Roxcy O’Neal Bolton

By Peggy Macdonald

Feminist, community organizer (Miami)

Years: 1926-2017

Remembered for: Known as the founding mother of Florida’s modern feminist movement.

Why you should know her:

Roxcy O’Neal Bolton was a fighter until the end of her life, working tirelessly for equal rights, rape prevention, the poor, the elderly, the abused and the homeless. She questioned the logic behind discriminatory practices and pushed for change until she got results.

University of Central Florida professor and journalism historian Kimberly Voss highlighted some of Bolton’s myriad victories on behalf of women in her recent book, Women Politicking Politely: Advancing Feminism in the 1960s and 1970s. Bolton was the founder and first president of the Miami-Dade chapter of the National Organization for Women and served as the national vice president of NOW in 1968, a pivotal year for the women’s liberation movement.

Bolton worked to make August 26 Women’s Equality Day. According to Voss, she also pressed Miami area restaurant managers to end the practice of excluding women from restaurants or sections of restaurants that catered to male executives, such as the Burdines Department Store Men’s Grille. Bolton also campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment and convinced the National Weather Bureau to end the practice of naming hurricanes primarily for women.

In 1972, Bolton established the first women’s rescue center in Florida, Women in Distress. In 1974, she helped found one of the first rape treatment centers in the nation at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, which was named the Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center in 1993. After her death in 2017 at age 90, Bolton was buried in the historic Miami City Cemetery near Miami founder Julia Tuttle’s grave.

Featured Image: Roxcy Bolton, right, with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and U.S. Senator Paula Hawkins.