Evelyn Dubrow, a founding member of the WREI Board and legendary labor union activist, died June 20th at the age of 95. She devoted her entire life to making life better for America's workers—particularly the women who clothed the nation. She was the “guilded” patron saint of seamstresses, hemmers, and buttonhole girls.
Evy blazed the trail for women in Washington. The first female lobbyist on Capitol Hill, she arrived in 1956 to represent the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the ILGWU. That’s when the minimum wage was $1 an hour.
Those who now enjoy $5.15 minimum pay, 40-hour work weeks, paid sick leave and vacations, retirement benefits, and a safe workplace owe a vote of thanks to Evelyn Dubrow. This petite powerhouse helped assure the protections of civil rights, fair trade, and non-discriminatory hiring and housing for coming generations.
Always one to apportion the credit and share the spotlight, Evy not only welcomed the women who followed in her footsteps, but encouraged and mentored them: “Work both sides of the aisle. Never threaten and never beg. Say ‘thanks.’ Remember that tomorrow will bring a new fight and another opportunity to work together.”
A good friend of Eleanor Roosevelt's—she told delightful stories of her adventures with “Mrs. R”—Evy Dubrow was an ally of every president since FDR. In 1999, President Clinton honored her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, describing her as “…a tiny woman, larger than life” who was “renowned for her grace, candor, and integrity, [who] has earned the respect of opponents and allies alike.”
When Al Gore ran for president in 2000, he recognized Evy as an important member of his family. She often babysat for him so that his parents, Senator Al Gore, Sr. and Pauline, could attend Congressional functions in the evening.
She provided similar services to Senator and Mrs. Thomas Dodd, the parents of Senator Christopher Dodd.
In an historic gesture of respect and affection, House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill instructed the doorkeepers off the House floor to yield their seat to Evy when a vote was called and she needed to make her case with incoming Members.
Until very recently, Evy shared lunch each year with the WREI Fellows to tell them about the labor union movement’s history and importance. She'd proudly proclaim herself a lobbyist and explain that it was "a noble profession, written into the Constitution." Then she’d recognize each of the Fellows by name when they ran into one another in the corridors of power.
In the photo on the left, 4’10” Evy presents WREI’s 2002 American Woman Award to 6’ 3” Chamique Holdsclaw, star of the Washington Mystics basketball team.
Another favorite memory: Evy lecturing 6' 6" Senator Bill Bradley on a key amendment to the Occupational Safety and Health bill. The former New York Knick basketballer almost bent in two to get down to her level. She used this leverage to her advantage in advising him to protect the working people of New Jersey. After such personal persuasion, the Senator straightened up and voted the right way.
We have no details regarding services at this time, but will pass along information as it becomes available. In the meantime, we know you join WREI in celebrating a long life extremely well lived.