Patricia Ireland

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Patricia Ireland (born October 19, 1945 in Oak Park, Illinois) is a U.S. administrator and feminist. She served as president of the National Organization for Women from 1991 to 2001 and published an autobiography, What Women Want, in 1996.

As a teen, Ireland attended Valparaiso High School in Valparaiso, Indiana.[1] She obtained a Bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee in 1966 and a law degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 1975.[2] She also attended Florida State University College of Law.

Before beginning a career as an attorney, Ireland worked as a flight attendant for Pan Am. After discovering gender-based discrepancies in the treatment of insurance coverage for spouses of employees, Ireland brought a formal complaint and fought for a change in coverage. Her first victory came when the United States Department of Labor ruled in her favor, and she immediately began law school and performing volunteer work for the National Organization for Women.[3] She has advocated extensively for the rights of poor women, gays and lesbians, and African-American women. She has also advocated electing female candidates, and training people to defend clinics from pro-life protesters around the United States.

Immediately following Ireland's appointment to president of NOW, questions arose about her sexual orientation.[4] On December 17, 1991 she gave an interview with The Advocate, in which she stated that she was bisexual[5] and had a female companion while remaining married to her second husband.

In 2003, Ireland served for six months as the CEO of the YWCA. In October 2003, Ireland was dismissed after refusing to step down, although YWCA spokespeople denied that conservative pressure was a factor in the decision.[6] Following her dismissal from the YWCA, Ireland was former Senator Carol Moseley Braun's national campaign manager for her brief 2004 presidential bid.[7][8]


  1. ^ Engelbert, Phillis (2001). Sawinski, Diane, ed. Activists, rebels and reformers. Detroit [u.a.]: UXL. p. 270. ISBN 9780787648497.
  2. ^ West's encyclopedia of American law. Minneapolis/St. Paul: West Group. 1998. p. 224. ISBN 9780314201591.
  3. ^ Kuersten, Ashlyn K., ed. (2003). Women and the law : leaders, cases, and documents. Santa Barbara, Calif. [u.a.]: ABC-Clio. p. 48. ISBN 9780874368789.
  4. ^ Schenken, Suzanne O'Dea, ed. (1999). From suffrage to the Senate : an encyclopedia of American women in politics. Santa Barbara, Calif. [u.a.]: ABC-Clio. p. 352. ISBN 9780874369601.
  5. ^ Thru the years - cover story. The words I use are the words I use. I have a companion, and she's very important in my life. The Advocate 1991-12-17. Retrieved 2014-10-16.
  6. ^ "Patricia Ireland fired from YWCA". The Advocate. 2003-10-22. Retrieved 2007-01-23.
  7. ^ Institute of Politics, Harvard University, ed. (2005). Campaign for President : the managers look at 2004. Lanham, Md. [u.a.]: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 17. ISBN 9780742539709.
  8. ^ Gutgold, Nichola D. (2006). Paving the way for Madam President. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. p. 152. ISBN 9780739115947.

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Preceded by
Molly Yard
President of the National Organization for Women
1991 - 2001
Succeeded by
Kim Gandy