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National NOW Times >> Fall 2012  >> Article

2012 National NOW Conference: Energize! Organize!

Executive VP Bonnie Grabenhofer presented NOW's first-ever Woman of Impact Award to Rep. Carolyn Maloney

Executive Vice President Bonnie Grabenhofer (left) presented NOW's first-ever Woman of Impact Award to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).

Baltimore, Md., was home to this year's National NOW Conference. Hundreds of women's rights activists and supporters from every corner of the nation converged during the weekend of June 29-July 1 to organize and fight for issues critical to the well-being of women and their families. The conference focused on strategizing for the 2012 elections while addressing key issues that have been under attack, such as contraception coverage and the Violence Against Women Act.

The conference opened with a welcome from local elected officials: Baltimore's Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, State Senator Roger Manno, and State Delegates Susan Lee, Heather Mizeur and Shirley Nathan-Pulliam. They were followed by keynote speaker Eve Ensler, the Tony award-winning playwright of The Vagina Monologues and a passionate activist for women. Ensler got the entire crowd dancing joyfully as a prelude to her One Billion Rising action next February.

That was just the beginning of an impressive lineup of featured speakers. The dynamic speakers in each plenary session, from MSNBC's Krystal Ball to National Action Network's Tamika Mallory, had the crowd cheering time and time again.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) accepted NOW's first-ever Woman of Impact Award for her political leadership and outstanding support of women's rights on Capitol Hill. NOW also presented a Woman of Action award to the "godmother of Title IX," Dr. Bernice Sandler, who played a major role in helping pass the landmark law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

NOW recognized Georgetown Law graduate Sandra Fluke, who was prevented from testifying at a congressional briefing on birth control and subsequently slurred by radio bully Rush Limbaugh. A devoted advocate for gender equality, Fluke accepted NOW's Woman of Courage Award.

The conference also included two plenaries dedicated to political organizing, a track of workshops aimed at modernizing NOW's structure for the 21st Century, and a Mothers and Caregivers Summit co-organized by the NOW Foundation and the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

Dr. Vivian Pinn received NOW Foundation's Victoria J. Mastrobuono Award for her contributions to women's health and the field of women in science and medicine while at the National Institutes of Health.

NOW President Terry O'Neill gave the final speech of the weekend. Looking forward to November, O'Neill stressed how critical the 2012 elections are to women. She discussed what's at stake and encouraged attendees to return home and work even harder to elect politicians who will champion women's rights.

On the closing day, NOW delegates adopted a policy agenda for the year ahead, discussing and passing 11 resolutions to guide the organization's work. Resolutions called for NOW leaders and members to: organize to defeat state legislation propagated by right-wing groups like ALEC; support emergency contraception access for Native American women; join Ensler's One Billion Rising campaign; advocate on behalf of women and girls with disabilities who experience violence; and much more.

Throughout the conference, feminists took advantage of networking opportunities and dozens of workshops and discussions on hot topics covering a wide range of subjects, including voter suppression, hate crimes, and racism and harassment in the workplace. As always, NOW's workshops focused on what activists can do to get involved and effect change on the issues that move them.

Conference attendees didn't have to go far for entertainment. Fortissima, a D.C.-area feminist singing group, performed several beautiful numbers before the Saturday plenaries. And later that night, it was time to dance at the second annual feminist dance party. During the first hour, attendees celebrated the life of Olga Vives, NOW's former executive and action vice president, who passed away earlier this year.

Ultimately, conference attendees left Baltimore feeling enlightened, empowered and ready to make an impact in their communities.

Visit the conference wrap-up page for a look at speaker videos, photos and resolutions.

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