Alexander, Dolores, 1931-2008

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Dolores Alexander (August 10, 1931 – May 13, 2008) was a lesbian feminist, writer, and reporter. Alexander was the only Executive Director of the National Organization for Women (NOW) to have resigned because of the homophobic beliefs in the early inception of NOW. She co-opened the feminist restaurant "Mother Courage" with Jill Ward. Until her death, in 2008, she continued to believe in the need for the women's rights movement in contemporary times, stating that "It's bigotry, and I don't know if you can eliminate it".

Dolores Alexander was born in Newark, New Jersey, where she attended Catholic school. In 1961 she graduated from City College of New York with a Bachelor of Arts in Language and Literature. During her senior year she worked at The New York Times as an intern reporter for 10 months, gaining experience in journalism and her first taste of sexism within the news field: while applying for positions at the Times, she was not hired as a "copy girl" by a male employee because it would "cause a revolution in the newsroom". Upon graduation, she worked as a reporter, copy editor and bureau chief at the Newark Evening News from 1961–1964. She then went on to serve as a reporter, copy editor and assistant women's editor at Newsday, also serving as a feature writer for the publication's weekend magazine until 1969.

In 1966, while working at Newsday, Alexander came across a press release announcing the creation of a new women's rights organization: the National Organization for Women (NOW). She interviewed Betty Friedan and with her media experience, she became chair of the Monitor Subcommittee of the National Task Force on Image of Women in Mass Media. In 1969 she became the first Executive Director of NOW. She established the headquarters in New York City, and served as an editor of NOW's national newsletter, NOW Acts. She offered to pay the $5 dues for women who could not afford to become members, and fronted a campaign to boost membership nationwide.

In May 1970, she resigned as director to protest NOW's allegedly homophobic practices and policies. Even in her later years, she continued to be disgruntled by the negativity that the words "lesbian" and "feminist" had within the early organization, believing the terms were being used like "'weapons' to undercut NOW members". Alexander continued to lecture about women's rights and worked with the New Feminist Talent Collective, which was formed by Jacqueline Ceballos to provide the services of speakers about the women's movement. She co-founded and organized Women Against Pornography and worked with the New York Radical Feminists. Alexander served as board member for the National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws, an advisory board member for the New York NOW chapter and was a member of the New York Newspaper Women's Club. Alexander was a notable figure in numerous events in the women's movement. She helped end the practice of gender-segregated want ads in The New York Times, was witness to the lesbian purge of the National Organization for Women, participated in 1977's National Women's Conference in Houston, and the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

On May 1972, Alexander and Jill Ward opened Mother Courage, the first feminist restaurant in the United States in Greenwich Village, New York. Located on 342 West 11th Street, the restaurant was named after the heroic female protagonist, Mother Courage, from Bertolt Brecht's eponymous drama. Since the two women had no prior restaurant experience, they borrowed money from several feminist friends and colleagues to renovate an old luncheonette called Benny's Soda Luncheonette and Delicatessen. With the help of many friends and Ward's father, Alexander and Ward completely remodeled the location and turned it into an entirely new restaurant.

On May 19, 1975, Mother Courage celebrated its third birthday by hosting a champagne buffet with a cake in the shape of the venus symbol. Over 100 guests were invited (many of whom are famous feminists), including Gloria Steinem, Audre Lorde, Kate Millett, and more. Even though Mother Courage was only open until 1977, it inspired many other feminist restaurants to open up around the country. Author Lucy Komisar once described Mother Courage as "more than a restaurant, this is part of a social movement."

