Shared from the 2017-05-23 Star Tribune eEdition

Koryne Horbal Political activist

Iron Range native worked for women’s rights worldwide

Picture
Picture

Star Tribune file Koryne Horbal was sworn in as the U.S. representative to the U.N. Commission on Status of Women in August 1977. She was flanked by feminist Gloria Steinem and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young.

Koryne Horbal crusaded for women’s rights, knocked down barriers and mentored countless young women.

The feminist and political activist spent her life championing equality. She drafted an international bill of rights for women at the United Nations and campaigned for women’s reproductive rights.

Horbal died May 15 of congestive heart failure in Arden Hills. She was 80.

“It’s very important that we know what she’s done so we don’t lose her wisdom, humor and understanding,” said Gloria Steinem, a lifelong friend. “We need her knowledge and her spirit to stay with us.”

Horbal was a proud Minnesotan who spent her childhood on the Iron Range and married her husband in high school. With college out of reach, Horbal took part in grass-roots political activism. She moved from local politics to work for former Vice President Hubert Humphrey in the 1960s.

She helped found the Minnesota DFL feminist caucus in 1973 and became its chairwoman. Through that work, Horbal met Steinem, and the two took a bus tour called Project 13, where they campaigned to get more women elected.

Without Horbal’s backstage organizing, Steinem said, the first National Women’s Conference , held in Houston in 1977, would not have been as successful.

Horbal had a method that she dubbed “casserole organizing”: Bring a casserole to make people feel invited and they will stay and form a community.

She did much of her work behind the scenes, said Robin Morgan, a feminist activist. “There were so many firsts that she quietly and unobtrusively got onto the menu,” Morgan said.

In 1976, former President Jimmy Carter appointed Horbal the U.S. representative to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. She was one of the lead architects of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, a treaty that was ratified by more than 180 countries, though not the United States.

During her time with the United Nations, Horbal flew back and forth from her home in Columbia Heights to New York to manage her family and her career.

“I knew why she was gone,” her daughter, Lynn Horbal, said. “I knew she was going for me to make my life better.”

After Carter left office, Horbal continued to work in New York as the head of the Wonder Woman Foundation , which provided grants to women over 40 who had put off their careers to take care of their families.

Horbal went back to grass-roots organizing in Minnesota when the Equal Rights Amendment did not win ratification. With others, she and former legislator Betty Folliard formed the coalition that morphed into ERA Minnesota .

From 2003 to 2006, Horbal knocked on doors and worked with her friend and fellow activist Rosemary Rocco to build up the DFL at the grass-roots level.

Horbal received an honorary degree in 2008 from Augsburg College, where she worked as a consultant for the Anne Pederson Women’s Resource Center . The college dedicated a lecture series in her name.

“Her dedication to Augsburg and our students was a great gift,” Augsburg College President Paul C. Pribbenow said. “Hers was a life we might all aspire to imitate.”

Horbal kept fighting even after three strokes in 2013 and the death of her husband, Bill, in 2015 . From October to November, Horbal campaigned in her nursing home for Hillary Clinton before the election.

Others say they will continue Horbal’s fight to open doors for more women.

“We have to just keep at it,” Rocco said.

Horbal is survived by her daughter, Lynn, son Steven, foster son Chris Holland, and three grandchildren.

In death, Horbal continues to agitate. For her memorial, she asked for a call to action for an Equal Rights Amendment to be added to the state constitution.

See this article in the e-Edition Here