The Stateswoman Archive

Remembering Gene Boyer

by Julie Chase and Sharyn Wisniewski

We have lost a dear friend and a great advocate for women - both at the state and national level - with the death of Gene Boyer at the age of 78 on August 19. Boyer founded the Wisconsin Women’s Network in 1979; she was also a founding member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and served as national treasurer from 1968 to 1974.

Boyer began her activist career in Beaver Dam, was appointed to the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women by Governor Patrick Lucy in 1971 and, in 1977, served as a delegate to the International Women’s Year Conference held in Houston. Boyer continued her efforts on behalf of Wisconsin women for the next two decades, serving as the Founding President of the Women Business Owners of Wisconsin (1987), and as Chair of the Beaver Dam Community Forum on Health Care (1993). She continued her efforts to advance women nationally and internationally, serving as the founding President of the Jewish Women’s Coalition (1995-1998) and as a Planning Committee of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women (1994-95) to name just two organizations.

During her long tenure as a feminist activist, she supported and furthered work on sexual assault reform, marital property reform, reproductive rights, sex equity in education and the Equal Rights Amendment. Her special interest, however, was the economic status of women. She devoted much of her effort to bringing women into the business world as full and equal players. She did this through local chambers of commerce in Wisconsin and in Florida, through service on various government committees and task forces, both state and national, and through her own consulting firm, Gene Boyer and Associates.

Boyer was a member of the Veteran Feminists of America and appeared in the 1998 film, “Step by Step: building a feminist movement.” In 1997, as she was named Wisconsin Stateswoman of the Year by the Wisconsin Women’s Network, she said, “I’m always amused at people who say we don’t need the women’s movement anymore, that things are different now. Well, how in the world do they think they got different if somebody didn’t make them different.”

Gene Boyer did a lot to make things different. We honor her as our founding mother of the Wisconsin Women’s Network. We miss her as a friend. We will carry on the work she cared about so deeply.

This article first appeared in the September 2003 issue of the wisconsin Women’s Network’s Newsletter, The Stateswoman.