Roxcy Bolton, an American pioneer for feminism, died on Wednesday, May 17 in Coral Gables, Florida, her hometown. Bolton is remembered for challenging the N.O.A.A. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to name hurricanes after both men and women rather than only women, developing America’s first rape treatment center, and advocating for the Equal Rights Amendment.
Although the Equal Rights Amendment was never passed by Congress, Bolton made significant progress in many other areas. She was known for sticking to a significant cause no matter how many people were against it and she primarily focused on issues in Florida. She pushed Miami department stores to get rid of men-only dining areas, saying that “men and women sleep together; why can’t they eat together?” In 1972, she persuaded President Richard Nixon to initiate a Women’s Equality Day. She founded the nation’s first Rape Treatment Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in 1974, which was later named after her in her honor. Bolton pressed authorities to treat rape crimes as a top priority throughout her life, and she was admitted to the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame for doing so.
Most memorably, Roxcy Bolton fought against sexism in meteorology. Starting in 1953, all hurricanes were named exclusively after women, which angered Bolton. She said that women “deeply resent being arbitrarily associated with disaster.” It didn’t help that (mostly male) weathermen enforced sexist stereotypes by saying that hurricanes were “temperamental” or “flirting” with the coastline. When she protested against this issue, she faced criticism from weathermen, and when the National Organization for Women (N.O.W.) sent a letter urging the National Hurricane Center to address and fix the issue, Bolton faced further criticism. Still, because she fought hard, the National Hurricane Center finally listened to her long after her initial protests and in 1979, the second hurricane of the season was named Bob.
Bolton was born Roxcy O’Neal on June 3, 1926 in Duck Hill, Mississippi. She later moved to Florida and married William Charles Hart, with whom she had a son, Randall, who died in 2000. She divorced Hart later on and in 1960, she married David Bolton, a Navy commander who helped her in her campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment. They had three children and lived together until he died in 2004. Roxcy Bolton is survived by her two sons David and Buddy, and daughter Bonnie.