Alexander's papers are held in the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College and the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University. As her health declined, she stepped back from the movement spotlight, preferring to watch a new generation of activists "lead the change". On May 13, 2008, Alexander died in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Voices of Feminism Oral History Project MS 535., 1990-2006 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Sophia Smith Collection. Voices of Feminism Oral History Project, 1990-2006 Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn East, Catherine Shipe. Papers of Catherine Shipe East. 1941-1995 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Dolores Alexander Papers MS 582., 1945-1998, 1960s-70s Sophia Smith Collection
creatorOf Dolores Alexander Papers MS 582., 1945-1998, 1960s-70s Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn National Organization for Women. Records, 1959-2002 (inclusive), 1966-1988 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Alexander, Dolores. Papers, 1960-1973 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Heide, Wilma Scott, 1921-1985. Papers, 1968-1985 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records of the Women's Equity Action League, 1966-1979 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Alexander, Dolores, 1931-2008. NOW officer papers, 1960-1973 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1935-2000 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Brownmiller, Susan. Papers, 1935-2000 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Cohen, Marcia. Papers, 1967-1985 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records, (inclusive), (bulk), 1959-2002, 1966-1998 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1968-1985 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Audiotape collection, 1979-1981 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, (inclusive), (bulk), 1955-1990, 1972-1990 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Alexander, Dolores. Dolores Alexander papers 1945-1998 (ongoing) (bulk 1960s-70s) Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Kolb, Frances Arick,. [Audiotape collection] [sound recording]. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn East, Catherine, 1916-1996. Papers, 1941-1996 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Friedan, Betty, 1921-2006. Papers, 1933-1985 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Atkinson, Ti-Grace person
associatedWith Atkinson, Ti-Grace. person
associatedWith Bernard, Shirley, 1928- person
associatedWith Boggs, Hale, 1914-1972. person
associatedWith Bowers, Richard M. person
associatedWith Bowers, Richard M. person
associatedWith Brownmiller, Susan. person
associatedWith Ceballos, Jacqueline Michot, 1925- person
associatedWith Chicago Women's Liberation Union corporateBody
associatedWith Chisholm, Shirley, 1924- person
associatedWith Chisholm, Shirley, 1924-2005. person
associatedWith Clarenbach, Kathryn F. person
associatedWith Cohen, Marcia. person
associatedWith Collins, Mary Jean, 1939- person
associatedWith Crisp, Ann person
associatedWith Crisp, Ann. person
associatedWith Daly, Mary, 1928-2010. person
associatedWith DeCrow, Karen person
associatedWith Dickler, Florence F. person
associatedWith Dixon, Marlene, 1936- person
associatedWith Dwyer, Florence Price, 1902-1976 person
associatedWith Earley, Mary Two-Axe, 1911- person
associatedWith East, Catherine Shipe, 1916-1996 person
associatedWith Eastwood, Mary O., 1930- person
associatedWith Everhart, Jane person
associatedWith Everhart, Jane. person
associatedWith Fasteau, Brenda Feigen person
associatedWith Fasteau, Brenda Feigen. person
associatedWith Faust, Jean person
associatedWith Faust, Jean. person
associatedWith Fox, Muriel, 1928- person
associatedWith Fox, Muriel, 1928- person
associatedWith Freeman, Jo person
associatedWith Freeman, Jo. person
associatedWith Friedan, Betty, 1921-2006 person
associatedWith Goodman, Carol person
associatedWith Goodman, Carol. person
associatedWith Gornick, Vivian person
associatedWith Gornick, Vivian. person
associatedWith Green, Edith, 1910-1987. person
associatedWith Griffiths, Martha Wright, 1912- person
associatedWith Hansen, Julia Butler, 1907-1988. person
associatedWith Harris, Elizabeth Farslin person
associatedWith Harris, Elizabeth Farslin. person
associatedWith Heckler, Margaret person
associatedWith Heckler, Margaret. person
associatedWith Heide, Wilma Scott, 1921-1985. person
associatedWith Hernandez, Aileen C. person
associatedWith Hull, Joan person
associatedWith Hull, Joan. person
associatedWith Ireton, Barbara person
associatedWith Ireton, Barbara. person
associatedWith Jerard, Elise, 1902?-1977. person
associatedWith Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973 person
associatedWith Kennedy, Florynce, 1916- person
associatedWith Kennedy, Florynce, 1916-2000. person
associatedWith Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968 person
associatedWith Kolb, Frances Arick person
associatedWith Lamb, Myrna person
associatedWith Lucy Stone League corporateBody
associatedWith Lucy Stone League. corporateBody
associatedWith Millet, Kate person
associatedWith Mink, Patsy T., 1927-2002. person
associatedWith Mother Courage Restaurant corporateBody
associatedWith Murray, Pauli, 1910-1985. person
associatedWith National Organization for Women corporateBody
associatedWith National Organization for Women. New York State. corporateBody
associatedWith National Woman's Party corporateBody
associatedWith New Yorkers for Abortion Law Repeal corporateBody
associatedWith New Yorkers for Abortion Law Repeal. corporateBody
associatedWith New York Radical Feminists corporateBody
associatedWith NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund corporateBody
associatedWith O'Hanrahan, Inka Irene, d. 1970 person
associatedWith Perley, Edith person
associatedWith Perley, Edith. person
associatedWith Rawalt, Marguerite, 1895- person
associatedWith Rossi, Alice S., 1922- person
associatedWith Rossi, Alice S., 1922-2009. person
associatedWith Seidenberg, Faith person
associatedWith Seidenberg, Faith. person
associatedWith Simchak, Morag person
associatedWith Simchak, Morag. person
associatedWith Smith, Margaret Chase, 1897-1995. person
associatedWith Solanas, Valerie person
associatedWith Solanas, Valerie. person
associatedWith Sullivan, Leonor K. person
associatedWith Susan Brownmiller person
associatedWith Vollmer, Deborah A., 1948- person
associatedWith Wheaton Glass Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Wilma Scott Heide, 1921-1985 person
associatedWith Women Against Pornography corporateBody
associatedWith Women's Equity Action League corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Newark NJ US
New York City NY US
Florida FL US
Subject
Abortion
Feminism
Pro-choice movement
Feminists
Equal pay for equal work
Sex discrimination against women
Pornography--Social aspects--United States--History
Sex discrimination in higher education
Sex discrimination in employment
Boycotts
Civil rights
Demonstrations
Lesbian feminism--United States--History--Sources
Journalists--Biography--Sources
Feminism--United States--History--20th century--Sources
Feminism--History--20th century--Sources
Women journalists
Pay equity
Women--Legal status, laws, etc
Equal rights amendments
Lesbian activists--United States--Biography--Sources
Women's rights
Journalists
Journalists--United States--Biography--Sources
Occupation
Restaurant Owner and Operator
Reporters
Writer
Jounalist
Feminists
Activity

Person

Birth 1931-08-10

Death 2008-05-13

Female

Americans

English

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SNAC ID: 85773040