We are proud to be building our movement with fellow advocates like Roberta M. Madden ("Robbie, to her friends"). Robbie has spent a lifetime organizing and agitating, for gender equality, racial equality, and an end to homophobia and discrimination against the LGBT community. While most of this work was done in Louisiana before Robbie moved to North Carolina, we've felt her presence strongly in the few short years Robbie has been a member of our community. You can read more about Robbie's work here, here and here. And please check out the grassroots organization she started, Ratify ERA NC; it is an NCWU member. For more on Robbie's equity work in LA, check out her papers that have been collected at the Louisiana State University Libraries. Read our earlier write up below about Robbie's lifetime of work, including NCWU president Tara Romano's remarks during the award presentation in Raleigh on December 01.
Roberta M. Madden has spent a lifetime working for gender and racial equality, starting with the realization as a young girl that her mother had been impacted by gender discrimination on the job. From that point onward, Ms. Madden has been a tireless advocate for equality. Working in both the public and private sector, Ms. Madden always made this advocacy a priority. Whether teaching financial independence workshops for women during her time in the private sector or advocating for consumer rights as director of a municipal consumer protection agency, Ms. Madden always stood up for the rights of those our society would just as soon oppress. From eliminating discriminatory credit practices to highlighting the sexism being taught in children's books, Ms. Madden has always known that sexism, racism and homophobia are pervasive, and we must all be diligent if we are to overcome these oppressions as a society. Ms. Madden embodies NCWU's values and commitment to taking a critical gender lens to all community norms and institutional practices with an eye for how we can create a more equitable society for all.
Tara Romano's remarks in full below:
"Thank you all for coming out tonight. We always look forward to our holiday party as a time when we can finally relax a bit, and spend time in community with each other. This is the third year I’ve presented at our holiday party, and the third year I’ve felt compelled to say “it’s been a tough year….”, because it has. Locally, nationally and globally, there has been much to make one’s heart very heavy.
Yet this year, maybe even more than past years, I remain optimistic about what we are building here in North Carolina. My biggest reason for that optimism is because I feel great about the people I am working with in this movement. And one of those people is the recipient of the 2015 Anne Mackie Award, Roberta Madden.
I first met Robbie when she joined our board in 2013; she only stayed on our board for one term, as she realized she needed to focus all of her efforts on her organization – and our member – Ratify ERA NC. I was honored to spend that short time with her on our board, and grateful that she has chosen to remain connected with NCWU as we struggle to finally write women into the US Constitution.
Robbie’s quest for gender equality started with the realization as a young girl that her mother had been impacted by gender discrimination on the job. From that point onward, Robbie has been a tireless advocate for equality for all, whether working in the public, private or non-profit sector. Whether teaching financial independence workshops for women during her time in the business world or advocating for consumer rights as director of a municipal consumer protection agency, Robbie has always stood up for the rights of those our society would otherwise oppress. From eliminating discriminatory credit practices to highlighting the sexism being taught in children's books, Robbie has always know that sexism, racism and homophobia are pervasive, and we must all be diligent if we are to overcome these oppressions as a society. She embodies NCWU's commitment to taking a critical gender lens to all of societal norms and institutional practices with an eye for how we can improve, and create a more equitable community for all.
One thing to know about Robbie is that she moved to North Carolina to retire – she had already spent a lifetime organizing for racial and gender equality in the South, mostly in Louisiana. Then she lands in Black Mountain, North Carolina, assesses the situation – which looked pretty bleak - and leaps back into action. And we are so grateful she did. Despite the fact that Robbie has done much of her work elsewhere, I know that many of you already know who she is. And I know they know who she is at the General Assembly. Although living in the western part of the state, she is a regular in the halls of the legislative building, and she’s already established herself as the media’s go-to for an ERA quote or update. And of course the media would love her – who else is going to stand in the NCGA press room and talk about “penis-pumps” when she wants to make the point about gender inequities in our health care system?
And despite the soul fulfillment we may find in this work, we all know this is not easy. I was with Robbie at our eventually snowed out Women’s Advocacy Day this past February. As Robbie introduced herself to a state Senator as being with Ratify ERA, this Senator said “Well, now, women have more rights than men these days”. This is what Robbie has been putting up with for 50 years now. And it gets tiring, and I don’t blame people for leaving the movement. But Robbie is not leaving this movement; really, it seems like she is starting her next chapter.
Civil rights activist Anne Braden said ““In every age, no matter how cruel the oppression carried on by those in power, there have been those who struggled for a different world. I believe this is the genius of humankind, the thing that makes us half divine: the fact that some human beings can envision a world that has never existed.” And that is what Robbie – with her commitment to gender and racial equality – has been doing her whole life. Envision what could be, rather than accepting what is. That is why I am so honored to present Roberta Madden with the 2015 Anne Mackie Award.