Kendal on Hudson Resident Muriel Fox Releases New Book

Muriel Fox, aged 96, resident of Kendal on Hudson, is releasing a new book called The Women’s Revolution: How We Changed Your Life, available everywhere on June 18. As an integral part of the Second Wave Feminist Movement, Fox is setting the record straight as she tells stories of the unsung heroes of the movement. In her book, Fox shares new stories, including 30 unsung heroes, to shed light on people who fought for equality for themselves and for the future.

“They were all so important in making history for the future,” said Fox.

Fox co-founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966, and was the operations lieutenant to NOW president Betty Friedan, as well as the head of public relations for NOW. She, along with the other women involved in NOW, played a crucial role in helping women gain equal rights so they could have the same opportunities as men.

“Of course, the First Wave was getting the vote. But after that, we still had a long way to go, and people were still saying, ‘I don’t hire women. We don’t rent to women. We don’t allow women in here.’ This was legal and accepted, and it’s been that way for thousands of years. The Second Wave decided ‘Okay, finally, we’re going to change it,’ ” said Fox.

She continued, “We were inspired by the Civil Rights Movement. We are part of the Civil Rights Movement. And we’re working to help all women of all colors and, actually, all men because they all benefit from what we’ve done with different expectations of society. We’re partners. We’re not servants and subsidiaries. We’re equal partners. And I think that’s a very romantic way to look at it.”

Kendal on Hudson Resident Muriel Fox

Inspiring The Women’s Revolution

When Fox talked about what inspired her to write this book, she discussed that there wasn’t enough historical knowledge of the movement in the first place – and in some cases, the stories were wrong. Above all, people don’t recognize or remember many names that should be widely renowned for their contributions to the movement.  

Fox said, “People now are hearing about Pauli Murray– a great Black Civil Rights and Women’s Rights leader. There’s a lot of attention for Pauli, and that’s wonderful because she was very important in our movement, but people never heard of Mary Eastwood or Holly Knox or Ann Scott.”

She continued, “These people must be known, and each of them really worked so hard. All of us were so dedicated – that’s why our movement succeeded so fast, and, of course, in addition to these 30 whom I salute in the book, there were literally hundreds of thousands of people in their own way who were revolutionaries.”

But Fox also discovered that people were unfamiliar with the major leaders of the movement, namely Betty Friedan.

“A lot of educated young people have said to me that they never heard of Betty Friedan, let alone Mary Eastwood. This definitely made me angry enough to want to write the book. They must know about Betty Friedan,” she said.

Fox explained, “She was a very difficult person to work with – not a very wonderful human being – but as I said in the memorial to her: ‘Betty Friedan was not a good woman, but she was a great woman.’ ”

“And as far as I’m concerned, she was one of the great women not only of the 20th century but of the second millennium because she wrote The Feminine Mystique which awakened millions of people to the need for women to have equal partnership with men and to have recognition for their own value.  Then she was the president of NOW. She was our driving force. And I have to say I’m very dedicated to making the world and helping the world  understand how important she was. Everyone should know her name: Betty Friedan.”

Fox also touched on how there were so many women who propelled the revolution because they fought their own battles and how people need to know their names and stories because of what they accomplished.

She continued, “Every woman in her community worked against what made her mad. In her union, in her company, in her school, in her community – what injustice  she wanted to right and she worked on it, and she changed everything. So, together, we have changed the world after thousands of years when women were just subsidiaries of men and mankind. Now we talk about humankind.”

Creating a Legacy for Future Generations

When Fox first started writing her book at age 94, she began by asking and answering the question of how they changed the world. Writing notes on pads of paper she kept around her house in case inspiration struck, she began to organize the stories into chapters, noting the main goals of the movement.

“Was it ‘jobs,’ which was certainly our very first and most important goal to get women equal recognition, equal pay, an equal chance to be hired, and promoted? But in addition to jobs is education and preventing violence against women.”

Fox noted how the younger generations are surprised at what she and the other members of the Second Wave Feminist Movement had to fight. “The young people are amazed that those things existed. I mean, we really had ads that said Help Wanted: Male, Help Wanted: Female. We had to fight all of that.”

She wants her book to show younger generations all that the Second Wave accomplished, and that they can and must take action for their future as well.

