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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 30, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 13
Seattle NOW co-founder Zelda Boulanger dies
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Seattle NOW co-founder Zelda Boulanger dies

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Zelda Boulanger, who was one of the founders of the Seattle chapter of NOW (National Organization for Women), died March 20. She was 95.

'She was very much the feminist,' said her daughter-in-law Sandi Furlong. Her experiences throughout her life 'really made her vow to get things changed so women weren't held to a lesser standard than men.'

Boulanger had been active in the Toastmistress Club, teaching women how to speak in public, and helping to prepare them to succeed in a male-dominated business environment.

In 1970, members of the Toastmistress Club of Seattle sponsored seminars for members of the Business and Professional Women's Club, the Federated Women, the League of Women Voters, and Radical Women.

These seminars examined issues of equality for women and discrimination, and at one of the meetings, Boulanger presented the bylaws for NOW, which Betty Friedan founded in 1966.

On May 8, 1970, the Seattle NOW chapter was officially chartered by King County Superior Court Judge Evangeline Starr. The chapter would meet in Judge Starr's chambers after regular court hours.

Boulanger worked with Starr to advocate for women's rights in Olympia. Shortly after the Seattle chapter was organized, 11 members met with Governor Daniel J. Evans to gain his support for legislation guaranteeing equal rights for women.

The organization grew rapidly. By 1972, Boulanger had 14 NOW chapters organized in Washington. By 2001, NOW had some 900 members in the state.

Boulanger was born in South Fork, North Dakota, and lived most recently in Tacoma.

When she was 6, her father died and her mother moved the family to South Dakota to live near her aunt on a reservation. After graduating from high school, Boulanger landed a wartime civil service job in Nome, Alaska. There, she met her husband, Ernest Boulanger.

She also met discrimination against women in the workplace. While working for the government, she was told, 'we don't promote women,' she later told the Seattle Times.

She then left for a job in the private sector, securing employment at Boeing. Later, she worked in real estate during a time when married women had trouble purchasing property without their husbands' consent.

Late in life, Boulanger talked very little about her historic influence in the women's movement, said her granddaughter, Danielle Everson. Even Everson didn't learn the extent of her grandmother's work until she researched family history.

'She could have been being humble about it, and she talked about it, but not a lot,' Everson said.

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