Arvonne Fraser

September 1, 1925 – August 7, 2018

“I think it’s very important that we document what we did and how we did it to show the next generation that things are possible.”

Arvonne Fraser’s remarks at the Salute to ERA Activists VFA event, Seawall Belmont House, Washington, DC, May 6, 1999

AF: I’m Arvonne Fraser, another part of WEAL, and I’m honored to be honored. I want to congratulate the organizers of the Veteran Feminists of America. I’m congratulating the organizers on behalf of my three granddaughters, aged two to 13. Anyhow, I want to give a little talk about the Women’s Educational Equity Act because it followed Title IX, and to show you how one person can make a difference.

A young secretary in Patsy Mink’s office – I was on Capitol Hill here as the wife of a member; that’s a whole another story. But a young woman, Arlene Horowitz, the secretary in Patsy Mink’s office, came to see me and she had this idea for the Women’s Educational Equity Act to implement Title IX. And so she sketched out the idea. And a group of us met then at GW, and we drafted a bill. And you come to the section on authorization and how much money, and we figured we weren’t going to get any money for this bill, but what the heck? We’ll put in an authorization of 30 million.

This was in the days when we had a lot of money on Capitol Hill, well, money in the treasury, on Capitol Hill. Patsy Mink held hearings on the House side, Senator Mondale held hearings on the Senate side. And to make a long story short, we got $10 million for the Women’s Educational Equity Act when we didn’t think we would get anything at all.

The real reason I want to tell this story, and I tell it so often, is what my daughter taught me, that perception is reality. And too many times right now, I hear young women and young men too, say, “We can’t.” And we never said that in our times, not we can’t. Because if you say you can’t, you can’t. We felt that one could. And the young woman, Arlene Horowitz, who came to see me, thought she had an idea, and something could be done.

And now I think it’s very important that we document what we did and how we did it to show the next generation that things are possible. And I want to make an apology for my daughters and my sons, too, maybe. There’s a lot of criticism that the young people aren’t doing anything for the women’s movement. They’re accepting all the gains that we made. Well, I got to tell you that I accepted suffrage and birth control without ever giving anybody credit. That’s the way it is. So don’t worry about the young generation. It’s sort of our granddaughter’s generation that will do it again. Thanks very much.