Roxcy Bolton: Pioneer Feminist

Have you heard of Roxcy?   If not, I would like you to ask yourself, why have you never heard of a women as influential as Roxcy Bolton?

Though not a Florida Native, in 1964 Roxcy Bolton moved to Coral Gables, with her Navy husband, David Bolton where they raised their three children.

Bolton began her women’s rights activism locally when she spoke before a Democratic women’s group in Fort Lauderdale to advocate equal pay for equal work. However her career in activism quickly skyrocketed her into the national spotlight. She was one of the first Florida women to join the National Organization for Women (NOW) after its founding in 1966, and she served as national vice president after being elected to the board of directors in 1968.

Closer to home, she founded and was the first president of the Miami-Dade Chapter of NOW in 1968. A powerful orator and passionate women, Roxcy Bolton took NOW’s message statewide arguing the case for equal rights for women and actively campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Bolton personally convinced U.S. Senator Birch Bayh to hold the first hearings on the ERA before Congress in 1970.

Though she was active on the political stage she was also concerned for her sisters in the local community. Her activism centered on crimes against women, a topic ahead of the times. In an effort to prevent such crimes she organized the nation’s first neighborhood crime watch.

In 1972 she founded an organization called Women in Distress, which is now operated by the Salvation Army. Even today, Women in Distress offers temporary lodging, legal assistance, counseling, and caring support to battered women, those with substance abuse problems, and other women in personal crisis.

Roxcy Bolton was a pioneer in many ways. She controversially initiated  the Rehabilitation Program for Young Prostitutes in the Miami-Dade County area. This program offered educational opportunities to incarcerated prostitutes, and attempting to keep young women off the streets and away from drugs. Her determination to help woman also resulted in multiple marches against rape and brought public attention to the special needs of rape victims. She was influential in the establishment of  the Rape Treatment Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in 1974, which was later renamed in her honor. A woman ahead of her time, this hospital is the first of its kind in the country to be adjoined to a hospital and served as the prototype for many centers established in the following years.

Her activism also includes:

  • Worked to end sexist advertising
  • Organized efforts leading to maternity leave for flight attendants.
  • She gained access for women to the previously all-male lunchrooms at Burdines and Jordan Marsh department stores
  • Helped end the practice of naming hurricanes only for women.
  • Opened the influential Tiger Bay political club to women.
  • Established Commissions on the Status of Women in state government and in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
  • Increased numbers of women in policy-making positions
  • Fought for, pushed for creation of the Women’s Institute at Florida Atlantic University
  • Led a sit-in at the University of Miami protesting the unequal treatment of female students and faculty.

She also led the effort to create yet another first for Florida and the nation; a Women’s Park was established in Miami-Dade County in 1992 as a tribute to past and present women leaders in South Florida.

Roxcy Bolton has never wavered in her struggle for equal rights. She was the driving force  behind the designation of August 26 as Women’s Equality Day. The 1972 proclamation by President Richard Nixon establishing the day was later presented to Bolton in recognition of her diligent work for equal rights.

She was inducted to the Florida’s Women Hall of Fame in 1984.

 

 

 

 Mayor Carlos Gimenez Honors Roxcy Bolton Video

Channel 4 story on Roxcy Bolton by Michele Gillen

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