Fox said, “We’re in an election year now, and there are things that must be done. I hope everybody will get involved. The only way to succeed is to get into the fight, and everyone has to do it. We fought and we won. We had some failures along the way and we also had fights, and it wasn’t beautiful by any means.”

She continued, “We didn’t always behave well toward each other, but because we were fighting for important equality and important goals, we succeeded a lot – and people can succeed. I hope, especially this year, they’re going to follow our lead and do what is necessary because it’s so urgent.”

Fox spoke about how new generations need to believe that they can be successful in their endeavors. “Well, we did it. That’s what they have to learn. Unfortunately, what we did was get a woman’s right to choose her own control over her own body. We’ve got it once. We did it – we can get it again. We did get all these other very important victories, and there are many others that lie ahead.”

She said, “The fact that we were able to do it after thousands of years and over great odds, and sometimes we were ridiculed, very often we were fought, but we succeeded. And so the fact that we succeeded, I hope will inspire the next generation that they can do it, too.”

Fox also has practical advice for younger generations who will continue to fight for their rights. “Organize! Heather Booth, one of our heroes, says, ‘Don’t antagonize, organize.’ ”

“A lot of it has to be done through organizations. It could not have been done without the National Organization for Women (NOW), which is still strong, still has chapters in many cities, and has a national presence. There are other important groups, and we have to organize. We have to gather other people, and we have to fight. Very often as an organization, you can get a lot more power behind you,” she said.

Reflecting on her book, Fox discussed the importance of women recognizing their contributions and worth. “Frankly, I sort of didn’t think I deserved to write a memoir. A number of people said you should write a book through the years, and I thought ‘Shucks, there are other people – Betty Friedan, of course, was the great hero – but there were others’, and I guess my big insight was that I really deserve it.”

“I really did a lot, much more than I realized, and the women’s movement has told us not to be overly modest but to recognize our accomplishments and our abilities.  I think that’s the most important insight for all of us,” said Fox.

Kendal on Hudson Resident Muriel Fox

Revolutionizing Senior Living 

Fox currently resides at Kendal on Hudson, a senior living community in Sleepy Hollow, NY, where she’s lived since 2010. She’s an active resident in the community, participating in the Residents Council, Kendal View magazine, the Opera Committee, the Ping-Pong Committee (which she founded), and the Dining Advisory Committee.

Her favorite contribution to the community is the New Year’s Eve Show, a tradition that she started and produces each year. She said, “It’s the one time for black tie, which is optional. We all have all these fancy clothes in our closet, and we never really get a chance to wear them – except New Year’s Eve.” Residents of all talent levels can perform for everyone – and everyone is excited to participate.

Fox continued, “We do have a good time, and I think we support each other. That’s the important thing. It’s community and  support, and I think that’s true in The Women’s Revolution. We supported each other, and [we do the same here] at Kendal. So, I think people very much warmed up to my book when they learned that I was writing The Women’s Revolution because they all lived through it. I was amazed at how many people at Kendal remember it now – women and men both. They’re the active kind of people who come to Kendal.”

According to Fox, one of the things that surprises most people at Kendal is the new life they can lead because of all the opportunities available to them.

“I am still continuing my old life, but I have a new life. And I think that surprises many people who come to Kendal. They have new friends who are so interesting and have new activities. I know a number of people for the first time are taking art lessons and discovering they’re pretty good. Or if they’re not great, they’re still having a good time. And this is very important, and I think that we have something like 23 committees.”

Fox related her experience with the Second Wave Feminist Movement in changing people’s ideas about women to how Kendal is changing the ideas of what it means to be a senior. This is a new chapter where older adults thrive with their fellow residents and caring staff.

She spoke about some good friends at Kendal who are over a hundred years old. “They’re active and they’re learning and they’re fun. So, we do want to change people’s ideas.”

Fox gave advice to new residents at Kendal on Hudson. “Be open to new ideas. Be open to meeting new people.”

She continued, “When we come into the dining room and there’s an empty seat, we say, ‘May I join you?’ and everyone is happy to have you join them. That’s very much the Kendal spirit. Be open to the possibility of joining committees, taking courses, taking lectures – why not try it? I think that’s something that is very much the spirit of Kendal, and it keeps us all active and happy.”

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