Mary Jean Collins

“Chicago was a hotbed of feminist organizing. The women power that went into this was amazing, it’s what can be done if people put their energy into something. You can’t convince me you can’t change the world, because I saw it happen.”

Photo by Cary Herz

Photo by Cary Herz

Mary Jean Collins joined the National Organization for Women in 1967, and became a NOW leader, Deputy Director of Catholics For a Free Choice, Vice-President of People For the American Way and a Board member of Choice USA.  

Collins was born in 1939 in Superior, Wisconsin, and attended Alverno College in Milwaukee. After moving to Chicago in 1968, Collins was elected President of the Chicago Chapter of NOW. The chapter sponsored the Women Strike for Equality on August 26, 1970 attended by 15,000 people.  NOW spearheaded the fight against AT&T for discriminating against women and minority employees.  Collins was co-chair of the Sears Task Force, a national effort to support the EEOC campaign against discrimination by the world’s largest employer of women.

In 1980, Collins was again elected President of the Chicago Chapter of NOW and helped direct the campaign to ratify the ERA in the Illinois general assembly. She returned to leadership in NOW as national Action Vice-President from 1982 to 1985.    She is a member of the Board of Veteran Feminists of America and the YWCA of the National Capitol Area.