Muriel Fox

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Muriel Fox (born in Newark, New Jersey on February 3rd, 1928) is a prominent public relations executive who in 1966 co-founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) and led the communications effort that introduced the modern women's movement to the media of the world. She has remained active as a feminist organizer, speaker, writer, editor and events chair. She was a co-founder and ongoing leader of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund (now called Legal Momentum); and she currently chairs Veteran Feminists of America. As an ambassador from the women's movement to the business community, she has raised many millions of dollars for feminist causes.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Her parents were grocer Morris Fox and housewife Anne Rubenstein. She stated at a Mother's Day rally for the ERA in 1980 that her mother's unhappiness as a housewife was a major inspiration for her activism in the feminist movement. She was graduated from Weequahic High School in Newark and for two years attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. At Rollins she became a string correspondent for United Press, covering events such as the Conference on the Atomic Bomb and World Government. She transferred to Barnard College in New York City, where she majored in American Studies and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude. After graduation she worked as an advertising copywriter for Sears Roebuck in New York; then as a publicist for Tom Jefferson & Associates in Miami, Florida, where she headed the Dade County re-election campaign of U.S. Senator Claude Pepper and helped elect Miami Mayor William Wolfarth.[2] She married Shepard G. Aronson, M.D. in 1955. During a 48-year-marriage until his 2003 death they had two children (Dr. Eric Aronson and Dr. Lisa Aronson Fontes) and three grandchildren.

Business career[edit]

When applying for a New York City job she was rejected by an officer of Carl Byoir & Associates, then the world’s largest public relations agency, because "We don't hire women writers." But she persisted and on June 8 of that year was hired by another Byoir executive as a publicist in its Radio-TV Department. She became head of that department, and Byoir's youngest vice president in 1956. She was then told she'd progressed as far as she could go "because corporate CEOs can't relate to women." She remained on that plateau until she had helped NOW to change the laws and the business climate for all women. She was promoted to group vice president in 1974 and to executive vice president in 1979. At the same time she served as president of Byoir subsidiaries ByMedia (communications training) and ByMart (smaller accounts).[3] She was described in Business Week Magazine's list of 100 Top Corporate Women in June 1976 as the "top-ranking woman in public relations." She retired from Byoir in 1985. She served on the board of directors of Harleysville Mutual Insurance Company from 1976 to 2000, chairing its Audit Committee, and on the board of Rorer Pharmaceuticals from 1979 to 1993, chairing its Nominating Committee.

Political activism[edit]

For the National Organization for Women's founding conference October 29, 1966 and the two years following, Fox served as NOW's public relations director and orchestrated the nationwide publicity effort that resulted in massive coverage of the new movement. She was later elected NOW vice president (1967–70), national chairwoman (1971–73), and chair of the National Advisory Committee (1973–74). She served as president of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund (1978–81) and chair of its board (1981–92) and since that time remains its Honorary Board Chair. In 2004 the organization changed its name to Legal Momentum. In addition to her publicity efforts, Fox was NOW president Betty Friedan's main lieutenant and director of operations in the earliest years;[4] she installed Friedan's NOW secretary at a small desk near her own at the Byoir offices in New York City. She wrote numerous letters sent by NOW under Friedan’s signature to government officials demanding faster action to reduce sex discrimination – including the letter that helped persuade President Lyndon Johnson to sign Executive Order 11246 in October, 1967, the order that added sex to Affirmative Action and thus opened up America’s corporate pipeline for millions of women. Her writing efforts for NOW included its 1968 letter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explaining the need to prohibit sex-segregated Help Wanted ads. Her personal testimony to Congress included proposed laws to equalize company pension contributions for women and men.[1] In addition to balancing her time between her family, her high-energy job and her feminist activities, Fox was also required to strike a balance between the interests of Byoir’s prestigious corporate clients and those of the women’s movement. She recused herself from NOW deliberations whenever they considered suing Byoir clients. In 1975 she organized a successful meeting between NOW officers and Byoir client "Sesame Street," which headed off a planned NOW boycott while also resulting in increased participation of female characters on the influential TV show.[1] In later life she received numerous tributes as "the most effective unifier between the worlds of business and feminism." In 1979 she created NOWLDEF’s annual Equal Opportunity Awards Dinner, and she chaired it for 22 years with co-chairs including a roster of corporate America’s foremost CEOs.[1] She was a co-founder in 1974, and its second president in 1976-78, of The Women's Forum, an organization of pre-eminent women from diverse fields, which has expanded into 61 chapters throughout the world. In a CBS-TV interview she credited the Forum with "transforming the word network into a verb." Since 1994 she has chaired the board of Veteran Feminists of America, an organization of second-wave feminist pioneers "created to document feminist history, to inspire younger generations, and to rekindle the spark and spirit of the feminist revolution." For VFA she has organized and chaired conferences such as its Salute To Feminist Authors and its Salute To Feminist Artists.[5] She is Senior Editor of "Feminists Who Changed America," with the biographies of 2,200 women and men who created the modern women's movement. She chaired the November 15, 2006 all-day conference at Columbia University and Barnard College that celebrated the book’s publication by University of Illinois Press.

