INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The National Organization for Women has elected a 56-year-old Maryland woman as its next president in a close win over a rival who had been endorsed by the group’s current president.

NOW said Terry O’Neill, who is white, defeated Latifa Lyles, a 33-year-old African-American woman from Washington, D.C., during the organization’s three-day national conference in Indianapolis.

Lyles had been enthusiastically endorsed by current NOW President Kim Gandy, who retires from NOW on July 20 after eight years as the group’s president.

Lyles had said she could help give NOW, with a mostly white and over-40 membership, a new image of youth and diversity that would appeal to younger feminists.

O’Neill, who is one of the oldest at the start of a term, said in a prepared statement that she was “honored and eager” to lead NOW.

“My experience with domestic violence, as an abused wife left me humiliated and embarrassed. I only began to talk about this publicly five years ago as I realized that to keep quiet was to continue the abuse. I want to empower women and telling my story does just that,” she said.

O’Neill, who has taught law at Tulane University, was NOW’s vice president for membership from 2001-05.

Most recently, she has been chief of staff for a county council member in Maryland’s Montgomery County.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.