NOW Elects New President

The country's largest feminist group has a new president. Members of the National Organization for Women elected Terry O'Neill, a lawyer and former NOW vice president.

GUY RAZ, host:

The National Organization for Women chose a new president this weekend, in a contest which touched on generational and racial issues. It was settled by a margin of just eight votes out of more than 400 casts.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports from Indianapolis.

(Soundbite of crowd)

CHERYL CORLEY: It was a jubilant crowd of supporters welcoming the election results, which showed that 56-year-old Terry O'Neill, a white attorney and NOW board member, had won the election for the NOW presidency.

Unidentified Woman: For the National Organization for Women, it means we are getting back out on the streets. We are going to the grass roots. We are going to aggressively attract new members.

CORLEY: In addition to O'Neill, NOW delegates voted in the three vice presidents who are part of her ticket. O'Neill will replace outgoing president Kim Gandy, who served eight years at the helm of NOW. Gandy had supported one of her own officers, Latifa Lyles, a 33-year-old African-American, whom Gandy said as the public face of NOW, could have helped change a perception that members of the country's largest feminist organization are mostly white, older and upper middle class. Allendra Letsome is one of NOW's new vice presidents.

Ms. ALLENDRA LETSOME (Vice President, National Organization for Women): It wasn't about the fact that she was an African-American young woman. I'm an African-American young woman. It's not that we felt that she couldn't lead these voters, the chapters, the members, obviously just decided they wanted a campaign that was much more focused on member outreach, chapter support, member recruitment.

CORLEY: NOW's other incoming vice presidents are Bonnie Grabenhofer and Erin Matson, NOW activists from Illinois and Minnesota.

This morning, NOW delegates observed a moment of silence to honor slain abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. President-elect O'Neill says NOW will continue its fight for abortion rights, pay equity and other issues, and will use a variety of strategies to do so.

Ms. TERRY O'NEILL (President-elect, National Organization for Women): At the same time that we're urging our elected representatives to pass good bills, we also need to be out there demanding what we know we actually need, not what we think we can get this year or next year, what we really need.

(Soundbite of applause)

CORLEY: Terry O'Neill will assume office as the new president of NOW in July.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Indianapolis.

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