Katharine Dexter McCormick: Fierce Feminist and Secret Smuggler

Katharine Dexter McCormick was born into a life of wealth and privilege — and progressive politics. The family home in which she was born in 1875 had once been a stop on the Underground Railroad. Her parents encouraged her education, and she was among the first women to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and, in 1904, one of its first female graduates, having earned a bachelor’s degree in biology.


Katharine McCormick harnessed stereotypes about wealthy women to hide subversive acts of civil disobedience in plain sight.


Katharine wanted to be a doctor, but in 1904 she married Stanley McCormick, a Princeton-educated man and heir to a vast fortune. Her oath to stay by his side in sickness and in health, until death did them part, was tested just two years into their marriage, when Stanley’s mental health had deteriorated to the point that he was institutionalized. He was diagnosed with what today is called schizophrenia, and his family sent him to their mansion outside Santa Barbara, a “gilded cage” run by an all-male staff of doctors and nurses who provided round-the-clock care.

The all-male staff was necessary, as Stanley had developed violent tendencies that seemed to be directed primarily toward women. Katharine went nearly two decades without any physical contact with her husband — though she could write letters, talk to him on the phone, or crouch in the bushes and watch him through binoculars. Katharine stayed married to him until his death in 1947. The entire time, she was heavily involved in directing his care — despite constant clashes with his family — and remained optimistic for a cure.

But outside of her marriage, Katharine cultivated a rich life, devoting herself to women’s rights and becoming a high-ranking leader in the fight for the right to vote. After women’s suffrage was won, she was eager to turn her attention to the next fight — and was invigorated by the energy of the birth control movement, which, like the suffrage movement before it, drew ire and outrage from both church and state. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Bonnie Boyce-Wilson for State Representative, LD 22

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Bonnie Boyce Wilson scaledIn Legislative District 22, which serves approximately 85,000 people and covers ground including Sun City West, Mountain Vista, Surprise, and Lake Pleasant, Bonnie Boyce-Wilson and Larry Woods ran unopposed during August’s Democratic primary for two seats in the House of Representatives.

In this November’s election, both Wilson and Woods face incumbents David Livingston and Phil Lovas, both of whom also ran unopposed in their Republican primary. Both Livingston and Lovas exclude the LGBTQ constituents of LD 22. Both voted in favor of SB 1062, which, if it had passed, would have allowed businesses to refuse service to LGBTQs under the excuse of “freedom of religion.” Livingston states that “marriage is only between a man and a women [sic]” and is opposed to legislation that would allow unmarried domestic partners the same employee and health benefits as married couples. Livingston is also against an anti-discrimination law that would add “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” or “gender expression” to the protected classes of race, religion, age, sex, and ancestry.

The women of LD 22 are also not high priorities for either incumbent. Both voted in favor of HB 2284, which currently allows unannounced inspections of abortion facilities in Arizona. Lovas voted for HB 2036, which would have prohibited abortions after 20 weeks if it wasn’t unanimously struck down by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco for violating a woman’s constitutional rights. Livingston is opposed to abortion and believes “it is the duty of our government to protect the unborn.”

Boyce-Wilson specifically calls out Arizona women as one of her priorities. She is an advocate for: (1) working women, by supporting economic empowerment through equal pay for equal work; (2) victims of violence, by supporting the establishment and maintenance of shelters, as well as taking a proactive stance on human trafficking; and (3) all women, by supporting affordable access to health care, including reproductive health care.

Ms. Boyce-Wilson was kind enough to talk to us on October 13, 2014.


“As a social worker, I firmly believe that people have a right to self-determination, including making health care decisions.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I have lived in Sun City West, Arizona for 14 years, having retired as an administrator of the Division of Child Welfare in Colorado. I have a master’s degree in social work from the University of Denver and am certified by the National Association of Social Workers. Continue reading