By Connie Hickey, Montgomery County NOW Member, Past President of Montgomery County NOW
With regret we note the recent passing of Marlys Becker, a longtime member of Montgomery County NOW who served as president of Maryland NOW from 1976 to 1979, and as a member of the Montgomery County Commission for Women from 1980 to 1982.
Marlys is remembered by those who knew her as a dedicated feminist, a dynamic leader and a generous mentor to many. She was an early driving force behind the state organization and the lobbying office in Annapolis. During the General Assembly session each year Marlys led NOW members in weekly treks to the state capitol to present our concerns to legislators during their Monday evening meetings. Her diplomatic style of advocacy was a model. At the time of the 1979 March for the Equal Rights Amendment, Marlys was able to recruit most of Maryland’s many women legislators, state and national, Republican and Democrat to form a delegation that marched under the banner of “Maryland Elected Women for ERA”, the only such group from any state. Following her term as president Marlys was instrumental in setting up the annual NOW legislative reception in Annapolis to which all members of the House of Delegates and Senate were invited. She was also active in establishing the Maryland Fund for the ERA which raised a sizable sum for that campaign.
As a Member of the Commission for Women in 1981 Marlys founded the Montgomery County Women’s Fair which provided workshops on a wide spectrum of feminist subjects at a time when such information was highly sought, but less available. The work of producing the fair was provided by volunteers from a wide range of sponsoring women’s organizations, including the Federation of Republican Women, the Women’s Democratic Club, the National Council of Catholic Women, the National Council of Jewish Women, Church Women United (Protestant), Delta Sigma Theta (an African American sorority), the League of Women Voters, Business and Professional Women, and the Women’s Political Caucus, as well as a large number of volunteers from Montgomery County NOW. Although these women had never met and came from very diverse backgrounds, all were excited to participate and confident that this ambitious undertaking would succeed because of Marlys’ enthusiasm, her diplomatic leadership and her perfect organization. Response from the public was hugely enthusiastic. Women clamored to squeeze into workshops on the ERA, feminist consciousness raising, and sexual harassment, to mention a few of the more than 20 topics. Interviews by local television and the Washington Post resulted in coverage that expanded the audience for our message. The Fair continued to grow in subsequent years with more workshops and increased sponsorship and attendance.
In the years following her most active participation in NOW, Marlys expressed her support for women by sponsoring students from Africa who pursued college degrees in this country.
Although many who knew Marlys no longer reside in Maryland, I would like to invite those who remember her to join me in making a modest (or grand) contribution to NOW in her memory. Please click here to make a contribution online, or you can mail a check to:
PO Box 7716
Silver Spring, MD 20907