Florida’s Pioneer Feminist Roxcy Bolton Has Died

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Florida feminist and women’s rights activist Roxcy O’Neal Bolton has died.

Bolton, who passed away Tuesday morning at the age of 90, is known as Florida’s Pioneer Feminist.

After working as a volunteer with the American Red Cross, she found a path to help poor and disenfranchised women.

In 1957, Bolton was an organizing member of the Democratic Women’s Clubs in Florida. In 1966, she helped found the Miami chapter of the National Organization for Women. In 1969, she was elected the organization’s president.

Bolton’s son, David, told CBS4 News Wednesday that his mother leaves a proud legacy.

“She definitely made the world a better place,” David Bolton said.  “I admired my mom and her abilities and her fortitude.  She’s somebody who, you just never think that this day would come.”

She was one of the first to speak out and get help for rape victims. That voice led to the creation of the nation’s first rape treatment center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in 1974. The center was dedicated in her name in 1993.

Former Coral Gables commissioner Jeannett Slesnick said Bolton was fearless when she had her mind set on something.

“She started the rape treatment center back in the 70s at a time when men, especially, did not think we needed to have something like that,” Slesnick said.  “Rape wasn’t something people felt comfortable even talking about, and rape victims often received little sympathy.”

“She was never intimidated by anybody or anything,” said Slesnick. “I admired her even though she wasn’t always easy to love. She was always such a great supporter of women and women’s rights.”

Slesnick said it was Bolton who encouraged her to be involved and run for public office.

“When I finally ran for mayor she was thrilled,” she said.

Slesnick, who successfully ran for the city commission at Bolton’s urging, ran for mayor this year but lost by less than 200 votes.

eliott rodriguez roxcy bolton Floridas Pioneer Feminist Roxcy Bolton Has Died

CBS4 anchor Eliott Rodriguez with Roxcy Bolton in 2013. (Source: Jeanette Slesnick)

Bolton founded Women in Distress, the first women’s rescue shelter in Florida, in 1972 and was the organizing founder of Crime Watch in Florida.

Bolton also challenged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to change the way they named hurricanes. Originally only women’s names were used. She prevailed in her efforts and NOAA began using both male and female names in 1979.

Bolton led the effort to create a “Women’s Park” in Miami in 1992 as the first outdoor space in the U.S. honoring women leaders.

“She was a very special lady,” said former Coral Gables commissioner Ralph Cabrera. “She was more than just a feminist. She was always there for the little person and always there to take on the difficult challenges and never afraid to take on the politicians or business establishment head on.”

A longtime Coral Gables resident, in February 2015, she was presented with the “Key to the City” by then Mayor Jim Cason.

In 1984 she was inducted into Florida’s “Women’s Hall of Fame” and 1998 she received the Miami Herald’s Spirit of Excellence Award.  Bolton was feted at an event in Miami Women’s Park in 2011 on national Women’s Equality Day.  Congress created Women’s Equality Day 46 years ago, in part because of the persuasion of Roxcy Bolton.  The resolution was sponsored by feminist Congresswoman Bella Abzug.

Bolton was preceded in death by her husband, Naval Commander David Bolton.  He was her kind of man.  Commander Bolton would become president of the group, Men For The Equal Rights Amendment.  Bolton is survived by her sons, David and Buddy and her daughter, Bonnie.

Services will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Van Orsdel Funeral Chapel, 4600 Southwest 8th Street, Coral Gables.  Burial will follow at the Old Miami Cemetery, 1800 Northeast 2nd Avenue, Miami.  Bolton will be laid to rest near the grave of another famed female pioneer, Julia Tuttle, the founder of Miami.

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