Ignored No More: Dolores Alexander, Feminist Journalist and Activist

Ignored No More: Dolores Alexander, Feminist Journalist and Activist

This article is part of Overlooked, a series of obituaries about notable people whose deaths were not reported in The Times beginning in 1851.

Dolores Alexander had a few distinguished careers throughout her life.

He worked for The New York Times, Newsday and Time magazine. She was the executive director of the National Organization for Women, working with its president and co-founder, Betty Friedan. And she was the founder of the organization Women Against Pornography.

But she was perhaps best known for opening one of the first feminist restaurants in the United States, Mother Courage, with Jill Ward, her girlfriend at the time. The restaurant, in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, became a center in the 1970s for women’s liberation groups who gathered in its dining room after feminist protest marches and legislative victories—or even, on an average day, just to eat.

Lucy Komisar, an independent journalist, said in an interview, “At a time when women, feminists, were being attacked, it was important that we have a place where we could meet together.” “People used to go to pubs or men’s clubs and have fun, but women had nothing like that. It was a women’s club. It was important because it was our place.”

The unifying factor in all of Alexander’s endeavors was her devotion to promoting women’s rights and feminism.

Ward said in an interview, “She was a stalwart in the women’s movement from the beginning of the second wave.” “It meant so much to her that she just put her life toward doing as much as she could, whatever it was.”

Dolores DeCarlo was born on August 10, 1931, in Newark to Dominic and Sally (Koraleski) DeCarlo. Both her parents were from immigrant families, her mother from Poland and her father from Italy.

Dolores, along with her brother Richard, her parents, and some of her other relatives, lived with her grandparents in a two-story wood-frame house in a depressed working-class neighborhood. In an interview conducted in 2004 and 2005 with the Sophia Smith Oral History Archive at Smith College, Alexander said, “It was a very crowded house.” “But I remember Sunday mornings because that was when Mary”—her grandmother—”used to make spaghetti. “There was an enamel table, and she rolled out the dough.”

Both his parents worked at Coopers Coke, a plant in Kearny, New Jersey that produced fuel for heating homes. His mother later worked in a paper cup manufacturing plant.

Dolores attended Roman Catholic schools in New Jersey and continued to live at home after high school, working as an office clerk with the Equitable Insurance Company.

He described his father as “authoritarian” and overly traditional. “He really wanted me to stay home, have kids and live next door,” she said.

But she had different plans for herself, and she was eager to go to college. He saved enough money for tuition and enrolled at New York University. There she met Aaron Alexander, who worked in public relations and was studying for his master’s degree to become a teacher. He encouraged Dolores to attend the City College of New York, which was more affordable. They married in 1950 (her father, upset when he learned that Aaron was Jewish, refused to pay for the wedding) and later moved into an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side; They divorced after about five years.

In her senior year, Dolores Alexander became a reporting intern for The New York Times. He asked to join the staff, which was then called a “copy boy”, but, he later recalled, he was told by the city editor that “if he’d hire a girl for the job, she’d be in the newsroom”. The revolution will come.” In 1961, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Languages ​​and Literature and was hired as a reporter at The Newark Evening News. But she found that there was not much support for women writers.

She said, “Often the assignments we got were female-type assignments, to cover parades or, you know, feature-type things.”

Three years later, she moved to Newsday on Long Island, where she was one of three women working as reporters. At first, he said, he was “assigned to cover local meetings and a lot of things like that.” It was boring and I hated it.”

“She asked to be transferred to the style section, where she got to write profiles that she loved.

In 1966, Alexander received a news release announcing the founding of NOW. She called on Friedan, author of the landmark feminist book “The Feminine Mystique,” and left Newsday in 1969 to become the group’s first executive director, joining the small, mostly volunteer team.

Tensions between him and Friedan were often high because, according to Alexander, Friedan was overbearing. One topic they disagreed about was the visibility of homosexuals; Feminist organizations were often dismissed on the basis of the stigma of homosexuality – “People would say, ‘You’re an idiot. You’re gay. They’re all gay,'” Ward said – and Friedan and others now sought to break that image. tried to distance himself from

Alexander said, “If women were lesbians it was fine with them.” “She didn’t want them to talk about it.” Friedan said, “They felt it would hurt the women’s movement. And there was some validity in this.

Alexander was fired from Now in 1970 in what she described as a “lesbian purge”, which occurred when Friedan felt she was being backed into a corner. “Somehow I became his scapegoat,” she said. “I suddenly became a lesbian who was now working with other lesbians in a conspiracy to seize power” – although “I was not a lesbian, and there was no such conspiracy.”

Muriel Fox, one of NOW’s founders and former national president of the organization, denied Alexander’s claims.

“He was fired,” he said in an interview, “only because the president, Betty Friedan, could not get along with his executive director.”

In her oral history, Alexander said she began “sexual experimentation” in 1968 and fell in love with Ward in the 1970s. One summer night, when the couple was living in Bridgehampton, NY, Ward was driving home on the Long Island Expressway at 4 a.m. I am here and can’t find a place to eat.

“I was really hungry,” Ward said. “I thought, can I have a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs?” When she finally got home, she said: “I told Dolores, ‘I have a great business idea: Let’s open a feminist restaurant.'”

They rented and renovated what Alexander called a “dirty, dirty” dilapidated diner. They called it Mother Courage, in honor of the female protagonist of Bertolt Brecht’s play of the same name, and opened the doors in May 1972. The menu was typical, with dishes such as Greek salad, veal parmigiana and, as envisioned, spaghetti and meatballs. ,

However, the food was not the key to the restaurant’s success; It was the women it portrayed.

Patrons included authors Audre Lorde and Kate Millett, cultural critic Jill Johnston, singer-songwriter Maxine Feldman, psychotherapist Phyllis Chesler, and author and activist Susan Brownmiller. NBC News anchor Linda Ellerbee even stopped by for lunch after work, Ward said, knowing it was a safe place where she wouldn’t be bothered.

Alexander became the public face of the restaurant. Ward said, “He treated it as a saloon.” “I was more proactive in making sure dinner orders were going out. She will be like a host, sitting down to interact with people.

But after five years, Alexander began to “ease her way into restaurants” by taking a job at Time magazine, Ward said, adding that she too was “starting to burn out” and “we both started thinking, ‘How many years? Can we have this?'”

Mother Courage folded in 1977, and Alexander and Ward ended their relationship.

In the 1980s, Alexander became one of the founders and national coordinators of the organization Women Against Pornography, working with Brownmiller and Dorchen Leadhold. She traveled the United States, visiting college campuses with Linda Lovelace and Harry Rheims, who played lead roles in the 1972 film “Deep Throat” and who staged heated debates about the effects of pornography on women and society. It was When Lovelace released “Ordeal” (1980), her memoir about the behind-the-scenes abuse during the making of that film, Alexander provided support, as did Gloria Steinem.

Alexander died on May 13, 2008 in Palm Harbor, Florida of pulmonary obstruction and congenital heart disease. she was 76 letters from his time are held at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University, and his other correspondence, writing And the documents are kept at Smith College.

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