In frequent speeches she has urged successful women to abandon their old roles as "Queen Bee" in a man's world,[6] and instead to support organizations that combat sex discrimination against all women. To advance this goal she served on the founding steering committees not only of NOW and The Women's Forum but also the National Women's Political Caucus, Child Care Action Campaign, the Women’s Economic Round Table, American Women in Radio & Television and Foremost Women In Communications. Her most frequent speechline is a call urging successful women to say, "Yes, I am a feminist."[1]

For NOWLDEF she organized and chaired The National Assembly on the Future of the Family (1979) convening 2,100 civic leaders in the first public forum that highlighted the modern-day transformation of the once-traditional American family;[7] and The Convocation on New Leadership in the Public Interest (1981) to win allies for the women’s movement among leaders of business, labor, government and public policy. In 1965-68 she was co-chairwoman, with Senator Maurine Neuberger, of Vice President Hubert Humphrey's task force on Women's Goals. In 1983-84 she served on the Marketing Committee of President Reagan's Advisory Council on Private Sector Initiative. She served as a director of United Way of Tri-State, American Arbitration Association and the International Rescue Committee. In 2004 she was elected president of the Rockland Center for the Arts, and led this organization for four years in its major campaign for expansion and renovation.[8] She is currently the Center's vice president for administration. She has appeared on television frequently –- including a two-week debate series against William Buckley on "Firing Line" on the topic "Resolved: Women Have It Better Than Men." She has lectured throughout the world on such topics as Communications, Family Trends, the Women's Movement, Networking and "Moving Women Up the Corporate Ladder."[9][10][11][12]

Recognition[edit]

In 1991 the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund created the Muriel Fox Award for Communications Leadership Toward a Just Society. The first winner of the "Foxy" was Muriel Fox herself. In 1996 the Fund surprised her with an "Our Hero" award "For a Lifetime of Dedication to the Cause of Women’s Equality." She was the first recipient of New York State NOW's Eleanor Roosevelt Leadership Award, in 1985; and that same year Barnard College selected her to receive its Distinguished Alumna Award. She was the first woman to receive the "Business Leader of the Year" Award from Americans for Democratic Action and the first public relations executive to win the Achievement Award of American Women in Radio & Television. She received the Matrix Award from New York Women in Communications and the Woman of Accomplishment Award from the Wings Club. She received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Rockland County Family Shelter, the Woman to Women Award from New York State NOW, and the Caroline Lexow Babcock Award from Rockland County NOW.[13] She is listed in "Who's Who In America,"[2] "Who's Who In The World," "Foremost Women of the Twentieth Century," "Who's Who Of American Women," and "Feminists Who Changed America."[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1975., University of Illinois Press, 2006, pp. 154–155, 13, 20, 99, 357, xvii–xix 
  2. ^ a b Who's Who In America, 1980–2008 
  3. ^ Aronoff, Craig E. (1979), Business and the Media., Goodyear Publishing Company, pp. 152–168 
  4. ^ Hennesse, Judith (1999), Betty Friedan: Her Life., Random House, pp. 104–5, 115–17, 119, 121, 131, 134, 136, 143, 152, 153, 157, 182, 228 
  5. ^ "Veteran Feminists of America". 
  6. ^ "Muriel Fox Is Not A Queen Bee.", Atlanta Constitution, Sep 13, 1977 
  7. ^ "National Assembly on Family Future", The New York Times, November 30, 1979 
  8. ^ Journal of the Rockland Family Shelter Awards Dinner May 18, 2008
  9. ^ St. Louis Globe-Democrat. June 17, 1977. "She Works Behind the Scenes"
  10. ^ Pittsburgh Courier. February 2, 1963. "New Yorker Speaks to Radio-TV Group"
  11. ^ Minneapolis Tribune. November 25, 1974, p.3B. "Muriel Fox Calls for Change in Attitude Toward Women in Management Roles."
  12. ^ Detroit Free Press. Sept. 26, 1974: "Women and Work: No More Stereotypes"
  13. ^ Rockland Journal-News. Gannett Suburban Newspapers, New York State. October 26, 1997. Page 1, Pages 15A-16A. "NOW Chapter To Honor Feminist Pioneer"; March 16, 1992. "NOW founder says the feminist struggle is far from over."

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