJ NOW Housing Task Force, and initiated and got passed the original law prohibiting discrimination in rental housing due to source of income (alimony or welfare payments). I convinced NNJ to join the NJ Tenants Organization (and vice versa) to fight for this right. This law is still in effect today.

Just SomeThings I Did:

I convinced National NOW and Florida NOW to join NNJ in supporting wrongly convicted Marissa Alexander. We were the first NOW chapter to actually support her. When she won her release, we received a wonderful letter acknowledging our great contribution of support and influence (and money, too).

I spoke on behalf of NNJ on radio and TV, including a 2012 Channel 9 News segment on Obama and the handling of coverage for contraception in the new health care law.

In 2013, I got good press coverage speaking out about the controversy at Rutgers about pregnant women and mothers in the workplace, something I know absolutely nothing about.

I was a behind the scenes advisor and steering committee member on the 2017 Woman’s March on NJ, which NNJ co-sponsored. That was fun!

Attended a rally/march in Newark on police brutality and racist deaths of black women and men. Was interviewed.

Most defining moment in my life:

In 1976 I was declared autonomous by the NJ Appellate Court after having my freedom of speech taken away from me in a lower court because I was a married women. While this was political speech not related to NNJ, it did radicalize me even more into fighting for women’s rights.

Most fun:

Our 45th Anniversary Brunch celebration in 2015. Dina helped me find the spot and negotiate the deal. About fifty members gathered to reminisce about our past and plot our future. We presented the first NNJ Courage Award to the two founders of the Clinic Escorts, and Judy Murphy, recipient of NNJ’s 1995 Lifetime Achievement Award, came all the way from Vermont to speak to us. My full speech (I was helped with the timeline by Lynn Wenzel, former Chapter historian, who now lives in CA) is online, and photos should still be at the website. Sorry, someone else will have to coordinate the 50th anniversary!

Appearances at the Cafe Resistance, run by Diane and Laura, where I was allowed to run on about whatever came to mind.

Most controversial:

Oddly enough, the discussion group. The group had been dormant, and I started sending articles and thoughts, and some people were really upset about the sudden additional emails. There was a “Battle Royale” between opponents and supporters. The opponents left the discussion group, and the supporters seem to still be there. One person wrote me that she appreciated having a safe place to express opinions, whether they were agreed to or not.

Movies! Movies!

Two especially wonderful movies we showed were “It’s A Girl!” which Vanessa found for us, and which created a really good discussion, and “Equal Means Equal” about the need for the ERA (Now more than ever!!!) We also co-sponsored a showing of “TRAPPED” in 2016 about the laws that continue to be introduced at an alarming rate (now more than ever!) to chip away at abortion rights.

Trips:

Seneca Falls—twice—both coordinated by Marissa, but I think I was a help! I only went on the first one, and roomed with a fabulous roommate, Vicki Sidrow. It was memorable. So was the trip, also coordinated by Marissa, to the NY Historical Society in NYC to see the new “women’s wing.” I got everyone in for senior price using my secret method. It was followed by a wonderful nearby lunch and lots of bonding all around.

Special vigils and Demonstrations:

In 2017 Matt, the husband I kept and an NNJ Board member and Manager of the Discussion Group, and I and many others attended the Teaneck Vigil in response to Charlottesville, carrying the NOW Stop Racism sign. (The photo of the two of us appeared in the NNJ Newsletter edited by Mary, and is still on line, at our website, I believe.) This was a somber, meaningful experience.

I wrote a speech to give at the Bergen Unity demonstration in 2017. I could not make the rally because at the last moment I could not get out of the building I live in due to the combination of ice and my danged knee, but Matt read the speech for me, which was unintentionally humorous for being written in “female,” (as in “Women know that we are”). It was graded the “best speech of the day” by other speakers.

Persuading National:

Succeeded in getting them to email press releases to chapter Presidents (that is why you get to see them. The press certainly never prints them.)

Argued that chapters are autonomous (so far) and can sign onto climate change or any other letters we want. They warned me but I persisted; we still sign on to issue letters that affect our lives, and even co-sponsored the March for Science! So there!

Meeting your heroes is not always the best idea:

In October, 1986 at the Centennial Celebration of the Statue of Liberty (she could use a little support right now), NNJ sponsored a boat ride that commemorated the NY Women’s Suffrage political action of a century before when it joined in a parade of river craft. We listened to speakers Betty Friedan and Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner.. At some point, someone came over to me with Betty Friedan in tow, They were having a very hard time with obstreperous Betty. Their remedy: they told me that I was in charge of Betty and they went away. I spent the rest of the day catering to Betty’s every whim, of which there were many, and nodding to all her complaints, of which there were even more.

The 2015 National NOW Conference in New Orleans. Matt and I and Deb Huber joined a small group of hardy resisters from NJ and other States in fighting for chapter rights at the Conference, with side meetings taking up any time we might actually have had to see the city., Eleanor Smeal and others argued for a top down organization and tried to curb rights for chapters through ByLaw changes. We were able to succeed on preventing some (most?) of the changes. Both Matt and I spoke at the mic and rallied opposition.

I am writing this before the January 13, 2019 event of Words of Choice, which we are co-sponsoring with the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood. I know that will be another memory for me to relish, especially since it will be my final official appearance as President of NNJ NOW. I hope that I will see you there.

I want to thank the Board members I served with in the 2000’s: Vanessa, Dina, Mary, Matt, Judith, Kim, Doris, Diane and Marissa, and wish the new Board well.

It has been a great 45 years, and I am really curious about the next 45!

Love,

Bonnie

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