Dr. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and former three-term president of the National Organization for Women, will give the commencement address on Saturday, May 21. For more than 30 years, Dr. Smeal has commanded attention as a leading voice for the modern women’s rights movement. She is nationally recognized for her work as a political analyst, strategist and grassroots organizer.
Dr. Smeal claims numerous legislative victories for women’s rights issues on a national and state level, including the Afghan Freedom Support Act (2002), the Violence Against Women Act (1998), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978) and the Civil Rights Restoration Act (1987). She has also campaigned widely to close the gender wage gap.
In 2004, Dr. Smeal helped stage the March for Women’s Lives on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The event mobilized more than one million people in the fight to increase funding and support for women’s health issues such as access to abortion and contraception, and global family planning and sex education.
Dr. Smeal also is known for her efforts to include young women in the feminist movement. College campuses across the U.S. participate in a program she initiated called the Choices Campus Leadership Program. Through a network of activist groups known as Feminist Majority Leadership Alliances, young people focus on issues of reproductive choice, career choice and leadership choice, while also learning how to respond effectively to criticism of these choices.
Currently, Dr. Smeal is the publisher of Ms. Magazine, a well-respected national publication featuring in-depth coverage of international women’s issues and feminist political analysis. Dr. Smeal graduated from Duke University and holds an M.A. degree from the University of Florida. In 1991 she received an honorary Doctor of Law from Duke University and in 2003 she received an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Florida.