Roxcy O’Neal Bolton celebrated her 88th birthday Tuesday like few people do: She walked into a room full of family, friends and peers who welcomed her with a standing ovation.
The iconic women’s rights activist, whose speech was damaged by two strokes, waved and blew kisses at the audience as her eyes watered. Maria del Carmen Vazquez played “Around the World” on the accordion and set the tone for the celebration, held Tuesday at the Women's Park, which Bolton helped found, at 10251 W. Flagler St..
Bolton is the recipient of the National Women’s History Project’s Women of Character, Courage and Commitment award, which honored its recipients at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in March. Bolton, a longtime Coral Gables resident, could not travel to Washington to receive her award, so instead, the award came to her.
Bolton was one of the first Florida women to join the National Organization for Women after its founding in 1966. She founded and presided over the Miami-Dade Chapter of NOW in 1968 and fought for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. Bolton also established the nation's first Rape Treatment Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in 1974, which became a nationwide model for treating rape victims.
“I couldn’t be happier if I was being honored myself,” said Nancy Rose Foye-Cox, who is with the National Women’s History Project and who nominated Bolton for the award.
“I’m sorry it took so long; this award was long overdue,” she said. “She’s my hero.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, who has known Bolton for many years, presented Bolton with the award, saying she was truly a woman of character, courage and commitment. She also remembered the special relationship Bolton had with her parents.
“Roxcy and my father shared this passion for history, to preserve the memories and to make sure those are not lost to the next generation,” she said. “It’s not just for historians, it’s for everyone to value.”
In her own remarks, read by Vincent Damian, Bolton’s longtime friend and attorney, Bolton thanked everyone. She quoted Timothy Leary, the late Harvard researcher, psychologist and author who was a proponent of LSD, who said women who strive to be equal to men lack ambition.
And while her remarks indicated that much had been done for women’s issues, they also called for fighting against all types of discrimination.
“I ask all of you to join in these causes, now and always — the task is never over.”