In Her Own Words: Remarkable Women in 20th-Century Florida

Roxcy O'Neal Bolton, 1926-2017

"We have the vote, but we're still only half free. Men make the policies and decide what candidates we must choose between. We must elect women to more major offices. We must have women in policy-making positions."

— Roxcy O'Neal Bolton [1]

Roxcy O’Neal Bolton was one of Florida’s leading feminists in the 1970s, campaigning for women’s equality at the state and national level. From her home in Miami, Bolton founded the Dade County chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), lobbied the state government to hire more women, and demanded that police implement new ways to protect women from sexual assault.

Noticing a lack of services for victims of violence, Bolton founded Women in Distress in 1972, offering temporary housing, legal aid and other services to women in need. Then in 1974, she helped establish the Miami Rape Treatment Center to assist victims of sexual abuse and rape.

In 1970, Bolton convinced U.S. Senator Birch Bayh to hold the first hearings about the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which was designed to guarantee legal gender equality. Two years later, the ERA passed Congress and was sent to the states for ratification. The amendment required approval by 38 states to become law, and Bolton was determined to pass the ERA in Florida. She lobbied for ratification and organized rallies to bring the community together in support of the amendment. The Florida Legislature voted on the amendment multiple times during the 1970s, but the ERA did not pass in Florida. The amendment ultimately failed to receive the required number of state approvals before the 1982 deadline. Efforts to revive the amendment continue to this day.
Roxcy Bolton, right, at the Miami rape treatment center

Roxcy Bolton (right) by a sign at the Rape Treatment Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, 1974.

Letter from Roxcy Bolton to Sheriff E. Wilson Purdy, 1973

Letter from Roxcy Bolton to Dade County Sheriff E. Wilson Purdy regarding crimes of rape against women in the community, October 10, 1973.

Women's Rights Day Proclamation Presented to Roxcy Bolton by Edward Gurney, 1972

Women's Rights Day Proclamation signed by President Richard Nixon presented to Roxcy Bolton by U.S. Senator Edward J. Gurney, 1972.

Recording of the 2001 Coral Gables Television interview with Roxcy Bolton in which she discusses her life and social activism.

More from Florida Memory
At the Archives
  • Roxcy O'Neal Bolton Papers, 1936-2019, Collection M94-1, State Archives of Florida.
  1. ^“Dorothy Madlee, “Roxcy’s Out to Smash the Myths Surrounding Women’s Lib,” The Orlando Sentinel, June 13, 1971.