Karen DeCrow

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Karen DeCrow
Karen DeCrow head shot.png
Karen Lipschultz

(1937-12-18)December 18, 1937
DiedJune 6, 2014(2014-06-06) (aged 76)
Alma materNorthwestern University
Syracuse University

Karen DeCrow (née Lipschultz; December 18, 1937 – June 6, 2014) was an American attorney, author, and activist and feminist. She was also a strong supporter of equal rights for men in child custody decisions, arguing for a "rebuttable presumption" of shared custody after divorce.[1] She also asserted that men as well as women should be allowed the decision not to become a parent.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Karen Lipschultz was born in Chicago, Illinois at the end of 1937.

After a brief first marriage, she married her second husband, Roger DeCrow, a computer scientist, in 1967.[2]

DeCrow died of melanoma on June 6, 2014 in Jamesville, New York.[3][4]

Career and activism[edit]

She joined the National Organization for Women in 1969, and that same year she ran for mayor of the city of Syracuse, New York, becoming the first female mayoral candidate in the history of New York.[5] Also in 1969, she and Faith Seidenberg entered the all-male establishment McSorley’s Old Ale House and were refused service. They sued for discrimination. The case decision made the front page of The New York Times on June 26, 1970.[6] The suit, Seidenberg v. McSorleys' Old Ale House (1970, United States District Court, S. D. New York) established that, as a public place, the ale house could not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.[7]

After entering law school, she earned her Juris Doctor from Syracuse University College of Law in 1972[8]—the only woman in the class of 1972.[9] In 1972, she was a part of the Ms. magazine campaign: “We Have Had Abortions” which called for an end to "archaic laws" limiting reproductive freedom, they encouraged women to share their stories and take action.[10]

DeCrow was elected president of the National Organization for Women from 1974 to 1977, during which time she led campaigns to ensure that collegiate sports would be included under the scope of Title IX, pressured NASA to recruit women as astronauts, oversaw the opening of a new NOW Action Center in Washington, D.C. and the establishment of NOW's National Task Force on Battered Women/Household Violence, and participated in a tour of over 80 public debates with antifeminist activist Phyllis Schlafly over the Equal Rights Amendment.[11]

In 1978, DeCrow became an associate of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press.[12]


DeCrow was honored by the American Civil Liberties Union in 1985.[13]


She was the author of several books, including The Young Woman’s Guide to Liberation (1971) and Sexist Justice—How Legal Sexism Affects You (1975).[5] In 2009, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.[8] DeCrow described her ultimate goal as "a world in which the gender of a baby will have little to no relevance in future pursuits and pleasures—personal, political, economic, social and professional."[5] Toward that end, DeCrow was a supporter of shared parenting (joint legal and shared physical custody) of children when parents divorce.[14][15] Her position on joint custody was criticized by some in the National Organization for Women: "I've become a persona non grata because I've always been in favor of joint custody," DeCrow said.[16]


  1. ^ a b "The Feminist Leader Who Became a Men's-Rights Activist". Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  2. ^ Yardley, William (2014-06-06). "Karen DeCrow Dies at 76; Feminist Lawyer and Author Led NOW". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-06-22.
  3. ^ "Karen DeCrow dead; Former NOW leader and feminist lawyer". 6 June 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  4. ^ "Karen DeCrow, Former President of the National Organization for Women, Dies at 76". 7 June 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  5. ^ a b c "MEDILL Hall of Achievement: Karen DeCrow". Archived from the original on 7 June 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  6. ^ Charlton, Linda (26 June 1970). "Judge Tells Mcsorley's to Open All-Male Saloon to All Women". New York Times.
  7. ^ Seidenberg v. McSorley's Old Ale House, 317 F.Supp. 593 (1970) (United States District Court, S. D. New York 25 June 1970).
  8. ^ a b "Syracuse University George Arents Awards: Karen L. DeCrow". Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  9. ^ "Karen DeCrow." National Women's Hall of Fame. http://www.greatwomen.org/women-of-the-hall/search-the-hall-results/details/2/229-DeCrow
  10. ^ "We have had Abortions" (PDF). 1972.
  11. ^ "National Organization for Women, "Celebrating Our Presidents," now.org". Archived from the original on 21 January 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  12. ^ "Associates | The Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press". www.wifp.org. Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  13. ^ Sisak, Michael R (2014-06-08). "Karen DeCrow, led NOW in 1970s". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2014-06-13.
  14. ^ DeCrow, Karen. (1994). Share and Share Alike. New York Times. January 5, 1994.
  15. ^ Video on YouTube
  16. ^ New York Media, LLC (5 November 1984). "New York Magazine". New York Media, LLC. Retrieved 21 September 2017 – via Google Books.

External links[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Wilma Scott Heide
President of the National Organization for Women
Succeeded by
Eleanor Smeal