Karen DeCrow dies at 76; NOW leader in 1970s

The president of NOW's Greater Syracuse chapter called Karen DeCrow 'a hero and a guide'

Activist and civil rights lawyer Karen DeCrow, who led the National Organization for Women in the 1970s, died Friday at her home near Syracuse, N.Y. She was 76.

Longtime friend Rowena Malamud said the cause of death was melanoma.

As president of NOW from 1974 to 1977, DeCrow pressured government agencies and corporations to hire more women and called on the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate gender discrimination. She pressed Ivy League schools to bring in more female students and NASA to include more women in the space program.

Malamud, the president of NOW's Greater Syracuse chapter, called DeCrow "a hero and a guide."

"Together, with a lot of other people, we helped to change history," Malamud said. "She was in the forefront of that."

Born Karen Lipschultz on Dec. 18, 1937, she grew up in Chicago and earned a degree in journalism from Northwestern University. While in law school at Syracuse University, she ran for mayor of Syracuse, the first mayoral campaign by a woman in the state.

She joined NOW in 1967, inspired by the pay inequality she saw in her own workplace. As president of the group, DeCrow advocated state ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, passed by Congress in 1972, and lamented each time a state legislature voted against it. The proposed amendment didn't get enough state approvals to make it into the Constitution.

She continued her advocacy after her presidency, representing women in gender discrimination disputes and writing a newspaper column.

The American Civil Liberties Union honored her in 1985, and she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2009.

According to the New York Times, her two marriages ended in divorce. She is survived by her sister, Claudia Lipschultz.


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