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05 September 2018
Remembering Arvonne Fraser
By Vivian Derryck, UNA-NCA Advisory Council, and Karen Mulhauser, UNA-NCA Past President

Arvonne Skelton Fraser, died on August 7, 2018 at her St. Croix River house at the age of 92. The Minneapolis Star Tribune and the New York Times obituaries thoughtfully document her long life of contributions to women’s issues, human rights, the Democratic Party and social equity.

If you want to honor Arvonne, please don’t send flowers or cards. Instead, go out and organize for a cause, donate to and volunteer for candidates, read the news and talk to your family, friends, neighbors and elected officials about important issues. This is how Arvonne spent her years as an admired leader, feminist, ambassador, author, wife of Congressman and Mayor of Minneapolis Don Fraser, sister of Bonnie Skelton, mother of Tom, Mary, John, Lois, Anne and Jean, grandmother of seven grandchildren, and friend, mentor and teacher to so many. You may also share stories and pictures on her memorial website here.

Arvonne began her career in the MN Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party [DFL] and was its president from 1956- 1962.  Her leadership in the women’s movement included a term as president of the Women’s Equity Action League in 1972, pioneering work as the Director of the Office of Women in Development at USAID in the Carter Administration and service as a U.S. representative to the UN Commission of the Status of Women. She was a member of the U.S. delegations to the first two conferences of the UN Decade for Women: Mexico City in1975 and Copenhagen in 1980.

Arvonne was committed to the U.N., so she was delighted when Don spent a session in New York as a Congressional delegate.  Indeed, in 1995 when Arvonne and Don shared the UNA-NCA Louis B. Sohn Award, Arvonne called the award one of the highlights of her professional life.  In addition to their joint awards, Arvonne received many awards and recognition for her work in women-in-development and women’s equity from the U.S. and other governments as well as from numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  

Arvonne modeled a committed feminist who saw the importance of listening, compromise and building coalitions.  Over the decades, she and Don also modeled a partnership which represented a shared passion for public service with an emphasis on human rights, improving lives in developing countries, democracy–strengthening and women’s equality--both in the developing world and here in the U.S.  With a rich mix of strategic thinking, global perspective and strong commitment to women’s equity, Arvonne leaves a legacy as a global citizen of integrity and conviction.